Life in CA Mommy Anecdotes On Becoming a Better Mom

My First 10K

The day before Mother’s Day, I ran my first official 10K!  It was the longest I’ve run — ever — in my life. 😉

Nine months ago my fellow Girl Scout moms decided to run the Disney Tinkerbell race, and so without really putting much thought into it I signed up along with them.  The rules specified that you had to keep a 16-min pace per mile, or else they would pick you up.

After I signed up, I tried my luck and collapsed after 2 and something miles.  My pace?  19 mins per mile (Okay, 18’57”).  Eeek.

My only goal was not to get picked up by the car.  I knew I had to increase my chances of that by attempting to get in shape (read:  get back my pre-baby weight and body).  After all, it always helps to work towards something.

Now I will have you know that I’m not a runner  (can’t you tell by my run time?).  And never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get into distance running.  But the people around me were very encouraging, and the trails in this area are  pretty.  The air is clean and it wasn’t too hot.  So I thought, why not!  In Sam’s words, “I might as well try.”

I started off on the right foot (pun intended), by getting good shoes.  Some good friends pointed me to a shop called Road Runner.  They review your running style and foot needs, and then custom-shape a sole accordingly.  Of course, they also sell you a shoe to go with it.

The arches that support my messed-up feet.
The arches that support my messed-up feet.

As I waited for my turn, I eavesdropped on some of the triathletes present picking out their shoes.  Some of them threw advice my way, seeing as how I was a lost duck.  And that’s how I ended up with my very first pair of Asics.  I wouldn’t have picked that brand on my own.

Those triathletes knew what they were talking about, because I do like my shoes!  I immediately felt the difference.  I could go for longer periods of time and the usual aches and pains that made it hard to walk after, weren’t there.  Hurray!

Schedule-wise, I tried to get out whenever I could.  As a parent with multiple responsibilities, it was very hard to be consistent about exercise.  It’s not an excuse; it’s just how our lifestyle has been set up.  In between caring for two other human beings and their multitude of activities, the household chores and the little projects here and there, sometimes I’d just rather sleep (at this age — can you blame me?!).   When we were fixing up the house, it was hard because I’d have to free up my mornings waiting for suppliers to come.  I consoled myself with the fact that my frequent trips up and down our stairs were a workout enough.  Sometimes I’d think, “I could run…. or do the groceries….”  The guilty-mom in me would choose the latter.

In any case, I learned to be ok with my consistently inconsistent exercise schedule.  Thank goodness for the 10-month prep time.  I had time to try to build a regular exercise schedule.

At one point, I pushed a little too hard, I actually injured myself and couldn’t run for 4 weeks.  My aunt who runs all over Canada told me to take time and stretch.  Even she at 50 does not run everyday.  She tries to put some stretching in between her running days.  I had to remember that!

When I was ready to hit the trails again, my brother-in-law gave me the best tip I’ve had to date:  Interval running.  According to him, a one minute break in between consistent running times should help build stamina and endurance.  The minute is more than enough time for your heart to recover and re-circulate oxygen  (Incidentally, an app called Couch to 5k gives you a similar interval training).

I started with one minute runs and one minute walks, and as the weeks went by I was able to gradually increase the run time.  Thank you FitBit for tracking all of that as we went along.

The next thing was the music.  My triathlete friend Mench (she pens the blog Wandermench), advised that I kick the earbuds habit so I could focus on my running form.  I tried that for a while… and just couldn’t do it.  At the very least, thanks to Mench, I was now conscious of how my feet hit the ground and how I held myself up.  I used the Running stations of Spotify to help me keep a beat.

But if I’m being honest, I find running to be lonely.  And thankfully I have mom friends in my village who encourage me to keep going by running with me too!

Prior to the Tinkerbell race, we did a few 5K runs in the area.  It was also a gauge to see where we were in terms of time.

Color Run on the Left, and Running through the Hangar on the right.
Color Run on the Left, and Running through the Hangar on the right.

I was fairly happy with the times I posted, but they will still pretty close to the 16-minute per mile mark.  More than that, it was then when I realized I was a social runner.  I did much better running alongside other people.

