Finding my Stride . . .

That’s me, jumping over fire during the Spartan Sprint.  It wasn’t my fastest finish ever, but I was pretty happy just to participate, considering . . .

What a change of pace these past few months have been!  After being off work for the past year on maternity leave, I returned to teaching on April 27th.  Now, I am enjoying another 2 months off with my son (a privilege my profession allows me to enjoy year after year).  Towards the end of my maternity leave I was feeling somewhat sluggish . . . something was stagnant, something was out of whack, I felt.  I thought, when was the last time I read a book!?  Why can’t I seem to motivate myself to be more productive?  How long has it been since I went for a run?

In some ways, I wasn’t lazy at all; I had taken on a lot of extra tasks in addition to the care of a baby.  But still, I felt overwhelmed by it all.  It seemed that I was always just barely getting things done, and that most things felt like an enormous effort.  Additionally, I had lost quite a bit of weight without exercising or dieting.  My heart rate:  oddly high all the time.  This wasn’t just mental.  I was not just a busy mom.  Could this be stress?  I didn’t think that I was overly stressed.  I have some degree of stress, but over normal, regular things.  This just was not me . . . and yet, I chalked it all up to being a busy mom.

After a routine doctors appointment in early April, I was called back to discuss some blood work results.  Turns out, my thyroid hormones were all amuck; my TSH levels (thyroid stimulating hormone) were not detectable at all.  In my case, I had a hyperactive (or overactive) thyroid.  Essentially, this speeds things up, including metabolism.  This explains the excessive weight loss as well as the increased heart rate (it was around 120 all the time!).  As I learned more about the thyroid, I realized that there were A LOT of red flags that I had missed/ignored . . . including the fact that I have a family history of thyroid disease.

I did listen to my body in one important way however; I naturally cut way back on the exercise.  I felt that I couldn’t afford to lose any more weight, so I avoided cardio.  This was tough for me, as I had always been an endurance athlete.  I took this season off paddling (at first for financial reasons, later for health reasons).  I was also alarmed at how high my heart rate was and thought it better to just cool it for a while.

When I returned to work, I was praised and congratulated on how “fantastic” I looked.  Translation:  I was super thin.  While I understand that many people admire thinness, I had always liked my muscles and was mourning the loss of my fine glutes.  I didn’t feel strong, I was weak . . . it was weird.  This new skinny body with no bum:  weird.

Currently, I am in a wait-and-see situation.  I have seen an Endocrinologist (hormone specialist), and I’ve been told that I either have Graves disease or postpartum thyroiditis.  GRAVES disease?!  Oh geez!  I remember American Olympian, Gail Devers, having this . . . didn’t she almost lose her feet?  I like my feet,  I use them all the time! If I do have Graves disease, it looks like I will need to be on a hormone for the rest of my life (I hate the idea of this, but I am preparing myself for the possibility).  If it is postpartum, it will likely correct itself in time.  I have also seen a naturopath who has offered me some alternatives, and I hope that this avenue will help me to avoid a lifetime of hormone replacement.  I have been told that because my symptoms aren’t severe, we can wait and see for a bit, but not too long.  An overactive thyroid is more dangerous than an underactive one, and if left unchecked can wreak havoc on your body.

Since the beginning of June, I’ve gained 5 pounds and my heart rate seems pretty good.  Physically I feel stronger, and I’ve begun running again.  I’m taking my own advice and reintroducing myself to running as if I am a beginner. I am training myself on the same program that I would train any new runner – at this point, the last thing I want is an injury.  I’m talking myself through this, reminding myself to train smartly and to resist my natural inclination to overdo it.

It can be really difficult to address our own health needs as busy moms.  It can be easy to dismiss warning signs when we are constantly occupied with the needs of a child; our needs can always wait, right?  As parents, we are at our best when we are healthy ourselves.  We can take care of our children with energy and enthusiasm when we take care of our own health.  Over my summer vacation, as my body begins to balance itself out, I will be able to do so many things with Max that I didn’t seem to have the energy for only a few months ago.  For myself, as I find my own athletic stride again, I’ll just feel more like me, and that’s a pretty nice change.


The Power of Negative Thinking

Have you ever found yourself saying things like:

 “This always happens to me!”

