I thought I was doing something wrong. When I pulled the rope…hard, it didn’t move. I leaned backwards, even with my full weight against it, the sandbag only shifted a little. Fortunately, two teammates stopped to help me. Together, we hoisted the bag into the air so I could finish.
That was 6 months ago. As a daily runner, I felt pretty invincible (ahem overconfident) prior to training for that race. I struggled with many of the serious strength activities. Although I can run for miles, I learned, I’m not as strong as I thought I was. It also took over a week to recover from the assorted injuries. Which has prompted me to focus more on strength and flexibility, not just stamina, to become athletically well-rounded.
If life hasn’t followed ‘the plan’, you’ve likely earned the emotional resilience to handle most dilemmas. Making our bodies resilient…healthy and more resistant to injury or illness, is different. It’s not cumulative. To be physically fit, you’re just never done! In the mental load survey,Moms cited exercise as the most desired activity for daily self-care. It’s not surprising, between the need to keep up with our kids and knowing the essential role movement plays in longevity and health, it’s top of mind.
I asked Dr. Stephanie Corrado, a neighbor and Primary Care Doctor, about how she advises patients interested in getting healthy. She takes a holistic approach, “Although people often find change difficult, I always talk about lifestyle…(including) nutrition, mindfulness and exercise. You need all three to be in balance.” In addition to adopting mindfulness techniques, she recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week plus limiting refined sugars and flours.
Regina O’Brien, personal trainer & award-winning body builder, was initially dragged into a weightlifting class by Mom-friends and thought, “What the hell am I doing here?” She said. I laughed. When someone told her she should teach, she learned how to become an instructor. “I went with a group of friends to a competition and heard one of the body builder’s kids yell ‘Go, Mom go!’…I wanted that and started to train.” It wasn’t the right time for her then, however, as her kids grew, she intensified her workouts. “I had a male training partner and asked him, can you make me a body builder?” She won her first show. She wanted her kids to know if you work for a goal, you can get there.
Yoga practiced by millions, for millenia, is touted for many health benefits, including strength and flexibility. Beginning a yoga practice has never been easier with the prevalence of studios, apps and YouTube classes. Andrea Evans, my former colleague and part-time yoga instructor describes how it’s changed her life, “I started practicing yoga 20 years ago to improve flexibility and explore moving my body in new ways. Paradoxically, the most powerful part of my experience was finding the opportunity for stillness.” She went multiple times per week and then daily for a while. Taking the instructor training and teaching her first class, sparked a love of sharing yoga with others.
When I asked Regina how she fit in the rigorous work and training, especially when her kids were young, she said, “I thrive with a regimented schedule and function better when I have a goal or contest (ahead) instead of (believing) ‘I’ll get to it…’ then it’ll never happen!” She suggests, “…Block off a certain amount of time…(It) needs to become a habit.”
Based on what you want to do, add the ‘buffer’ time around it (i.e. are you commuting to and from a local gym? Do you just need to put on your sneakers and get outside?) Add the total time to your calendar.
Andrea does light yoga and meditation each morning at 5:15 am (before the family wakes up) and blocks her calendar for lunchtime yoga 3 days per week. “I know that life will happen and we can compensate by forgiving ourselves.” She explained it’s part of the yoga teaching, “…every breath is a new beginning.” She also schedules 3 weekend yoga retreats per year. “Post-kids it was important enough that I wanted to make space for it.” Andrea said. She worked out the childcare logistics with her husband, “…he recognized (taking this time) would make me a better partner and mother.”
Stephanie exercises at home before she leaves. “It charges me up and centers me for the whole whirlwind of a day!” I laughed and agreed. She tries to exercise daily, limit alcohol and do something calming each day. “I’m also working on building (more) connections with friends.”
Just Move…it All Counts!
“Use the time with your kids to be active, i.e. play tag. There are tons of things you can do with a child!” Regina wisely reminds that exercise needn’t be formal. Also, she explained for whatever strength workout you choose, “Anything can be amped up by (a factor of) 10 when you’re ready for more. Use good form and repeat an activity 10 – 12 times.” She explained. Below, she shares two 15 minute routines and exercises from my visit with her. She said, “For endurance,you can increase repetitions to the 15+ range. If repeating an exercise 15 times feels ‘too easy’ you’re likely ready to graduate to something more challenging.”
Yes, It’s Worth it
Regina said, “The gym was my sanctuary, my playtime and place for adult conversation. Sometimes my kids would say, ‘Please Mom go to the gym!’” She’d go early in the morning before anyone woke up. “On weekends, I’d return to make waffles and maple flavored bacon. When I got home (after a workout) I was happier… It’s not about the scale going up or down.”
Andrea said, “Your body (will be) first to tell you to slow down or take better care of yourself. Your body’s needs will be heard! Part of the practice (of yoga) is learning to listen.” She describes a profound, self-care ripple effect, “…suddenly you’re kinder and more grateful. I can model (self-care) for my kids. It’s one of the most giving ways to take care of yourself.”
Stephanie advises, “Fight to do less.” She described how different she was by the time she had her third child, “He’s peaceful because I’m peaceful. I know I’m a better Mom because I’m more chill.”
Isn’t that all we’re looking for? Self-care as a way to soften the sharp edges of life and build a more tolerant, patient and connected way to engage with our families and the world?
Have a Plan: Two 15 Minute Strength Routines from Regina
At home or at the gym! It’s surprising what you can accomplish with minimal space or equipment. If you have access to a fabulous trainer like Regina great! If not, seek out support from a trainer or the staff at your gym for guidance. As with any new activity, confirm with your health care provider that it’s the right plan and safe for you.
|See all of the exercises (pictures & videos)||Get Strong Part 1 (only about 10 – 15 minutes)||10 repetitions of each exercise||Get Strong Part 2 (only about 10 – 15 minutes)||10 repetitions of each exercise|
Bent over row
Hamstring & glute squeeze
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Many thanks to Stephanie, Andrea and Regina, the talented super-Moms who were generous with their time and expertise!
Dr. Stephanie Corrado, M.D.
Stephanie is a skilled and experienced internist serving the community of Boston, MA. Dr. Corrado obtained her medical degree from Rush University. She also completed her residency in internal medicine, psychiatry, and an internship in internal medicine at the Northwestern University. Furthermore, she completed a fellowship in adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston, and obtained her bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Corrado is a part of SMG Brookline Primary Care. She is board certified in internal medicine and adolescent medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Corrado gives each patient her focused attention, and she prides herself on delivering the best treatment available.
Andrea has been practicing yoga since 1998, first drawn to the mat as a new way to move the body. Ironically, it was love at first savasana (resting pose). To manifest Work Life Balance, Andrea brings yoga and meditation to C Space and other Boston Omnicom agencies in the Atlantic Wharf Building on Congress Street. She is honored to be on the regular schedule at her home studio, Tranquil Souls Yoga. To learn more about Andrea and her upcoming workshops and retreats, visit her Website Work Life Balance Yoga.
Regina is certified by the AFAA, ASFA, and the NCCPT. The belief that fitness should be accessible to everyone is at the core of Regina’s training method. She understands that while one person may be training for a triathlon, another might be struggling to get through a 20-minute mile. She helps her students become comfortable with how their bodies move through strength exercises with a supportive presence and corrective tips. By encouraging clients to progress slowly she affords them the time they need to establish a lasting confidence in their bodies and abilities. Regina hones and sculpts her body to compete in national fitness competitions. To learn more about Regina, if you’re in the Brookline/Boston area check out her classes or trainings at Benefitness, my favorite gym.