Category Archives: Exercise

Present disculpatory

Apparently I was a little distracted when putting Mabel to bed last night. She wrapped herself up in my big brown blanket and I totally forgot that we hadn’t put a nighttime pullup on her. So at eleven thirty she woke up all wet and it took a long time to get her back to sleep.

My big brown blanket is now in the wash.

I’m busy. Which is good. I like to be busy when it’s just the right amount – not overwhelming, not stressful, just busy enough to give me a sense of purpose and a good excuse when the children come wanting me to be a mommy cheetah. (I said “Miaow,” but apparently cheetahs don’t miaow. They don’t roar either. They make a high-pitched chirping noise. I find this hard to believe. I am suspicious of my children’s television-acquired knowledge.)

I’m busy getting us back to normal, whatever that is, but also trying to start exercising again – running and yoga, I’ve decided, this year/semester/term/week – and doing a small freelance job, as well as the writing course I’m taking from Alice Bradley (the wonderful, hilarious Finslippy, and I only partly said that because she might be reading). [Alice Bradley is reading my blog. Hyperventilate, hyperventilate, spend an hour browsing past posts to try to read them with a stranger’s eye; fail.]

And then I had to restock our supplies of peanut-butter and tinned tomatoes and boxes upon boxes of Cheerios (they were on special offer), as well as trying to keep the house from falling into a state of absolute squalor (some squalor is fine, just not absolute), and have a cup of tea every now and then and eat a muffin (somebody’s gotta do it) and also see above re laundry, and so that, what I’m trying to say, is why I didn’t update the blog yesterday.


(Format shamelessly stolen from the children’s book of the same name.)

Unfortunately, Mabel decided she didn’t want to go to school today.

Fortunately, my husband’s job is delightfully flexible, so he was able to stay with her while I set out for the run I had planned for after I dropped her off.

Unfortunately, I only got as far as the end of the road before I ran out of steam, decided fighting with Mabel had sapped the energy from my very bones, and went home again. (There probably wasn’t much energy there to begin with.)

Fortunately, this gave me plenty of time for a nice long shower with the new shower gel and to shave my legs for the first time in about a month.

Unfortunately (for Mabel), you don’t get to watch TV if you stay home for no good reason.

Fortunately, she just got a belated birthday present of some new Lego, so she was able to entertain herself pretty well all morning.

Unfortunately, I still didn’t feel like carting her to the supermarket, so I didn’t do the shopping.

Fortunately, I can probably cobble something together for dinner from what we already have, even if it’s just (not from a box) mac ‘n cheese and roasted broccoli.

Unfortunately, our babysitter can’t come this weekend so we’re not going to get to see the new Bond film as I was hoping.

Fortunately, her mom sent me the number of a friend who has three daughters who would love to babysit.

Unfortunately, Mabel won’t countenance the idea of any other babysitter.

[…Maud bursts into tears at the idea of Daniel Craig carrying on without her…]

Unfortunately, I can’t find a picture I wish to endorse here, because his magnetism does not work for me in stills. When I first saw him (in Munich, with bad hair) I couldn’t figure out why I found him so attractive, but every time he was on screen my eyes just wouldn’t look anywhere else.

Daniel Craig all sexy and dishevelled

If the picture’s not working, you can go here and feast your eyes on whichever one you like best.

Fortunately (for you), I got over it and found this one anyway. You’re welcome.

No muffins

Mabel is at a playdate across the road, and I have an extra hour and a half to mess around with this morning. Except for the part where I had to go down to school to get her anyway, find that she’d re-changed her mind (it’s her prerogative) about going home with her friend, install her carseat into my friend’s car even though she had a perfectly good brand-new one there for Mabel to use, and kiss her goodbye. Then we both drove back up the hill home and got out of our cars on either side of the road. She unloaded three happy children into her house, and I unloaded nobody at all into mine.

Tomorrow, I’ll return the favor, but hopefully with 100% less redundant driving around, since Mabel’s friend fits perfectly in Dash’s (otherwise empty on this trip) carseat and is not nearly as fussy as she is.