“Why am I the one always getting sick?”

“There are no good men out there!”

“I need to stop eating junkfood”

If you have, then you may be interested to know that you may be working against yourself with all of those negative statements . . . . .

I was thinking the other day about negative thinking and negative self talk as I recalled something from a lecture from University (seems like a million years ago!).  Our professor asked us to quiet our minds, try to have our minds go blank, and whatever we did, absolutely do not think about PINK ELEPHANTS.  This, of course, is impossible.  At the first suggestion of a pink elephant you are instantly thinking “try not to think of pink elephants,” and hence, you’ve already lost the challenge.  It was  explained to us that the brain doesn’t recognize statements phrased in the negative. In order to phrase an idea in the negative, you must think about that idea in the first place.  So, whether you are told to think of pink elephants, or not think of pink elephants, the idea of pink elephants has been suggested to you, and now you are thinking about them, even if you wished not to. The implication of this concept is that if you have a particular vice, chocolate perhaps, and you attempt to stop eating chocolate by constantly reminding yourself “don’t eat chocolate, chocolate is fattening, chocolate is bad for me, don’t eat chocolate!” then you are setting yourself up for certain failure.  What your brain will hear is “Eat chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! Eat chocolate!”  So, if you would like to reduce your chocolate consumption, a much more effective tactic would be to focus on the positive.  What I mean is, focus on what you should be doing rather than what you should not be doing.  For the above example, this might sound like “eat more fresh vegetables, purchase whole foods, research new recipes, make lentil salad!”  Notice how the word chocolate doesn’t appear in the positive statement.  By trying new foods and eating more vegetables you will effectively displace chocolate by filling up on other things, and you also won’t be constantly reminding yourself of your vice by telling yourself that it’s bad and that you can’t have it.

Books like “the Secret” have been widely successful based on this very simple (and not new) concept.  While negative statements and negative self talk can be very powerful in their ability to keep you down and prevent successes, positive thinking and positive self talk is equally as powerful in the other direction.  A common term for positive statements is “intentions.”  Perhaps you have heard a friend talking about “intending” a certain outcome, and perhaps it sounded rather flakey . . . but stay with me, it’s not pretend or magic, but there are things one should keep in mind while setting intentions.

1.  Simply saying that you want something isn’t enough, it’s only the first step.  Setting the intention must be followed up by action.  The act of stating (and re-stating) the intention serves to remind you, motivate you and to help you to see how EVERYDAY encounters, conversations and observations can serve to fulfill your intention. The act of stating and re-stating your intention transforms it into a mantra that becomes something that you live everyday, so your mind is always working on the problem of “how to” fulfill this intention.  It was once told to me that positive self talk helps you to “write the script” of your life.  You can decide how that script will go, it’s entirely up to you to write a happy, healthy and fulfilled script for your life.

2.  Sometimes you need to intend something for a long time before it all comes together.  It should be understood that “positive thinking,” or “intentions,” are really just fancy words for “goals.”  Declaring intentions isn’t magic.  You can’t simply say “I want a Porsche,” and then, like magic, a Porsche appears in your driveway the very next day . . . no.  You still need to work at making your dreams (goals, intentions, etc.) come true by determining what work must be done in order to realistically lead you to them.  The notion of magic conveys laziness and a lack of participation in fulfilling your goals.  Quite the opposite; success at fulfilling goals requires relentless attention, dedication and hard work.

3.  Be genuine.  Fulfilling your goals or intentions works best when it is something you are being exceptionally honest about.  If you cannot sell it to yourself, then it probably doesn’t have legs.  Be honest and be realistic.  Because fulfilling your goal will take a lot of your attention and energy, it will be easier to dedicate the energy required when it is for something that you highly value and hence, give up the necessary energy willingly.

So go ahead and give it a try!  No matter what your age is, it’s easy to do, you can even practice positive thinking with your kids.  If you haven’t seen the widely popular viral video, “Jessica’s Daily Affirmation,” then check it out.  It’s not only cute, but also just a really good idea for us all!

Multi Sport Athletes; How Do You Play?

