Working… Out, On, and In

Shocking confession time: I enjoy working out.

Oh, I know. It shocked me too, when I figured it out. I was never an active, outdoorsy kind of kid. Exhibit A: my bicycle had training wheels until I was, like, nine. I just hated riding the darn thing and it took me a l-o-n-g time to log enough hours to master the balancing. When we lived in Lawton, Oklahoma… I would have been 7 or 8… there’s this famous family story about my mom demanding that I go outside for some P.E. “Go out there and get on your bike!” she ordered. Fifteen minutes later, she came outside to check on my progress. I was sitting in the shade on my bike reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, with the kickstand down and the basket filled with books. When my flabbergasted mother asked what on earth I thought I was doing, my sassy reply was, “Well, you said I had to get ON the bike. You didn’t say I had to RIDE IT anywhere.” Okay, now you believe me about not being active, and you’re probably also wondering how I survived that day. Ha!

My first foray into anything remotely athletic was the flag corps in high school, and I loved that – but I would have chalked it up to the comraderie and the music and yada yada yada. Not the exercise (although in hindsight, I’m sure that’s from whence at least part of the ‘high’ came.)

And then, yearrrrrrs and yearrrrrs later, I joined an actual gym. We were living in Fort Lauderdale, and my best friend at work was a workout queen. Staci was a ton of fun, and she loved her gym, and when I realized I had slowly gained a few more pounds than I was comfortable with — it was only natural to join her gym and ask her for a little help. And here’s where the shock hit me. I was having fun, laughing with a friend on side-by-side ellipticals, sure. But I really loved how I felt when I was working out. We had a whole routine — well, I should say, Staci had a whole routine worked out in her head, and I followed along. I had taken yoga classes before and done videos at home alone, which was just “eh.” I tried spinning, to keep Staci company, but you know: me and bikes have never been BFF. I tolerated the cardio Staci made me do, but I really got my kicks with the strength training she taught me. I loved it. Who knew?! I lost the weight I’d gained, and started seeing muscles in the mirror. It was awesome.

And then a baby came along. And another, and another. And I wasn’t working anymore. And we moved four times. And there were a million reasons that I couldn’t join a new gym, and there were a million reasons that I couldn’t figure out how to fit in some kind of exercise on any given day.

Over those years, I forgot something: that I actually, really, truly did ENJOY working out.

And that’s the first piece of this puzzle.

***

On my 30th birthday, I had a blessingway. One very precious part of the ceremonies was the reading of a letter my mother wrote (since she couldn’t be present, as she was in the middle of chemotherapy at the time). She gave me advice and encouragement and I will always treasure that piece of her heart… and among other things, she urged me to work out. “Pick something you love to do, and do it regularly. I love to walk and I used to do five miles a day!” There was advice about marriage and parenting and memorizing Scripture, too. But this exhortation to exercise is now in my head as Something My Mom Wanted Me To Do.

So that’s the second piece of this puzzle.

***

Today, I’m a busy busy busy mother of three. I homeschool and I attempt to blog. I scrapbook (I’m a teensy bit behind… but in my heart, I’m a scrapbooker). I read my Bible every day and I waste way too much time on Facebook and I cook and I do laundry. I shuttle us to the library and speech therapy and karate class and Sunday School and pediatrician’s appointments.

But I started working out.

I’m still working on what to do. I don’t belong to a gym here, and I know videos bore me. I’m still not the outdoorsy type, so there is no danger of me suddenly becoming a marathoner or a cyclist. I’ve done a little googling for routines I can create with my little set of weights and resistance bands and good old-fashioned “just use your own body” exercises.
And you know what? Even with my current “making do” setup, I can still hit that point where you’re shaky and hurting and you push yourself to finish that set and it feels AHmazing. Yesterday afternoon, I squatted to zip Susannah’s coat for her and felt the burn from working on my quads in the morning. And this morning, I came downstairs and had to hold the handrails the whole way down because my glutes were killing me. And that feels GREAT. The baby weight is melting back off, and that feels good, too.
And that’s the third piece of the puzzle.

***

But I’m still playing around with working it in. I can’t get up and do it before the kids wake up, because hello, who wants to work out at 3 or 4 a.m.? I can’t do it after I put them to bed, because I am so NOT a night person.
At the moment, I’m grabbing any chunk of time in which the baby is asleep not-on-my-body or happily absorbed in something (like her toes) AND in which the big kids are either outside or resting for quiet time. This usually translates into taking about an hour to complete what I had in mind for the day – which should have been about 30 minutes of actual exercise – because someone wakes up or needs to go potty or needs a snack or hits his sister or or or etc.

Even then – there is a part of me that feels guilty for trying to sneak in this time at all. There are other things I could be doing when the kids are asleep, and if they are awake I feel terrible for trying to quickly handle the immediate need and get back to the sets they interrupted.

But there’s another (admittedly, smaller) part of me that wants to just join a dadgum gym and drop the whole crew off in one of those kid-rooms and wave goodbye with a smile and go focus on nothing more than my delts and triceps and biceps for half an hour. You know? I wouldn’t do it – at least not at this point, with a 4 month old – but that little part of me does fantasize about it when I fix someone a third cup of water in the twenty minutes I’ve been trying to work out.

And that’s the final piece of the puzzle. I want to do this. I like doing this. I need to do this – obviously for my physical help, but judging by that last paragraph, probably for my mental health as well. If I ever hit on a beautiful, creative, fulfilling solution to the puzzle – where I get to workout, and not feel guilty about it, and not ignore my kids in the process, and not neglect all the other things I “should” be doing too… I’ll let you know.

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

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