Meanwhile, I’m slowly trying to use my free time – now that my “two children, two schools, five mornings” fantasy is actually coming true – to impose some sort of order on this place and my mentality. There’s a very gradual hint of meal planning, winter-clothes sorting, and even house-cleaning starting to make its way into the way things are being done. I’ve even gone running again and started back at my old pilates class.

Which is just as well, because sorting winter clothes has led me to discover that I have far more pairs of jeans than anyone needs, and that too many of them are too small, because I seem to be taking up more space than I was at the start of the summer. Since Mabel is now nursing a lot less and I didn’t exercise when the weather was warm – so much for those good intentions – this is not rocket science, but it’s still disappointing. I’ll probably never again be as skinny as I was when I had an 18-month-old nursing every five minutes (or so it seemed) and I know there are good things about that, but it’s a pity that now I have more freedom to go out (a) shopping and (b) socializing, it’s harder to look in the mirror and be thrilled with what I see.

So I have two options: I can stop looking in the mirror and tell myself that it’s not important; or I can try to take a little exercise a little more often, stop giving myself the same size portions as the marathon runner in the family, and lay off the cookies.

One of these things will probably happen, but I’m not making any promises. (Because I function best on reverse psychology, so vowing to become thin and waif-like would lead instantly to telling myself to go take a short walk off a long pier and find some muffins wherever I land.)

Home free

It’s seven forty and I’m home free.

That is, I’m home, and I’m free of children. The one is asleep, the other is on his way and doesn’t need assistance, and there’s a glass of red wine beside me. The payoff for early risers is early bedtimes like this, and even if they don’t happen every night, it’s great when they do. There’s also a big basket of laundry to be folded, but I quite like laundry actually. It’s one of the few housekeeping tasks I don’t mind keeping up with. (I used to iron, even, but that was a long time ago.)

The weather has broken, and like flipping a switch, my brain has turned on and got busy. Or, maybe more accurately, my body. My will to do things other than flollop around complaining, at least.

We had a big storm on Saturday afternoon, and on Sunday all the oppressive heat and humidity had been scrubbed out of the air, leaving shining clear sunlight. It’s almost (positively, even) chilly in the mornings, suddenly. I’m not pushing the bedcovers off my body any more. I might have to find some socks soon.

  • I’ve baked two batches of baked goods (banana spice crumb bars and oatmeal muffins).
  • I’ve gone running two mornings in a row. Only a mile, and I only ran half of it, and then maybe a bit more, but it’s a start.
  • I’ve started a star chart for the children, wherein they get stars for tidying up and also for using the bathroom more independently (Mabel) and practising some reading (Dash). So far they each have a lot more stars for the practising than the tidying, but I don’t care. It’s establishing an expectation, and I don’t want to have to shell out at Target too soon.

Mabel has complained about going to school for the past two days. I’ve left her there anyway, stonehearted mother that I am, even though she was crying and telling me not to go. Yesterday it was all for show, and she was smiling as she played with all the dollhouse people when I looked in the window five minutes later. Today she was more tired and a little more upset, as she’d had a late night and two wakeups yesterday – not my fault if she refuses to fall asleep for her father; I was at a board meeting – but I still stood firm.

On the one hand, I don’t want to set the precedent of letting her stay home, or – worse – relenting once we get there and taking her back with me. School is school, and we go unless we’re sick. On the other hand, the child is three, and it’s not like she’s missing anything vital to the curriculum if I let her play hookie once in a blue moon. With Dash, once or twice he made a fuss and I let him off – because I know my kid, and he never did that; so when he did, I believed him and it didn’t come back to bite me. But Mabel is a different child, and if you give her an inch she’ll take a mile, and if I give her an inch she’ll probably run off with the whole kit and kaboodle and never come back at all. So no, not doing that. School it is.

Still, I was relieved to come back from my too-short jaunt to Bethesda to see my friend’s new baby (tiny! squishy! asleep on me!) to find Mabel’s classmates all happily unbitten and her teachers still looking me in the eye. She’d had a bit of an episode when they wiped her nose, but she told me that she felt better after snack, and I agreed that that was often the way.

In fact, might be time for a post-prandial, laundry-folding snack over here right now.