So a month before the actual 10K, I proposed that a group of us would get together every Sunday morning at 630AM and run different trails in the area.  As my friend Cindy said, we held each other accountable.  The first few Sundays, most of us would show up because we knew someone else was waiting.

We kept that up until the Tinkerbell 10K, and even rode together to Disneyland that morning (Thanks my husband, our Uber Driver).

At 4AM under the tree, out of the rain. We were ready to go!
At 4AM under the tree, out of the rain. We were ready to go!

I was corralled in the same lot as Cindy, and she paced me the entire race.  Complete with a bathroom break, some water stops and picture-taking along the way, we finished with a 13’47” pace, way ahead of the car (and if I may say, a big improvement from the 19-min pace I started out with!).

Stopping to take a photos in Disney AND California Adventure!
Stopping to take a photos in Disney AND California Adventure!  It was my first race thru Disney.  Can ya blame me?

It wasn’t enough to win us any kind of distinction, but it was a personal achievement nonetheless.  And more importantly, we had fun!

We kept the Sunday morning run group in the weeks that followed, and added on some other moms as well.  We agree:  the schedule works for us because our households are still asleep, we get a good workout and some active me-time as well.

I’ve gotten so used to running on Sunday morning that even when my family took a trip out-of-town, I posted my hotel treadmill run to our group to let them know I didn’t slack off. 😉

View from the treadmill. And my Fitbit recording as proof!
View from the treadmill. And my Fitbit recording as proof!

Running a 5k used to take the living daylights out of me.  Now, I can survive a 10k almost every Sunday and still function properly.  My resting heart rate has decreased, which is a good sign!  I’ve started carving out time during the week too, to get at least one or two other days’ worth of exercise when I can.  It’s still not consistent yet, but I hope it will get there soon.

I am happy and forever grateful I have a group like them to motivate me to get up and be a little bit healthier at least once a week.  I do feel stronger, despite the bodily aches and pains that eventually come after a long run (that comes with old age I suppose).

Photo Credit: Jackie Wilkin. We ran 6.49 Miles that day. Does that count as my second 10k? ;)
Photo Credit: Jackie Wilkin. We ran 6.49 Miles that day. Does that count as my second 10k? 😉

I feel better over-all.  Because of these awesome women, on Sundays I choose my social running over sleep, and I’ve not regretted it since.  😉

Mommyology at Work My Mommyology's Manila Chapter

Lessons from Curves

So my two months at Curves had ended.  I tried (ahem! errr — really hard!) to stick to a regular 3x a week schedule, but unfortunately due to the  erratic holidays leading up to the last few weeks of my membership, I really wasn’t able to complete it.  And of course, there were the children.  I know, I know — excuses nonetheless.  But I am a mother, I suppose it’s really what I do.

It’s a shame though because Curves was a good program to begin with.  And I do know a few people who have actually lost weight and inches by going at least 3x a week!  So congratulations to them. 🙂

The key they say, is consistency.  They really had to prioritize and make time to go 30 minutes every other day (at least).  In fact, Curves had a 30 day 30-minute challenge for all their members.  The goal was to go to Curves 3x a week, and on the non-Curve days, you’d show you had to exercise for 30 minutes.  It could be anything from running, to chores, to playing with the kids.  That actually made sense to me, and is (should be) easy to do.  Thirty minutes without taking too much out of your daily routine…  It’s like jump-starting your body and getting the energy to flow.  A variation of activities will surprise your muscles, work different parts and burn calories.  The idea is to burn more than you consume anyway.

An inspirational poster on the Curves wall.
An inspirational poster on the Curves wall.

Speaking of which, consistency in diet and sleeping habits compliment a good workout program.  My problem was (is), that Jamie still wakes up for various reasons during the night.  And again, it’s only when the girls are asleep that I get to churn out productive output.  Hence, it is a struggle to maintain this supposed “balance”.  According to my brother, my body is overcompensating for the lack of sleep and so I tend to store rather than burn.  Hmmm… maybe in a few months (or years?!).

I did however, feel more energetic after my workouts.  Coming in tired from a lack of a good night’s rest, I would leave after 30 minutes feeling energized and ready to take on the day.  It was enough of a boost.

Checking your heart rate for ten seconds will tell you how much effort you're exerting.
Checking your heart rate for ten seconds will tell you how much effort you’re exerting.

