Flashback: Mamie taught me to love exercise, but now it's Lizzie's turn to be my coach
I wrote this essay (originally published by Mom Babble) in 2015. I was just reading it today and reliving some of that enthusiasm for activity! And remember when I was running, pushing Mamie in that stroller every day? Well I figure I have one more year at home with Lizzie, and I'm ready to recapture some moments on the road and at the gym with her. <3 p="">
I'm Healthier Because of My Daughter(s)
Mamie laughs at the leaves falling on her stroller, complains when I tease them out of her mouth. This is our third walk around the neighborhood today, shooting for a goal of three miles. This toddler is my shield, a salve to soothe the awkwardness I would feel if I were out here alone.
I am no stranger to attempts at personal wellness. I have notebooks full of food logs, exercise logs, and blood sugar logs, stretching back a decade. I never imagined a baby’s motivating influence would trump every trick I had tried before. From the second she sparked into existence, my child has been pulling me into a healthier lifestyle in a way my own motivation never could.
I began pregnancy with several complicating medical labels already affixed to me — advanced age (37), obesity (250 pounds), and high blood pressure (controlled with medication). And firmly securing my place in the “high risk” category — Type 2 diabetes. As soon as pregnancy was confirmed, a team of doctors stood ready to congratulate, poke, and prescribe.
I have never felt healthier — or more closely monitored — than when I was pregnant, but once Mamie was born, everything turned inside-out and upside-down. I had to recover from her early arrival at 35 weeks, C-section, depression, low milk supply, and the general upheaval of adding a baby to our household. Mamie was about three months old when the fog started to lift. That’s when she pushed me out the front door and made me into an exerciser.
She made it clear from the beginning that she was calmer and happier outside. Recovering from a C-section and a few months of inactivity, I was intimidated by walking even a few blocks, but Mamie had to have her fresh air. I remember the walk we took on her first Thanksgiving day, just down our own street. I see that walk now as the beginning of a change in my attitude toward exercise.
Until then, I held the common belief that exercise was something to dread, a thing you have to do. In Mamie’s first year, I began to understand how exercise could be a thing you want to do.
The change was abrupt. When I rolled the stroller down to the sidewalk in front of our house, Mamie’s mood changed from fussy to curious and content. As we worked up to one mile, and then two, my mood shifted from stressed to relieved and empowered. How could I not take advantage of this antidepressant every day?
When Mamie was around four months old, she indirectly lead me to discover another new fitness passion — yoga. We were on the brink of just becoming comfortable with each other, but my nerves we still fairly frazzled from daily responsibilities. Up to that point, I had literally no time to myself. Signing up for a Sunday yoga class felt like a betrayal, but I had to have that hour. At the end of every class, I thanked Mamie for letting me go, and I thanked my instructor for teaching me each impossible pose.
As a gift to both of us on my 39th birthday and her first (our birthdays are only eight days apart), I started to run. Just 60 seconds at a time, then two minutes, then three. Running or walking — it’s all the same to Mamie from her vantage point in the stroller, but she still gets the credit for pushing me to seek greater challenges. And when my confidence is low, she and the stroller are my shield against any real or imagined judgment from onlookers.
Now I’m training to run a half-marathon this December. Mamie is with me every trip to the gym, every run around the neighborhood.
I’m motivated by the idea of setting an example for her. I want to roll with her through 5k’s until she’s old enough to enter on her own. I want it to be a normal part of her childhood to witness Mommy and Daddy training for a half-marathon, riding 150 miles on a bike for charity, learning to paddle board, hiking the Appalachian Trail. And whatever her personal athletic interests are, I want her to have the opportunity and confidence to pursue them.
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