A quick run down

  • Time Mabel went to sleep last night: 9.30 pm
  • Time Mabel woke up last night: 2.30 am (that’s actually quite good, you know)
  • Time it felt like it took to get her back to sleep: 2 hours, give or take (that’s not good)
  • Time somebody decided to ring our phone before changing their mind: 5.15 am
  • Time I actually got up: 6.45 am
  • Amount I felt like running a race: Not even a little bit
  • Time I left the house: 7.10 am
  • Time spent loitering around once I’d attached my number to my t-shirt with safety pins and my chip to my shoe: 30 minutes
  • Time the race started: 8 am
  • Number of runners who streaked ahead of me very quickly: Most of them
  • Number of walkers still behind me: A few, I hope
  • Number of runners who passed me clearly already on their second lap while I was still completing my first: About 6
  • Number of times we went around the lake: 2
  • Number of fluffy ducklings I saw: 6
  • Number of chipmunks who dashed across my path: 1
  • Number of toddlers who mistakenly thought I might be their mama: 1
  • Number of times I did not stop running: Any
  • That is, because the former seems ambiguous, amount I walked: 0 cm, inches, meters, rods, poles or perches
  • Number of family members I was delighted to see as I rounded the final bend: All 3 lovelies
  • Amount I was surprised to find I could speed up to make a big finish: Quite a bit
  • Number of kilometers I ran: 5, Baby
This is me approaching my waiting supporters
(I don’t know what the guy in the grey is doing, but he’s going the wrong way.)

    How that’s going

    You might remember that for Christmas, I got running shoes. And then I surprised nobody more than myself by using them, not just once, but on a fairly regular basis. I decided to sign up for the nursery-school fundraiser 5k race in May, thinking that surely almost five months was enough time for anyone to get themselves from zero to five.

    The race is next Saturday. Just in case things don’t go well for me on the day, I went for a run last Saturday and beat my previous personal best by a whole mile, bringing me nicely up to 3.25 miles altogether. Which just happens to be a shade over 5k, so whatever happens on the day will be a mere technicality.

    My aim has been three times a week, or two runs and one something else, like that dance exercise class I was doing. I certainly haven’t been faithful to that aim ever since January, between travel and illness and (even) injury (I twisted my ankle quite painfully in the playground two weeks ago; not exactly a training injury, more an occupational hazard); but I’ve kept it up, and for some reason I haven’t wanted to stop.

    It’s been encouraging, too, to find that when I do stop for a week – or three – my body bounces back to where it was before much more quickly than it took to get there in the first place. So I might go out the first day and run less than a mile before limping home, disconsolate;  but I can add back the distance half a mile or more at a time. Muscle memory is a wonderful thing.

    I’m not a shadow of my former self or anything. I don’t think I’ve lost so much as a pound after all this, but then it’s not as if I’ve been laying off the muffins either. Perhaps the reason I keep going this time is because for once it’s not about weight-loss, though of course that would be nice; it’s really about being healthy. I want to show my children that everyone exercises, not just Daddy the marathon man, and I need to find a new normal for myself that includes regular movement further than from kitchen table to couch, or around the aisles of Target. And it would be nice to go (ever closer) towards my 40s as a woman who could, perhaps, outrun the zombie uprising, so long as the zombies can’t run any further than three miles at a nice leisurely 12- or 13-minute-mile pace.

    (To put my wussiness in perspective, my husband got up at 3 a.m. the other week, with a headcold, went out in the dark, and took a bus with a bunch of strangers to run 26.2 miles up the California coast, just for fun, in under four hours. And here I am worried that if Mabel has a less-than-stellar night I might not be able to go a whole 3.2 without having to stop and walk.

    (Not that there’s anything wrong with stopping and walking. It’s just that once I stop it’s immeasurably harder to start again, so I prefer to keep going.)

    ) <- end of digression. And other digression. Though if you can call it a digression when it comes at the end I'm not sure. Maybe it's just a tangent. Like this one.

    Running into trouble

    I’m sorry if you’re only here for the pictures of children in boxes, but I have to gab on about running again for a minute. I’ll bring it back to the children, I promise.

