NO MORE EXCUSES: Stop Sabotaging Your Health; You DO Have Time for Fitness

As parents, we do our best work in silence — leading by example. Sometimes that’s not such a good thing, like when we struggle to live by the very priorities we hope to instill in our children. We’re determined to get the kids to swim lessons or soccer on time, but scheduling our own time for fitness can be quite another matter.

Despite knowing that our children benefit from parents who commit to a fit lifestyle, we don’t always hold ourselves accountable to regular exercise. Topping the list of most moms’ barriers to fitness: a lack of time. We could all use an extra hour in the day, but a shortage of time isn’t always a valid reason to skip a workout. Learning how to distinguish reasons from excuses is the first step in keeping yourself accountable to any of life’s priorities — particularly fitness.

no excuse is a good excuse

Let’s get one thing straight: skipping a workout isn’t always a bad thing. There are a number of priorities in life that hold equal importance to health and fitness, and sometimes tending to those priorities requires that we make the decision to forgo exercise. When we make decisions like these, decisions that move us in the direction of our priorities, we are usually dealing with reasons … not excuses.

Reasons are real, hold weight, and have substance. Reasons are helpful and actually make us feel better for having not worked out. Like when you’re on the phone offering support to a friend during that hour you planned to run, or when a simple case of childhood malaise turns into fever. Assuming friendship and parenting are two other top priorities in your life, indeed you are better off skipping your workout.

Excuses, on the other hand, usually stand between our priorities and us. They leave us feeling guilty and second-guessing our decision to skip the sweat. They attempt to justify our decision to neglect our priorities. We throw excuses around when we feel like we need to defend our course of action. Excuses are the lies we tell ourselves so we feel okay about our decision to slack off.

If you’ve made up your mind that you’re going to forgo exercise and you’re not looking over your shoulder or fretting your decision, you’ve likely made a smart choice, stayed in the realm of reasons. On the other hand, if you feel something gnawing inside you after opting out of a workout, if you can’t shake the guilt, odds are you’ve made an excuse. Listen and trust your intuition. When you feel yourself moving toward excuses, think again.

Fitness Time Tricks for Busy Moms

Looking for some extra time to swing a workout?

Here are few time tricks to add to your existing repertoire of excuse-busting tactics. They won’t give you that 25th hour in your day, but they will help you become more efficient with the 24 hours you do have.

make yourself at home

Since the time it takes to commute to and from an athletic club cuts your workout, consider fitness activities you can do from home. Plot routes you can run or bike that start right outside your door, tune into FitTV, or purchase at-home exercise machines or DVDs that you can do whenever you have some time to spare.

give some to get some

Devote solid chunks of at least 20 minutes to hard cold child’s play. In other words, when you play with your kids give them 100% of your attention. No surfing the internet or checking email while you play. This is the time for full Barbie dialog and Lego building mode. Spending this uninterrupted quality time usually provides a good “Mommy fix,” freeing up a later opportunity to workout later. And the bonus is you’ll feel more engaged with your children.

be over prepared

Before donating all of those old toys to charity, consider filling a backpack or two with small toys and books. Stash them in the car, baby jogger, or anywhere else that might help you sneak in a quick workout. These items act as life preservers for fit living, entertaining the kids while you make an impromptu stop at the track, basketball court, or playground to workout. Be at the ready yourself, too. Stash an old gym bag packed with workout supplies in the trunk of your car just in case you find that bonus hour during your day to hit the gym or head out for a quick run.


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Connection (AKA: The Sweaty Sisterhood)

If you’re like me, one of reasons you run is to feel a sense of connection. Connection with other runners, connection with yourself, connection with the world around you. Here’s something lift your spirits and help you feel connected… Enjoy!


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October 1, 2013 · 5:22 pm

A Mourning Run

It’s been six weeks since my mom died. My heart aches every time I think about her, a homesick feeling I’m guessing will always be with me. There’s just something about a mom, and something not right about me not having one anymore. Of course she lives on in her family. In my youngest, her namesake, and my oldest, whose hair is the same beautiful shade of red my mom’s once was. I’m comforted by over 40 years of memories, I really am. But it’s just not enough.

I want my mom. Alive.

And so this new homesick feeling is a companion I’ve been busying myself trying impossibly to ignore. Probably not the best strategy, I know, but you do what you do to get by, right? There are times I let my guard down. Times I let my grief surface and heavy my chest until there is nothing left for me to do but lay down and cry myself to sleep. Times I go to the one place I can see my mom alive again—dreams filled with the healthy and spirited woman she once was.

Running has always been a type of therapy for me, helping soften the edges of the anxiety and depression I’ve had since I was a kid. But lately its therapeutic effects have grown even stronger. Physical pain (from pace or distance) has become an expression of grief, leaving me free to experience the memory of my mom in a calmer, softer way. While running, the memories don’t hurt my heart so much, because the pain is somehow channeled through my body. If you’ve ever lost a loved one, perhaps you can relate.

IMG_4875This “substitute pain” is why I decided to run for 12 hours and 24 minutes the other weekend. It would be a way for me to spend some quality time with my mom, without that heavy-hearted feeling I’ve grown to disdain. I could let go of the heaviness and spend the day with her, being open to whatever memories surfaced and whatever thoughts crossed my mind.

Spending quality time with my mom is what helped me to finish the hardest ultra distance race I’ve ever participated in. It was that desire that helped me push hard, finishing second overall among women and first among master’s women. I let my body take away my pain for 52 technical miles on the Superior Hiking Trail until I was able to say, out loud with the finish line in sight, that I miss her.

Healing from my mom’s death will take time; and I’m quite confident the wound will always be with me to some degree. But somehow I’m stronger for it. Just like crossing that finish line in Lutsen made me stronger. It helped me open the door a little, to test the experience of grief like a toe in a pool of water, to find strength in my sadness.



