Getting my groove back in my fitness routine

One year ago I was about about 8 pounds lighter and doing hard core workouts 5-6 days per week.  I ended up running a half marathon and the Austin marathon in the spring with a few 5ks and 10ks sprinkled in for good measure.  Running has always been a way of dealing with stress for me, and the last 2 years have been some of the most stressful in my life, mainly due to the passing of several friends and family members.  Now I’m finding that my legs feel heavy when I run, I’m often tired, and end up walking towards the end, regardless of the distance.  I’m sure it’s partly due to a bad allergy season, but I also know that it’s probably time to take a break from running.  I’m not particularly worried about gaining a few pounds (although I wouldn’t mind losing a few before my reunion in a couple of weeks), I’m still well below my high point of a few years ago, but I also know that the body needs a break from doing the same work outs all the time.

The basic gist of it all is, I need a change-up in my routine.  I’d still like to run the half marathon in January, but I’m definitely not doing the marathon and I’m not going to put any pressure on myself to run specific times or distances during my work-outs.  Exercise was a big help as I dealt with my initial grief, but now it’s time to ease up on my body and focus more on my mind.

Today I was able to get out to the lake and do 50 minutes of stand-up paddle board.  It was definitely a nice break in the routine, and I hope to be able to get out there once or twice a week, as weather permits.  I’m also going to fix up my bike and do some road cycling during the week.  I’ll probably continue to run 3 days a week, since it’s still my favorite sport, but I think it’s time to join a running group to keep me motivated and distracted during my runs.  I’m also planning to get down to the track and do some sprints and short runs, which I actually enjoy 🙂

Just like my writing (see my recent  Inside Higher Ed column) I know that my workouts occasionally need a reboot, and a change of pace/scenery does me a lot of good. Tomorrow is a new day, and I’m ready for a new approach to staying healthy.

What comes first? Being a professor or being a mother? What about being a father?

DNC makes for good TV

Photo from:

It seems that the issue of women and work is a never-ending saga.  Since the Republican and Democratic conventions I’ve been thinking about the issue of women, politicians and being a mother. Ann Romney, a stay at home mom, was expected to “humanize” her husband, and let the country know what a great father and husband the Republican candidate is and why he’s the right man to lead the country.  Michelle Obama played a similar role at the Democratic convention, reminding viewers of their strong marriage, but it was interesting that Michelle emphasized her role as “mom-in-chief,” but didn’t mention that she had a career, or that as First Lady had an important role to play, as seen in her initiatives with childhood obesity and support for veterans and their families.  So was Michele’s focus simply designed to be a counterpoint to Ann Romney’s speech?  Does it matter that Michelle focused on being a mom vs. a career woman?

In my own twitter profile, the first words used to be “soccer mom” — I recently changed it to blogger, since that seems to be how I spend a great deal of my time these days, but my main career is professor.  I don’t necessarily want to downplay that, but I think it’s cool that I can be a mom, blogger and  a professor. I wonder how many men put father first?  Many commentators have pointed out that few people have criticized Paul Ryan the way that Sarah Palin was over her decision to run for office while having small children.  I know I have made my own career compromises in order to avoid taking time away from my kids and so has my husband. I will always proudly put my role as mom at the top of my list of accomplishments – at least for now that is my most important role in life.  But I will feel better when more men feel the same about being a father and support women in their careers the same way they expect to be supported.

I think we are in this interesting time when women are getting past the “supermom” era, and realizing that we need to look at families as a whole.  How do we make it easier for men and women to be able to pursue their careers and parenthood?  Can we honor Michelle Obama for having a career and being “first mom?” How about just having a more open dialogue about the way we criticize women who manage to balance careers and families, while we ignore men’s roles in their families, assuming it’s OK for them to work long hours and miss out on so much of their children’s lives.  Haven’t we gotten past the era of “Cat’s in the cradle” – the song that epitomized the life of the work-a-holic father? And it’s about time we got past the idea of “supermom” — we need to work harder towards developing  a society that acknowledges and supports both working parents.  For example, schools and employers could be better about accommodating the schedules of parents with school-age children (OK, so that’s my pet peeve right now, but it’s a big one).

I will continue to think about these issues — as I wrote in my previous post, each year brings new challenges to being a parent and having a career.  I will continue to be grateful that I have a husband who is a great father and partner.  But I also realize that we have the advantage of the financial means to make things work. For now, I will do what I can to help move along the work that needs to be done to develop policies that will strengthen families at all income levels, including supporting politicians (particularly women) who call for policies that support working parents.


Facing the reality of a busy Fall season…”having a life” redux

I wish that I could say that Fall is in the air, but I live in Austin, TX, and we won’t be getting any cool weather until October at the earliest. However, the hot weather doesn’t stop school from starting for me and my boys.  My older son is starting middle school, and his excitement is clear.  My younger son is starting 3rd grade without his older brother to pester during the day, and I am going into my 13th year as a professor. Even for me, every school year brings new issues and challenges.

Over the past few months, I have had many of my life assumptions challenged.  The “having it all” debate made me take a second look at how I manage my career and my time. Up to now, things have been pretty well balanced between my husband and me, he is comfortable handling things when I’m away, and I tend to do more because of my flexible schedule when I’m home.  However, as this school year starts for me and my boys, I’m realizing that their school schedule and what I need to get my work done are going to be in direct conflict. On top of all of that, I’ve been taking on even more in terms of political commentary and community activism on the health and fitness front.

The feminist and overachiever in me is screaming, “you can do this, just suck it up and show everybody that you are supermom” while the pragmatist in me is saying “are you nuts?!”  Another piece of the puzzle is that my husband’s job has become more demanding, and I can’t always ask him to take time away from work.  So I have a variety of options in front of me — which I will admit is not true for everyone, I’m in a very fortunate position.  I can hire more help (beyond the housecleaning and lawn work that gets done on a regular basis), I can drop some things from my schedule or I can go crazy. Option three isn’t really an option, and I think I’m going to end up doing some combination of the first and second option.  The first step is admitting that I can’t do it all, I don’t want to do it all, and it’s not fair to myself or my loved ones to even try to do it all.  I may not make it to every flag football game because I’m busy transporting my other son to his activities. I’m putting some of my community activities on hold until I can find someone solid to help me with them. The bottom line is that it’s OK to ask for help, so that life doesn’t get too out of balance and I can actually enjoy the time I spend with my boys, rather than worrying about how I’m going to make it through the day. As I have said before — it’s not about having it all, it’s about having a life.