I often come across students of mine trying to do it all; attempting to be on several school teams at once, as well as student council and a myriad of other activities.  When I was a student-athlete, I too was a “multi-sport” athlete for a time.  During my grade 9 year I was a competitive swimmer on a team outside of school.  I trained at 5:30 am every day.  I was in a specialized athletic program at school, so my gym classes usually consisted of weight training or other circuit type workouts.  After school I had cross country in the fall which merged into the indoor track season, followed by the outdoor track season.  My friend Chris used to get me going by calling me “the over trainer.”  I feigned irritation at his comments, but truthfully, I was exhausted and I knew he was right.  The problem was that I just couldn’t choose . . . even though I hadn’t made any improvements in swimming over the past several years, mentally I wasn’t ready to break up with the pool yet.

By the end of grade 9 I had made my peace with it, and began grade 10 as a runner only.  I wasn’t so tired anymore and I performed better on the track.  I continued track and cross country while in University and now just run recreationally.  In 2007 I began paddling sprint canoe, which is my new love.  I still consider myself a “multi-sport athlete,” but now I do many sports, one at a time.

It’s a tough call, and an argument that I find myself on both sides of depending on the situation:  Is it a good idea to be a multi sport athlete?  Well there are many questions to consider when looking at this issue.  If you are a parent of a child who loves more than one sport (of if YOU love more than one sport), ask yourself some of these important questions:

1.  Do these sports share the same season?

2.  What are my goals?  Are you (or your child) aiming to play this sport professionally one a day?  Are you attempting to earn an athletic scholarship?

3.  What is the time commitment/training schedule like?

4.  What are my (my child’s) other commitments?

5.  How old is the child?

6.  What level is the team (competitive, recreational/house league)?

If your 2 loves share the same season, say, Hockey and Skiing, it may be difficult to do both.  However, depending on the level you play at, and the respective training schedules, it may be entirely possible with a little planning.  For instance, you might make skiing a weekend activity and hockey a weeknight activity if you are participating in each of these recreationally.

If you or your child have big dreams of perhaps playing at a for a Division 1 football team, or playing in the NHL, then it is likely that at a certain age a choice will need to be made.  While some athletes do manage to perform internationally or professionally in more than one sport (Clara Hughes – Multiple Olympic Medalist in Speed Skating and Cycling; Glenroy Gilbert – Olympic gold medalist in Track and Olympian in the Bobsleigh), these athletes are extremely rare and talented individuals.  Generally, to rise to the top of a sport, one needs to dedicate themselves to it completely.  Even in the case of Clara Hughes, she did not do both speed skating and cycling at the same time, she focused on one at a time in order to be successful at each.  Impressively, Gilbert did compete in the bobsleigh in the middle of his track career, though each sport required the same (basic) skill of sprinting.  Gilbert learned to sprint on ice, while pushing a heavy bobsled, in an outstanding example of skill transfer.  Both Hughes and Gilbert are quite exceptional, both in their sporting and professional (post athletic) endeavours, and I cannot imagine that very many people could achieve what they have.

Another thing to consider, in the case of kids, is their age.  For a young kid, exposure to many recreational activities is great for their physical development and can also help them to discover which sports they like best.  I attended a seminar once that said that the top 3 activities for kids are martial arts, soccer and gymnastics.  All of these activities are whole body, require body awareness and control, and develop fast twitch fibers at an age when muscle fibers are differentiating (speed being a key component of many sports).  These 3 activities provide an excellent base for other sports in the future.  Whatever activities your little one chooses, allow them to explore and enjoy sport.  They have loads of time to decide if and when they would like to dedicate themselves to one sport.

Personally, I have LOVED competing and participating in several sports.  However, I also love success and winning isn’t so bad either.  When considering participating in one or several sports, ask yourself some important questions and figure out what works best for you.  For me, many sports one at a time was the best formula; I’ve had the opportunity to try a lot of things while also giving each of those activities a reasonable chance for success.

Good Coaching; Fostering a Lifelong Love of Sport.

In hushed tones, his hand cupped to the side of his mouth, “don’t forget to tell them about Heather Smith” he whispered.  Of course, what I heard was “don’t forget to tell them about the Heather Smith problem

The soccer coach, on the advice of his assistant coach, proceeded to tell my entire soccer team (we were seven years old) that they should treat me fairly.  Even though I was a girl, they needed to treat me equally.  Great.  It’s the very first day, and already I’m being singled out.  Perfect, these kids need to treat me equally . . . apparently not because they actually want to, but because they have to.  These guys think they’re doing the right thing, but now all these boys are looking at me and thinking that I am different. I wish they had just said nothing.  I just want to play.

