Back on the horse

Like most new moms (and my baby is not exactly new!), I struggle to make exercise a priority. I thought that my lack of actual employment would give me ample opportunity to work out, but I was mistaken. I could never get my to-do list under control long enough to squeeze in exercise.

Complicating this situation is my longstanding struggle with anxiety and depression. When I graduated from college and parachuted into the real world, I was paralyzed with worry. Suddenly, there were no grades, no report cards, no affirmations of my cleverness. I was put on Zoloft and took it for the next five years. In 2007, I started exercising regularly for the first time in my adult life, and I was able to wean myself off the Zoloft. But if I don’t exercise, the anxiety nips at my heels and threatens to overwhelm me. 

After Hazel was born, I made 150 excuses for not exercising. Some were more legitimate than others. I developed chondromalacia patella, or “runner’s knee,” which required a few months of physical therapy. (That was a good excuse.) I didn’t have any proper-fitting sports bras. (That was not.)

Of course, when my mom got sick I went into survival mode. Every time I traveled to Jacksonville, I would pack my running shoes and workout clothes. And every time, I would find dozens of things to put ahead of exercise. And the anxiety nipped at my heels.

In the second half of August, the anxiety caught me. I found everything exhausting and overwhelming. I dreaded leaving the house. I had to change my behavior. I had to get back on the horse.

My limitations were few, but significant. I had to work out with Hazel, or while she was napping. And I had to work out during the day, as my domestic engineer shift starts when school gets out and ends when I go to bed. And I had to work out on the cheap. 

I feel ridiculous admitting this, but one thing that really helped me prioritize exercise was buying a few new pieces of workout clothes (from the Target clearance rack). New socks were an especially nice treat. 

In an ideal week, I walk with Hazel three times and use Amazon Prime Instant to do yoga twice during Hazel’s nap. I’ve stuck to this schedule for several weeks, and it has made a huge difference in my attitude. I don’t feel so helpless and overwhelmed. It’s not like I have less to do, or less to worry about, but I feel competent to handle my own life. 

For me, exercise is not about losing weight (although that would be great!). It’s my therapy. It took me a long time to treat it as something other than an optional leisure activity. 

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