How to kickstart an exercise program

Step 1: Decide to go for a walk with your 5-year-old while she rides her bike. She only recently started to ride it after months of resistance, and is still on training wheels, so tell yourself that she’ll be slow and easy to keep up with.

Step 2: Because this will be leisurely, wear a large backpack, a floppy sunhat, and put your other kid in your slow-moving umbrella stroller.

Step 3: Go to the most populated walking path in the city on a Saturday morning, because crowded areas are perfect for entry-level bike riding.

Step 4: Give your child a gentle push to get started, and watch as she takes off at speeds of 25-30 mph with no fear, hesitation, or looking back to find you. Realize immediately that you need to haul ass and run in order to avoid losing your child, who shows no signs of slowing down whatsoever.

And thus began my Saturday morning, panting like a dying dog, with my enormous backpack flapping against my sweaty back, pushing my rickety umbrella stroller in and around, up and down, as I raced desperately to keep my child within my sight for three miles.

I often joke that I’d only run if a murderer is chasing me. But honestly I suspect even then I might give up and stop. Because seriously, running? No thank you. Just kill me.

But little did I realize that if I am the chaser, not the chasee, I may actually manage to run for more than 5 minutes. Because nothing propels your body forward like watching your child bob and weave between throngs of runners, dog walkers, roller bladers, kidnappers and serial killers – always dangerously close to escaping your field of vision.

This was about as close as I got.

I have no doubt that to passersby I looked slightly panicked, rather ill-prepared, and extremely out of shape. I was like the crazy lady running to catch her plane in the airport, with one hand on my hat while screaming “SLOW DOWN!” and then gasping to catch my aging, depleted breath.

There were moments when my daughter got far enough ahead of me that I could see other people pass her and wonder, Why does this small child not have an adult with her? Then they would eventually pass me and chuckle.

More than once I felt light-headed, and realized it would’ve been wise to drink water before I left the house instead of that extra cup of coffee, which was now seeping out of my sweat glands in small caffeinated crystals.

In my darkest moments, when I felt certain I was about to pass out and die, I worried that I should’ve taped my husband’s cell phone number to my children’s backs. Lesson learned for next time.

Needless to say it was an effective, albeit uncomfortable, way to re-motivate myself to exercise. It also felt a bit like that symbolic parenting experience – watching with delight and fear as my child learned a new skill, realized she didn’t need me, and then took off like a bat out of hell enjoying her newfound independence. I loved it even though I hated it.

When I met up with my husband afterward, the first words he said were, “You have a sweat mustache.” Thank you, dear, for noticing. Honestly I’m just glad I wasn’t wearing flip-flops, because Lord knows I would’ve broken a wankle.

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I’m working it out

I went to the gym yesterday for the first time in 5 years. Not like a hot bodies gym (I don’t know what that means), but the YMCA. We joined because it has great family and kid programs, and most importantly – 90 minutes of free childcare while you workout. BOOM. (that’s the sound it makes when I step on the treadmill)

Getting myself + two kids there was half the battle, but eventually I dropped them at the kid zone and found myself alone to get my exercise on.

Solitude. Peace. Panic. What if my baby gets hurt? What if a stranger tries to take them home? How many germs are on those communal toys?

It’s been heavenly to be home with the kids for the past year, but I have totally forgotten how to leave them in the care of someone else.

My mind finally started to ease after about 10 minutes, at which point I was panting and sweating like a beast. Did I mention I was walking?

I also had a massive wedgie. But of course I had picked a treadmill that was front row center, so there was no way I was going to reach around and pull it out with 10 sets of eyes behind me.

Then I spent 5 minutes wondering what kind of message this would send to my daughters. Would I ever tell them to purposely leave their underwear up their butt? Choose vanity over comfort? Let their crippling self consciousness cause anal chafing? I wish I was kidding. This is why I shouldn’t be left alone with my thoughts.

I tried to distract myself by turning on the treadmill TV, but I couldn’t get it to work. I won’t lie – I was so damn disappointed I almost got off and called it quits. The opportunity to watch TV by myself was my #1 reason for joining the Y. (I lied earlier when I said it was family programs.)

Thankfully I was stationed in front of a window overlooking the pool, so instead I watched a senior citizens water aerobics class. There were about a dozen 70 and 80-year-old women slowly bobbing around the pool, chatting, and completely ignoring the instructor. One of them spent the whole class just straddling a pool noodle in the shallow end, riding it like it was Seabiscuit on race day. That’s my kind of exercise. Sign me up.

Finally the timer said I had only 6 minutes left, so I hit the Stop button because c’mon – those last 6 minutes are a throw away.

Needless to say, that was the longest 24-minute workout of my life. I don’t want to be dramatic, but I think I was delirious for a few minutes afterward because I walked into the bathroom, went into a stall, realized I didn’t have to pee, and walked back out. And I didn’t even remember to pull my underwear out of my crack.

Next time I’m hoping it’ll be a bit easier to find my rhythm – for getting there, for wearing the right clothing, for exercising, and for turning on that damn TV.