As the season progressed I became accustomed to the fact they my teammates never passed the ball to me.  Of course, they were willing to take advantage of my speed.  Being the fastest runner on the team I could always get to the ball first . . . and when I did, I was yelled at by my teammates to pass the ball to them immediately. As a result, I never really developed soccer skills. So much for treating me fairly. That was my last year playing soccer.

Now, this wasn’t the most traumatic moment of my life.  I have had amazing experiences with several different coaches across many different sports.  The guidance and leadership of outstanding coaches, in part, influenced my love of sport.  Participating in competitive sport naturally teaches young athletes about winning and losing, and how to accept each graciously.  Athletes learn that winning is a great gift, and alternatively are driven to try harder when they fall short of their goals.  I have had a few great victories that punctuate a very long athletic history, but I have had more failures.  Failure hurts for a moment, but any successful athlete will use failure to fuel the hard work ahead in preparation for the next race or game.

I was really quite lucky to have (mostly) excellent coaches.  I have witnessed some awful coaching and heard stories from friends about terrible experiences they have had in sport.  This pains me greatly because poor coaching alone can turn a young athlete off of athletics, maybe forever.  Sport can offer so much, and not just in ones youth.  Beyond ones prime competitive years, sport can offer enjoyment, optimum health, stress relief, and can be a great way to socialize and meet new people.  The role of “coach” has great responsibility attached to it.

In my role as a teacher, personal trainer and coach, I have had the opportunity to train many young people.  This is one of my favorite groups to work with because I know I have the chance to influence their love of sport, just as my coaches did for me.  I cringe when I hear about a coach openly criticizing a young athletes body, or leading with a “win-at-all-costs attitude,” or allowing unsportsmanlike play to go on unchecked.  A coach has a responsibility to lead young athletes with integrity.  Don’t misunderstand – I am all about winning, just not at all costs.  The point of competition is ultimately to win.  However, on the road to victory, a good coach must keep in mind that there is a bigger picture.  This athlete that they are coaching is a real person.  This person has a life ahead of them that may include loving sport forever, or, distancing themselves from sport indefinitely.  A good coach should care about the person, about the big picture, and about the legacy they leave with the athletes they have coached.

There are two coaches I have had that made my experience in sport extraordinary.  Fred coached me from age 10 to 15 in swimming, and Bill was my track coach from age 14 to 19.  These two taught me about dedication and hard work.  They were both very successful coaches, but never gave me less of their attention just because I wasn’t their top athlete.  They also took an interest in how I did in other activities; they kept on top of my academic progress and my success in other sports.  They encouraged excellence in ALL areas, and influenced me to seek out excellence.  I am now 33, and still, if I run into either of these men they are interested in how I am doing, about my son and my husband, about my career, and if I am still competing.

During that last year of soccer I grew more and more frustrated.  During one game we were playing against a team that had the top player in the league.  This boy’s dad was also quite fanatical.  I was a bit of a headstrong kid, and by this point in the season I was downright annoyed with the coaches and the attitude towards girls in general.  During the game, using my great speed, I very purposely ran down this star player and checked him, hard.  He fell to the ground, and I got the ball to the sounds of his father screaming by the sidelines.  I felt a little bad, but not too much.  Minutes later I did it again.  This time it didn’t feel like much of a victory:  it seemed to happen in slow motion as Louie (that was his name) fell to the ground, his knee bleeding now.  I paused for a moment and looked to his dad who was smacking the ground and screaming at Louie in Greek.  I did not feel good . . . this was not good.  I didn’t take the ball, though I could have easily.  Louie got up and I let him take the ball, I was terribly embarrassed and realized that this wasn’t how I played.  It didn’t feel good playing dirty.  This was the only time, ever, that I played so unfairly.  I cannot help but correlate my behaviour to that of the coaches . . . remembering that I was only seven years old.  I didn’t get a penalty. I didn’t even get spoken to by the coaches.  This behaviour didn’t faze them at all.  They didn’t really care about how I played the game, or whether or not I played with integrity.