In a simple way it showed the girls that I was doing something good for myself.  It was hard to leave them at first for many reasons (especially a very clingy Jamie who would wail and bawl when I’d walk out of the room), but I remembered what I wrote down when I first walked into the Curves studio.  One of my motivations to workout was to set a good example for my girls in doing something for themselves, and in taking care of themselves.  With the limited amount of time that I have, exercise is a form of me-time, and doing that (and gaining more energy in the process), actually meant having more energy for them later on.  All in all, it was a benefit to them in the end.   Eventually they seemed to understand and accepted this as part of our routine.

So maybe I couldn’t finish Curves the first time around, but it helped me make a good start towards a healthier lifestyle.  Hopefully that’s something I can continue throughout this next year.

Thank you Curves for accommodating the SoMoms!   If you haven’t yet, check them out at the 2nd floor of Serendra, facing Market! Market! or at their Eastwood branch. 🙂


Mommy Anecdotes Mommyology at Work My Mommyology's Manila Chapter On Becoming a Better Mom

The Curves Commitment

If you’ve followed my blog over the last few years, you’d have seen several attempts and entries about my declaration of getting back into shape.  The operative word is “try” (and I didn’t even use it in the sentence!).  

My brother (who is now a fitness / health addict and is on our case about living a healthier lifestyle), says that my sleep deprivation, stress, and inconsistent eating and exercise patterns work against all my little efforts to try to get back to my pre-baby body.  But can you blame me?  It’s only when the kids are asleep do I have time to work and check off items from my to-do list.  Sometimes I’m so busy I forget to eat and I end up eating the wrong things at the wrong times.  Sometimes with everything I have to do — I will admit — exercise takes a backseat.  There are days (like last Monday!) when I’d scheduled a workout, but at the last-minute my daughter’s school declares it a holiday and so now I have the kids on my hands.

But yes of course, I still try… I’ve never really paid much attention to the statistics of it all, until I walked into Curves.

Curves is the largest fitness franchise in the world that caters specifically (and ONLY) to women’s fitness and nutrition.  It is a 30-minute circuit workout that’s designed to move every major muscle group.  The workout supposedly gets you to burn 500 calories by mixing cardio, strength-training and stretching in that amount of time.

The entrance to the Curves fitness circuit.
The entrance to the Curves fitness circuit.

There are a lot of things about Curves that appeal to women.  Here are some of the reasons why I take interest:

It’s a 30-minute circuit.  My biggest constraint on a daily basis is time.  Sometimes when I go to a gym or a class, the program itself is an hour.  To add in the time to get there and the time to get out, cool down and take a shower would mean I’ve already lost 3/4’s of my morning.  At Curves, because the whole workout is exactly only 30 minutes long, I can safely get everything else compressed into an hour, and that makes a big difference.  Plus, it doesn’t feel like 30-minutes when you work out, because every 30 seconds, an omnipresent female voice will call out above the music, “change stations now.”  Literally, I walk in and put my things down, and then after 30 minutes, I walk out and I’m done.

2 rounds of machine-recovery-machine will have supposedly made you burn 500 calories.
2 rounds of machine-recovery-machine will have supposedly made you burn 500 calories in 30 minutes.

There’s a trainer built-in to the routine.  Unlike other regular gyms where a physical trainer costs extra (and all he does is send you to the treadmill for a third of the hour), this one has a female instructor at the center of the circuit.  Her role is to give us options as to what to do with our recovery time (this is the 30 seconds in between each machine station where you can jump and dance and move around as you please), and to make sure we you work hard on the machines in proper form and speed.

They're young and they all swear by the program.  It's done wonders for them they say.
Trainers, all female too!

There’s versatility and flexibility in the routine.  I learned from a wise coach that sometimes it’s good to confuse our muscles.  I was wondering how that would work in a circuit like Curves where the machines are technically the same.   I learned that there’s no one starting point in the Curves circuit, so we can start in a different spot each time.  The other is that the people at Curves re-arrange the machines each month.  Then there’s also the circuit with Zumba mixed into it.  That could shake things up a bit — if you catch my drift. 😉

You get as much as you give.  According to the trainers, the weight or resistance the machines give depends on the person using it.  It gets heavier when you go faster and try to get more reps in.  So it’s not a cop-out really.  A lot of it still depends on you and how much of a push you want to give that day.