    This morning I went out and I ran a whole mile without stopping. When I came back I told B that it had taken me 15 minutes to run it, and by the way he looked at me I could see that he was wondering how that was physically possible. “I lay down between each step,” I added, to reassure him. But after my shower he told me that I’d read the watch wrong (he lets me use his fancy GPS running watch) and my pace had in fact been a much more respectable 12 minutes.

    Just to put that in perspsective, his “slow” pace is about a 9-minute mile, and in marathons he’s aiming for 7.5 or so. For all 26.2 miles. I will never be running marathons, is what I’m saying, but on the other hand, apparently I didn’t lie down between each stride either.

    It turns out that my limiting factor is mostly getting a stitch: if that doesn’t happen, I can keep going till my legs get tired, which is about a mile as of this morning. I have yet to figure out how to not get a stitch: is it random, has it something to do with fitness, or is it about how much coffee I drank how soon before I left the house?

    And I have to get all soap-boxy about it for a second and say that if you can walk, you can run, so you may as well give it a go. It’s over sooner, it gets your heart rate going faster, and it makes you think you’re the bee’s knees. (Bees’ knees? How many bees are we talking about here?) But, three words: Buy A Bra. (Unless you’re one of my two male readers. Probably, you don’t need to. But hey, whatever floats your boat.) Don’t think that the one you wear for yoga will do; don’t pick up a cheapie in Target or Dunnes Stores; choose a heavy-duty one in the right size, take it into the changing room, and jump up and down a few times. If you bounce, move on until you find the right one, and don’t begrudge the money. The difference between running while bouncing and running while being properly reined in is astounding.

    So there I was, pootling around the lake this morning – I’ve decided I need a better word for what I do, because it doesn’t yet aspire to running, and a good quantity of it is still walking, but it’s walking in a good bra, you know – and thinking why it is that I eschew those app-y things like Couch to 5K that tell you when to run and when to walk and are roundly praised by people like me who start from negative levels of fitness and want to go a bit faster and a bit further without falling down. Basically, it’s because I don’t like to do what people tell me to. In fact, I am positively motivated to not do what they tell me to.

    Ooh, look, once again running (pootling) helps me understand how my children’s minds work.

    But, historical revisionism, ahoy. My mother says I was never any trouble. How can this be, if I am so programmed for rebellion? Did I develop this characteristic late in life? Or else, 

    (a) I was Trouble, but my mother has forgotten
    (b) I was Trouble, but my mother didn’t find out
    or (c) I wasn’t any trouble, because my desires meshed with my parents’ desires

    This last may have been true once I was older and decided it was fun to get good grades – because if there’s one thing I hate more than doing what people tell me, it’s getting answers wrong. And since I didn’t know where the boys lived or how to find them, I had nothing else to do but my homework.

    I suspect I was Trouble, but both (a) and (b). Also, it’s possible that my mother was more canny than she gives herself credit for, and manouvered me into doing what she wanted me to do while making me think it was my idea.

    Or perhaps my parents just left me alone and I turned out okay. Free-range parenting in the eighties? What a concept.

    Goings-on ongoing

    Once again, this morning, I didn’t go for a run.

    One way or another, the fates have conspired against me for the past week, and between weather, and days off school, and weather, and my period, I haven’t had a chance to go out for ages. I hate this – not because I’m a runner, all champing at the bit for activity and pacing up and down like a caged tiger; but because it makes me afraid that I’ll never get back out there and my tiny bit of motivation will desert me and I’ll be back to being a blob who wasted money on good shoes for nothing.

    On the other hand, it’s novel, if irritating, for me to actually want to exercise and be prevented by outside influences. I’m almost completely certain I’m not just using them as excuses. And B has been very good about not bugging me, because he knows that the one thing certain to make me not go is someone telling me that I should. (Mabel? My daughter? What? I see no correlation here.)

    I have gone to the not-aerobics class for the past two Saturdays, even last week when there was fresh snow on the ground (all of half an inch) and only the die-hards were there (and me), so all isn’t entirely lost. I can do a sexy march with the best of them. (No. No, I can’t. But I’m learning.)


    The wearing of the underwear was going really well until I bragged about it to a friend, whereupon Mabel immediately went through two pairs of trousers, peed on the aforementioned ice, and is now wearing a pullup. I suppose we’ll get back on the horse soon, but I’m not talking about it. If you see me start to talk about it, put your fingers in your ears and sing la la laaa at the top of your voice.