If you are a young athlete, I encourage you to make sport a lifelong activity!  If you love sport, make sure that you do everything you need to do to continue loving it.  It is likely that at some point you will encounter a coach that isn’t the best . . . . but alas, you will also come across negative people in life as well.  It’s a big world, there are lots of people out there, and not all of them are in your corner.  Don’t worry about people who aim to bring you down, they probably don’t have anything that you want anyway.  Surround yourself with great coaches, great friends, and great people; they will elevate you and encourage you, and hopefully you will love sport for as long as I have.

Tell me about your experiences as a young athlete, what were your greatest memories?

Real Adult Problems, and Loving Canoeing

It’s Family day (here in Ontario anyway), and it’s got me thinking about, well . . .  Family!

Last year, after having Max in early May, I thought I was pretty hard-core to return to competitive sprint canoe and war canoe just 6 weeks later.  While I was still pregnant I had discussed with my husband my plans for the summer; as long as I felt okay physically, and as long as Max was sleeping well enough, it was my intention to begin training again.  When Max began sleeping through the night at 6 weeks of age I realized that I had been given a great gift that many new parents don’t get:  the gift of sleep!  This simple fact, along with an amazing husband, made it possible for me to canoe during the 2011 season.

Being able to coordinate training last season, with a newborn  and breastfeeding, I never imagined that this year it might actually be more difficult to train.  I figured it would be easier this year with an older, less needy child.  Not so!  I have been flipping back and forth between sadness and acceptance over this decision (which I haven’t actually made yet).  The problem is, there are very legitimate arguments for and against, and I am in a debate with myself over this, sheesh!

Here is my dilemma (arguments against canoeing this season):  My maternity leave is coming to an end, as is my EI.  I would like to stay off work until September (I am a teacher and feel that this would be a more comfortable time to return to work as opposed to May), which means that I will have 4 of unemployment, which means I will have very little money.  How can I justify the cost of registration and fees (around $700), the cost of going to regatta’s, especially with nationals being in Dartmouth this year (at least another $1500).  The answer is, I can’t.  I simply cannot justify the cost when I am not working.  Another point is that my club is a bit of a drive, and gas is not cheap.  The commute is costly to both my bank account and my time.  With a 9 month old baby and a husband . . . it’s hard to be dashing off in the evenings when it’s the only time we have all together as a family.  I think if it was only the money, I wouldn’t worry . . . but the family time is important.  Sacrificing for them is a good sacrifice.  Besides, I’ve already signed up for the Spartan Sprint and Tough Mudder, shouldn’t I be satisfied with these? Lastly, I am trying to build my personal training business, and really, my time should be dedicated to that, shouldn’t it?

Arguments for:  I LOVE IT . . . like, really really LOVE it.  I always have felt that moms should continue with their passions and the things they love, that keeping ones own identity and sense of self is the best example you can set, even if it’s really hard.  Participating in sport is something that I have always done, and it makes me feel real, it’s a big part of how I identify with myself.  I worry that I will feel like I am missing something without it.  Also, I only paddle from May – September . . . it’s not a year round thing.  Did I mention that I love it, a lot?

So, this feels like a “real adult problem.”  I am  not willing to sacrifice the needs of my son and husband, but should considering their needs necessarily mean sacrificing my own?  Is it possible to fulfill my needs without being totally selfish?  I have a few months left to decide, and hopefully I will be able to make arrangements that fulfill everyone’s needs . . . time to activate my super-mom powers to come up with a win-win solution.

Growing Healthy Kids, or How To Not Be a Candy @ss

At a recent dinner party, my friend Emily told the guests that I have the worst job in the world . . . allow me to explain.

So, I’m a high school physical education teacher.  Emily loves to hear my tales about the various excuses my students (attempt to) offer me as “valid” excuses for not participating in gym class.  The excuses are always hilarious; “but Miss, I’ll sweat!” and “but I can’t get my hair wet,” and my personal favourite, “but Miss, I’m on my period.”  Since becoming a teacher I’ve learned that, apparently, menstruation is a valid reason for doing nothing 25% of the time – who knew?  I find much joy in countering these excuses with rational arguments:  “Well, if someone were chasing you, and you wanted to get away . . . say, to save your own life, it would be a good idea if you could run around the track, at least once.  Hop to it.”  I also like this one:  “If you had trained, say, for the past ten years for the Olympics, and you woke up that morning, at the Olympic Games, and you got your period, your telling me that you wouldn’t be able to compete?  Really?”