Great music is always a factor.  My husband says I have two left feet.  He’s probably right, but it doesn’t mean I can’t keep a beat. 😉  The music at Curves is fun.  Honestly it makes me forget what I look like when I move, but it’s always nice to move to and let the sweat just take over.  Anyway, there are no mirrors in Curves, and the outside glass is frosted enough so people can’t peek inside.  I realized I don’t get self-conscious in there!

They guarantee results.   If there was one thing that got me interested, it was that they guarantee losing inches and pounds with their program, IF you can commit to exercising 3x a week.  And to prove they’re serious, they take your measurements and vitals at the beginning of your first workout, and then at the beginning of every month that passes.  They happily discuss habits and lifestyles and make suggestions as to how you can help start this process.  And the goals per month are realistic.  This to me shows that they’re committed to your success.

The Curves mission statement has at its hard, its commitment to making women stronger & healthier.
The Curves mission statement has at its hard, its commitment to making women stronger & healthier in every respect.

Let’s see.  I got my initial stats done (and oh my God I’m not brave enough to share them here!!!) and I have managed to show up three times a week (so far).  According to one of the trainers, in the first month, you feel the effects.  In the second, you see the difference.  It’s in the third month when people see the difference.

So stay tuned! 😉

Mommy Anecdotes Mommy Miscellaneous

Leave It All on the Bike

My Mommyology Spin ClassSpin it out!

Now this is something I do for myself.

Every chance I get, I try to catch the spin class at our gym (One of my many favorite work-outs alongside Pilates) .  Mind you getting to a class is not as easy as it sounds.

If I try to catch the morning session:

1)  I have to make sure Sam is out the door with all the things she needs for school — milk, water, a change of clothes, insect repellant, and a lunch box packed with snacks and lunch (Thankfully my husband takes her to school.  Otherwise, my schedule moves back 30 minutes more so she is not late);

2) That Jamie is breastfed and that all the excess milk has been drained from my body.  I’ve read that excessive exercise builds up the lactic acid in one’s body and if that goes into her system, then she could get stomach aches (and the milk tastes sour I think).  Also, she has to be fed enough to last 90 minutes until her next feeding, as after a one-hour class, I have to flush out the lactic acid build up before feeding her.  I’ve tried a bottle, however she will not take it from anyone else but me, and so I find it useless to pack one.  I just try to time it right;

3) Then Jamie has to be changed, poop-free and ready to go;

4) Somehow I have food and water in me to survive the 60-minute workout; and

5) That we make it at least 7 minutes before the start of the class so that I can sign in, sign Jamie into the Childwatch center and leave word with the sitters there about what to expect from her (Is she sleepy, has she just been fed, yadah yadah…).  That leaves me with exactly enough time to set-up my bike and get on it just as the instructor starts “rolling out” (as she says).

If I try to catch the afternoon session:

1)  I have to make sure Sam gets her Kumon done first, and that she has her snack in her and has gone to the potty before leaving.  I have to pack her milk and water too because AFTER the gym that’s the first thing she looks for on the 5-minute ride home;

2) Sam has to also be mentally prepped to play in the gym, otherwise it is a challenge getting her out the door;

3) Dinner should be cooked and ready to be re-heated so that by the time we get home, we just rush through our dinner and bedtime routine;

4) That #’s 2 – 4 also happen; and

7) That we make it at least 20 minutes before so that I can sign in, turn the girls over to the Childwatch center, wriggle free of Sam’s delaying tactics and make it into the room to set-up a good bike.  Otherwise, they run out of bikes to ride!

My Mommyology Exercising Mommy
If there's a will there's a way!

As you can tell, it is a challenge to get there on a regular basis.  The tension and adrenaline of trying to make it all contribute to my spin energy, and God knows I need it when I get there.  When I am able to attend it is an achievement all on its own and I spin like I’m never going to get to do it again in a month.  The instructors’ high energy is easy to feed off and I try to match their pace and the weight intensity.  I am not quite that strong yet, so in reality I die trying!  I am beyond spent at the end of each class and I can hardly walk straight.

