Smile Politely

What does it take to move you?

We do it every day. We get out of bed and walk to the kitchen, toe raises to reach for the coffee mugs. We get dressed, squat down, tie our shoes, zip our kids’ coats. We perform countless bicep curls to pull a tired, screaming little one close enough to kiss and to soothe. Some of us move more than others; some of us like it more than others. It’s something we need, another thing we try to fit in to an already stuffed schedule. Movement. Motion.

Let’s be honest; most of us try to squeeze in some exercise to lose the weight, to get in better shape, to fit into the “magic jeans.” Research recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, followed 34,000 women over 13 years. Women who exercised regularly, 420 minutes per week, gained less weight over time. A lucky few, 13.3% of the study, gained less than five pounds over the course of the study. These were women who described themselves as eating a normal diet, not dieting. “Exercise on its own, with no attention paid to calories, is unlikely to carve away excess weight or prevent gain,” the study concluded. So just to maintain we need to move. We want to be that magic 13% — the few who can maintain, at least, maybe hope for more. These women are everywhere I look in C-U, and many of them are busy moms that I know personally, making it work.

So I asked some of those marvelous moms who manage to do the impossible — to fit fitness in — what is the secret to staying motivated? Suddenly, a simple concept, a body in motion, becomes more complicated. We now talk about the force behind the motion.

She was my neighbor first — the amazing mother of four that never seems rattled, that manages to find a way for everything, including fitness. She laughs at the stresses in life, a sense of humor that is instantly contagious. My friend, Vanna Pianfetti tells me, “I want them [my kids] to know that being healthy is an important part of life and that you have to make time for yourself. I’d like to be fit as I get older — to have a good older life because I took care of myself now.”

I relate to that desire. My dad died young, 51 years old. I was 22, completely unprepared to say goodbye to a man who’d been such a force in my life. Ironically, it happened on the tennis court, as he was trying to stay fit and healthy — a dissected aortic aneurysm that eventually took his life eight days later. I learned to love movement, exercise, competition, and self-improvement from him. His struggle with his diet and high blood pressure forced me to look closer at my diet, my lifestyle, to find ways to eat the foods I love and be healthy too. I stay fit now as a tribute to my dad, continuing to challenge myself as a way to honor what was important to him. I’m one of many running in the Illinois Marathon in May. Training on rainy, blustery days, one foot in front of the other, trying to reach the next mile marker, I think of him. Feeling good, enjoying the movement, the scenery, the repetition — in those moments I am close to my dad.

Training for an event is a great way to improve your fitness. What better way to be accountable than to have a deadline on the calendar, something to prepare for, risking utter failure in front of hundreds? A tad melodramatic but you get the idea. Chambana’s calendar is packed full of local races — walking, running, biking. Sign up for one and then get busy training.

When do we know we’ve successfully made fitness part of our schedule? When does it become a habit? My friend, Vanna thinks, “You have to do it [fitness] for at least two weeks before you feel like it’s become a normal part of your day. Friends make the workout go faster-so get a workout buddy.” Vanna’s advice is supported by research. Studies find that people who use the buddy system stick to workout schedules more than those who exercise alone. Find a friend; throw the kids in the stroller or on a bike, and walk for 20 minutes. You’ll enjoy the outdoors, sneak in some cardio, and model great behavior for your kids.

Another local mom, Vanessa Ruhlig, likes the buddy system, too. I don’t ever remember seeing anything but a smile on Vanessa’s face and her soft, kind voice brought a peaceful centeredness to the classes I taught. We stopped running into each other at the gym, but crossed paths again at the kids’ basketball games on Saturday mornings.

“I’ve seen you running,” Vanessa says.
“Are you still at the gym?” I ask.

Women's Home Workout BibleInterestingly, she’s using the book I want to feature in this article. She’s a busy mom of three making fitness work for her at home, 5–6 days a week. Vanessa, talks a little about what she does to jump-start her fitness schedule: “I try to praise myself for getting back into my exercise routine even if it was at a slower pace that day, or if I didn’t exercise as long as I normally would have. Encouraging myself is essential to keeping on track.” Vanessa works out between 30–45 minutes a day. She takes the stairs more, does laps around her house, and hosts workout play dates with other moms so the kids can play while the mom’s work out. She also uses Women’s Home Workout Bible, by Brad Schoenfeld. The full-color book features 12 four-week programs for conditioning, sculpting, and core stability, plus three levels of fat-burning cardio workouts. By investing as little as $100, up to over $2,500, Schoenfeld highlights how a busy mom can build an effective home gym. Schoenfeld recommends five key items: a floor mat, stability ball, a chinning bar, leg weights, and a set of strength bands. To read more about the book or to find out where to purchase it go to Vanessa turns on a favorite TV show like “The Biggest Loser” and works out while she watches.

Last but not least, consider a gym membership to get you moving more. Local gyms may offer childcare as part of your membership. With the kids safely engaged, busy moms can check out some of the great group fitness classes available. Stacie (Koontz) Guido is a working mom of two cute kids. These days she looks even more fabulous, something I recently asked about. She says, “Working out is a great stress reliever for me. When I don’t get active, I find that I am snapping at my family and am very impatient.” Stacie works out at the Fitness Center in Champaign and says, “I am much more motivated when I do group fitness. I push myself harder when others are watching and challenging me–like those hard-core instructors do at the Fitness Center. A year ago, Stacie had back and knee surgery. She finds herself inspired to get back to where she was. She’s trying new classes and mixing up her workout routine to accommodate her body’s changed needs. Anybody that’s seen Stacie lately knows she is back and better than ever.

So finding time for fitness is really about finding the push behind the force — what makes it essential to our day. When all else fails, the best source of fitness may be to grab your kids, turn up the stereo, and boogie down in the middle of your kitchen. You’ll get your heart pumping, your abs engaged from all the laughter, and you may just learn the newest club dance without ever leaving your house. The secret to success — finding what moves you — is really about discovering what brings you joy in movement, and anyone should be able to find something essential in that. So what are you waiting for…get moving.

Laura E. Czys is a busy Chambana mom to her kids — the 3 E’s. She teaches classes at the Fitness Center, is looking for gainful employment, and frequently boogies-down in her kitchen, sometimes with the kids.

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