So, Emily says that my job is “the worst” because I have to try to get teenagers to exercise, and they usually don’t want to do it . . . and let me again say, we’re talking about teenagers, so it’s a battle I don’t always win.  Emily went on to tell the guests that during her all-girls private school days, gym class consisted entirely of “soccer baseball” because that’s the only thing the gym teacher could get them to play. Considering my teaching experiences, and her school phys. ed, memories, her final question to all of us was:  how do we prevent our kids from becoming a bunch of candy-asses?  How do we get them to like to exercise?

Jokingly, my initial response to this question was “extreme poverty.”  There may be a bit of truth to that, but obviously the answer to this problem isn’t so simple.  My second answer was that if you’re asking these questions, you’re probably already on the right track because your concern will lead to solutions and action.  I’ve been thinking about this off and on for about a week, and I’ve come up with a few things.

Looking back to my childhood, we didn’t have a lot of things . . . that is to say, I always had what I needed, but we didn’t have extra’s like video games or whatever the latest toy was.  My brothers and I spent a lot of time playing outside, usually soccer or climbing or running or swimming.  If we wanted to join a sport, we always had the money for that somehow.  Now, I remember families in similar financial situations as mine who did have every toy and game out there, but they never really did anything interesting or active.  I also had many friends from wealthier families; some of them spent time being active and could afford to go skiing and do all kinds of wonderful things . . . others had really nice designer clothes.  The real answer isn’t in the finances, but rather in values and parenting.  So parents, how can you get your kids to be active?  Well, it’s a good start to remember that YOU are the role model.  Your kids will follow your lead, so lead them onto a healthy path.  My husband always says that we need to be accountable to our son (say, 20 years from now) if he asks us, “hey, why did you let me play video games all day long if you knew it wasn’t good for me?”  If our only answer to him is “ummmmm, well, it kept you quiet . . . and, well, you seemed to like it” then that simply isn’t good enough.  As parents (and adults) we need to allow our kids to explore and to enjoy things (including video games sometimes), but because we are more experienced than them, they rely on us to step in and sometimes make decisions for them because WE KNOW BETTER.

Also, our kids are living in a very different world than what we grew up in.  I remember rotary phones, VCR’s, and the invention of the “internet.”  Our children live in a wired world with access to information that we never had access to.  People are also less trusting of their neighbours and community . . . a good deal of fear mongering has us believing that rapists and pedophiles are lurking around every corner ready to pounce . . . not exactly the kind of world parents feel safe releasing their children into saying “hey, go call on Charlie and see if he wants to play at the park with you . . . come home for lunch.”  So what can parents do?  Aha!  I have a list:

The prevent-my-kid-from-becoming-a-candy-ass list of things for parents:                                                                                                         (the opinion of a parent, teacher, trainer and athlete . . . perhaps not an expert, but there you have it)

1.  Until kids learn how to play well with other children, and have regularly* participated in a sport or activity, there should be no video games.  Once kids can play well and have demonstrated that they are active, video gaming should be limited.  TV and internet time should not win out over time spent active.

2.  Play with your children; it’s healthy and active for both of you, plus they LOVE it.  Take a soccer ball to the park and practice kicking or taking shots on each other.  Go swimming as a family on the weekends.

3.  Remember, you are in charge – if a well-meaning friend or family member buys (for example, a video game) or any other item that is counter to your plan for keeping your kids healthy and active, veto it.  It may seem harsh, and you may find yourself in a battle with said family member (or your child), but as the parent and adult, it’s your job to set the boundaries and demonstrate healthy habits to your child.  Trust me, an upset 6-year-old will get over their upset rather quickly . . . an unhealthy, overweight, and unmotivated 25-year-old will take a lot longer to get past their issues.

4.  “Health” includes several elements:  physical health, mental health, social health etc.  PLAY with your kids, TALK to your kids, ENCOURAGE your kids!