Thankfully for the past few weeks (except for the week when both girls were down with the sniffles) I’ve managed to go at least once a week.  It has already helped me lose a bit of weight (Yay!  Let’s celebrate with chocolates! Die!!!), but more than that, it is just one hour where I focus on ME.  It’s just me, the bike, my sweat and whatever it is that is going through my head (or not going through my head, like oxygen).  It’s the only time in my day — in my week really — when I am not attending to either or both girls’ various needs, and every mother I know needs that kind of a break.  I leave it all there, and come out drenched, physically exhausted but also re-charged.  Ironically enough, spinning does that for me.

Mommy Anecdotes Mommy Discoveries

Our Workout at the North Carolina Zoo

Pop Quiz:  What happens when you maneuver (or juggle?) a toddler, an infant, their belongings, a double-stroller, a camera and a video-phone to the North Carolina Zoo on a hot summer Sunday?

Answer:  You get your week’s worth of exercise.  (I therefore conclude that my purchase and consumption of half a bag of mini-chocolates is justified. Oh who am I kidding?!)

You start by scanning the 5-mile walking terrain and planning your route.

My Mommyology Map of NC Zoo
The brochure says, "plan to stay 4 to 6 hours to see 200 species in about 1,100 individual animals."

The idea was to take the tram all the way to the end so that you’d be nearer to your starting point as your legs turned closer to jell-o (Thank you Helene for this suggestion!).  But of course, people half your size may have something else in mind; especially because they can read every directional sign posted.  “I want to see the elephants now mom!  Then the rhinoceros!”, when both species were in two different directions.  Suddenly it is 7 miles instead of 5.

It’s also not flat terrain mind you, with lots of mini-hills to push up.  I found myself thinking of the hill climbs in spin class, and could hear the songs in my head as I cranked up the weights (Weights = # of children riding at one point in time).

Then there was the finger-dexterity challenge, where you had to feed a giraffe without getting licked by its long tongue.  An added degree of difficulty was to hold an infant in one arm and gently nudge the toddler forward with the other (because she was struggling with the desire to feed the giraffe, yet the fear of getting slime on her fingers ).  It’s good for leg squats and core balance, I tell you.

My Mommyology Feed the Giraffe
Her tongue looks a lot like the piece of "meat" we buy when we make lengua. 😉

And then it’s arm work and endurance.  Holding up a total of 47 lbs worth of squirmy weights for at least 10 seconds while catching the elephants in their watering hole.

My Mommyology Catching the elephants
Don't drop the children. Better yet, don't drop in exhaustion.

I tell you – I have not sweat this much in a long time.

The last leg after several pit stops at the Carousel to catch some sort of a breeze, was a walk to see different types of animals found in North America — bears, bisons, impalas, cougars etcetera.  It turned out to be a more leisurely stroll, sort of like an active recovery before the second wind hit.

Also, with an infant sleeping in the toddler seat (it was much cooler than the carseat and could recline all the way), there was not much of a choice but to walk-jog the rest of the way.  Now this I encourage, even if it slows down the pace — it could make for a potentially good nap in the end!

My Mommyology Training for Ironkid
In perfect form, wouldn't you say?

Finally a cool down (literally) inside the arctic area where the polar bears, seals and puffins reside.

My Mommyology NC Zoo Sea Otters
I have a shirt that says, "Love one an otter." 😉

That my friends and fellow mommies, is  an intense workout right there.  The nice part about it, is that there were a lot of trees and several mist sprinklers along the way to prevent overheating.  And it isn’t like any other zoo we’ve been to where the animals are behind bars or in cramped quarters.  While I swore I saw a foot spa oasis as we walked back (but alas, it was only a mirage…), it was in fact a nice, long, enjoyable walk back to the car.    The 4 Carousel rides in between and the mandatory tram rides were good resting periods.  The Dora Adventure — well, how can you not see Dora in 4-D?

Now to gear up for round 2 (As again there is a little persistent 3-year old voice in my ear that says, “I want to go back!”) when the weather gets a tad bit cooler.  No need to collapse from heatstroke.  Hopefully we still burn enough calories to justify a whole red velvet cake.