    Yesterday, in a fit of something or other, I bought a bag of mini croissants. (This is what happens when I go to a different supermarket. All sorts of odd things seem perfectly reasonable purchases.) Dash was excited but wished they were chocolate croissants, and I said we could probably do something about that. So when we got home I cunningly sliced along the top of one, put in a few chocolate chips, and heated it for five seconds in the microwave. He was quite pleased.

    Today, somehow, there are two…one…oh, look at that, the mini croissants are all gone. Mabel just asked for the last one, let me put three chocolate chips carefully in it, and said she didn’t need it heated up. Then she fished the chips out again, sucked each one into happy oblivion, and told me I could eat the croissant.


    Dash came home today with a big picture of a penguin captioned in his writing with “My penguin and I like to fly.” His teacher had stuck on a post-it in response to my e-mail of this morning, saying that the children had used their IMAGINATIONS to think of something they would like to do with their penguins. (Hmm. That sounds dodgy. She didn’t put it quite like that.) Dash has recanted his earlier statement about there definitely being a flying species of penguin and now says the movie they watched was a cartoon. I’m still a bit confused, but I think we can be confident that his teacher was not using BBC April fools jokes as source material, and that you can’t always take what a five-year-old says at face value.

    No news there, then.

    Rhythm: gonna getcha

    I went to an aerobics class once.

    It was 1991 and I was in my first year of university. All the girls were doing it – at least, some of all the girls – so a friend and I said we’d have a go. I lasted about ten minutes, I think, between the vast gym full of people who knew the steps gyrating away in time with the crazy-fit lycra-ed instructor, and the balcony full of male students whose lunchtime entertainment was to go and watch the scantily-clad girls bounce up and down. “I’m not going to be a piece of meat in your between-lectures porn fantasy,” I said, as a good feminist; “and also, I don’t like getting sweaty and I don’t want to have to bring extra clothes to college every day, and I certainly don’t want to shower in the sports centre, and it’s too long a walk from the Arts block, and it looks haaaard.”

    So that was that. Until this morning, when I participated in an Ultimate Groove Workout – which turned out to be, as far as I’m concerned, thinly disguised aerobics to music. (Didn’t aerobics always have music? But somehow this is different. Maybe the music is more intrinsic to the movement here.)

    I had thought that my two or three years of ballroom and Latin dance would help me out, but it seemed not. Apparently, I’m incapable of moving my arms and my legs at the same time. You’d think I’d have noticed that before now, but it seems that over the years my body has become skilled at hiding this tiny handicap. Dancing with a partner, my arms were almost always engaged in leaning against the other person; it turns out that when you take this person away and ask me to make prescribed motions with my arms while stepping steps apace with my legs, my brain goes into its math zone: that fuzzy place where all of me decides to go on hiatus until someone asks an easier question. Or in this case, until the music slows and something relatively simple happens, like standing still or maybe lying down and closing my eyes.

    Even when everyone was clapping their hands nonchalantly above their heads while skipping lightly from one step to the next, I was the one clapping out of time. Decades of my life dedicated to weekly choir practices, years of recorder and piano and clarinet lessons, many many nights spent shaking my booty on the dancefloor, and I couldn’t even clap in the right place. Sigh.

    The good news is that I can only get better. Surely.


    Yesterday, one of the teachers at Mabel’s school asked, “Did I see you run past my house the other morning?”
    “Mumble,” I replied, busying myself with the important task of posting some information about housekeeping duties to the noticeboard in her classroom.
    “Yesnomubby. I mean, yes, I suppose it was. But I can’t do it yet, so don’t ask me about it.”

    I did learn some useful related facts this morning, though, which I will ennumerate for you here in handy list format.

    Bad things about going for a short run in 21 F (that’s -6 C) weather: My fingers don’t thaw out until I get home again.

    Good things about going for a short run in 21 F (that’s -6 C) weather: At least my glasses don’t slip down my nose from the sweat.

    Most important thing about going for a short run in 21 F (that’s -6 C) weather: Whatever you do, don’t check to see what temperature it is before you leave, or you’ll abandon the whole endeavour.