5.  Remember, whether you have enough money to give your kids everything or not, giving your child everything doesn’t mean giving your child EVERY THING.  At any price point, you can demonstrate healthy habits and values.  For those parents who have the money to spend on their children, spend it wisely.  Kids don’t need more toys, expensive clothes or the latest iPod.  What they need most is to be happy and healthy, so if you must buy them things, get them a bike, or a trampoline, or a kayak . . . . or a piano! Nourish their body and soul.

Today my 9 month old walked for the first time!  What an exciting summer we will have at the park.

*regularly = pretty much every day!

New Moms: Reaching Higher Ground

As a new mom, I was eager to get back into exercising and working out.  I was lucky enough, due to an amazing husband, to be able to return to my sprint canoe training and competing just 6 weeks after the birth of my son.  It was a busy summer training, competing, diaper changing, and breastfeeding . . . but the inclusion of an activity that I love helped me to feel like “me” and not just “mom” all the time.  When the season was over at the end of August, I found myself at a bit of a loss.  What do I do now?  I realized quickly that as a mom with a baby, there are a lot of barriers to exercise.

To start, you are probably tired.  How can you think about exerting yourself further?  Additionally, you may be feeling frazzled and disorganized; you can’t even get the laundry or dishes done, how can you manage exercise?  Daycare is a legitimate issue; you may not have family or trusted friends nearby or available to help you out with a little babysitting.  Money is a big issue for many of us.  In all likelihood, your household income has been cut in half.  Employment Insurance is useful for making minimum payments and keeping your head above water, but it leaves little room for extras, especially if you are paying off a student loan or other debts.  What is a mom to do?  Most of us realize that exercise would be a great idea, but when you face all of these issues, it can easily drop lower and lower on your list of priorities.

So, what can you do?  Of course, there is always walking.  It’s a great way to get outside and get moving.  It’s free and your baby might even go to sleep, giving you some “you time.”  If you’re like me, you probably already do this everyday and are looking for something different.  Swimming is another fantastic option.  Many community pools offer specific swim times for moms with little children so you don’t need to worry about rambunctious “big kids” upsetting your infant.  I’ve been taking my 9 month old to a mom and baby aquafit class since he was 3 months old.  They provide moms with a flotation device to place their baby in, so mom can get a workout in without finding a babysitter.  Many community centers and studios offer mom and baby yoga classes to help you stretch out those baby-lifting muscles that can get overused and quite sore throughout the day.  A jogging stroller can also be a great addition to your stroller fleet.  Running with baby is economical; no need for childcare.  Also, my little guy loves being pushed around.  He usually falls asleep.  I got my Chariot Cheetah on Kijiji for only $100.  It’s 10 years old, but runs great.  Chariots are fabulous, very well made!

But I’ve discovered something new!  If you’ve swum with your little yogi and have walked day after day, you might appreciate my discovery: indoor rock climbing, bouldering specifically. Bouldering is a style of rock climbing undertaken without a rope and normally limited to very short climbs over a crash pad.  If you have never tried climbing before, it’s a fantastic workout!  The great news is that many climbing gyms are open to moms bringing their babies with them, providing they keep safety precautions in mind.  Climbing gyms are typically less busy during the day, while others are at work.  This is an excellent time for at-home moms to take advantage of the climbing gym since it is safer with fewer people climbing.  If you have a mommy friend, a typical way to organize your trip to the gym is for one mom to watch the babies while the other climbs, and then switch.  Bouldering is excellent because you do not need a harness or someone else to belay you (lower you down), so you can do it on your own while your pal watches baby.  Finding places that welcome moms with babies without charging them daycare is awesome.  Listed below are several climbing gyms in Toronto that are mom and baby friendly.  Andrew at Boulderz Climbing says that they have recently expanded their hours specifically to accommodate the mommy market.  Way to go guys!

Of course, personal training is an amazing option as well.  At Dynamic Living, I offer small group training (up to 4 people) which cuts down the cost for each member dramatically, a good choice for moms on a tightened budget.  If childcare is a problem, ask me about bringing your little one along with you while you train.  Email: or visit

The Rock Oasis: (416) 703-3434,

True North Climbing:  416-398-7625,

Boulderz Climbing: 416.516.6666,

Toronto Climbing Academy: 416 406 5900,

Climber’s Rock (Burlington):  905-633-7625,

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