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Mom and Me 5K

It’s been over 20 years since my mom had her first major stoke, and less than one year since her second—the one that left her unable to walk or stand on her own. If you’ve witnessed the physical deterioration of a family member or friend, you know about the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on. And maybe, like me, you’re hoping to create some special memories with the person you love.

My mom has never been a runner, but she’s always been my number one fan. No matter what sport I was in growing up, I could always count on seeing her face in the crowd. As an adult my focus switched to long-distance running, and though she never really understood why I liked it so much, she did come see me run in a few marathons. She acknowledged how inspirational the races were, but always laughed at my idea of us walking a race together.

So when my mom lost her ability to walk last spring, I figured my dream of finishing a race with her was over. Then I remembered Team Hoyt, the father-son duo who’ve rocked the marathon and iron-distance triathlon again and again—dad pushing and pulling his adult son through races.

With the idea of running a race with my mom, I looked everywhere for a jogger like the one I’d seen Team Hoyt use. I posted requests on Facebook, sent e-mails to organizations I though might have one, made numerous phone calls. I’d just about lost hope when a friend of a friend hooked me up with myTEAM TRIUMPH, a non-profit organization that provides joggers to people who want to hook up with disabled others to run road races or participate in triathlon.

myTEAM TRIUMPH made the impossible possible. I’d found a way to go for a run with my mom.

With a jogger on the way and a plan in place, I registered my mom and me for the Turkey Day 5K run in downtown Minneapolis. It seemed a little ballsy—she hates going over little bumps in her regular wheel chair and I worried running might just be too much.

We did a practice walk, just down the block and back… got my mom in and out of the chair with little hassle. Despite our preparations, I also readied myself for disappointment. I thought of alternatives. I told Mom it was okay if she changed her mind. So when the 8 a.m. start time was just too early for her, I brought the race to her later in the day—an out and back from her house, our own Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot where she finished her first-ever run, covering 4.33 miles. Yes, much to be thankful for.

I’ll admit that pushing the jogger was physically hard work. But truth be told, my work paled in comparison to what my mom did. At 77 years old, she cruised through 45 minutes with the wind in her face, bumps in the road, hills to climb and descend, unable to readjust her body or control the jogger. She didn’t complain; she just smiled, feeling the wind in her face and finally, I hope, getting a sense for why I run.

When we got back to her house, I gave her a hug; I reminded her how proud she should be. “I am,” she told me, which was music to my ears.

I’m so thankful for family and friends this holiday season… for the strength and support they’ve shown me over the years. Especially my mom, who is now just a tiny bit closer to me than ever before.


November 26, 2012 · 6:45 pm

Is Your Mind and Body on Speaking Terms?

Since we’re all super busy, you don’t need to read this post UNLESS you:

  1. Have ever said or thought, “I’m so busy I can’t think.”
  2. Believe that breathing is a sole function of the sympathetic nervous system and therefore never needs to be done intentionally (because, who needs one more thing to do, right?)
  3. Make decisions by committee, or agonize for days/weeks/months over making decisions.

Now, who do we have left here? Everyone? That’s what I thought. OK, read on. Actually LISTEN on.

I’m doing something fun this week with Kate Hanley, the Ambassador of Chill over at Ms. Mindbody, the creator of the Daily Unwind and author of the Anywhere Anytime Chill Guide. Just knowing Kate online adds zen to my life.

There’s an entire section in Hot (Sweaty) Mamas about “Rejuvenating the Multitasking Mama.” It’s important. For all kinds of reasons. Kate makes some excellent points about why–EXACTLY–beyond the oft overused oxygen mask analogy, namely that when we take time to tune in to ourselves we get VIP access to our intuition. I KNOW! I forgot there was intuition in there somewhere!

On Thursday, June 14, you can listen in on our 30-minute conversation about No Drama Decisions. You’ll need to register, but it’s free. Join us and you’ll also get access to a special deal on her Daily Unwind program. The call times are:

11am EST / 10 am CST / 9 am MST / 8 am PST


8 pm EST / 7 pm CST / 6 pm MST / 5 pm PST
I know you’re working on finding time to reclaim your body. Are you finding time to reclaim your mind? Listen in on the call, so you can get your mind and body back on speaking terms!     –Kara

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My mom had her first stroke 20 years ago, shortly after her 57th birthday. I was 21 years old at the time and had just returned to college after spending winter break at home. She and my brother were out for lunch when it happened—her speech changed and the left side of her body become temporarily paralyzed. I rushed home from Milwaukee and for the first time in my life really worried about losing a parent.

Thankfully, I didn’t lose her. Small parts of her personality seemed to disappear, but for the most part she returned to the same caring soul she’d always been. She still had some residual left-sided weakness, but probably not something a stranger would catch on to.

It’s been 20 years since that stroke and my parents are now well into their 70s. While they’ve each had they’re own physical challenges along the way, they’ve been doing okay and adjusting to their aging bodies for the most part.

That changed two months ago when my mom suffered another large stroke to the right side of her brain. Unlike the last time, she probably won’t be walking again and her personality isn’t bouncing back like it did back in 1992. She’s lost her left-side vision in both eyes (homonymous hemianopsia). In some ways, I feel like I’ve lost my mom—she’s prone to the silence, fatigue and a lack of motivation that are common side affects of stroke. But she’s still here and for that I am truly grateful.

After spending two months in a transitional care facility trying to regain her strength to walk, my mom is being discharged tomorrow. Truth be told, I’m terrified to see her go home. She’ll need 24-hour assistance—just going to the bathroom or getting into the car require the help of two people. I’m not sure she really understands how different life will be.

I’m sharing all of this because I think it’s important for us all remember how significant a healthy diet and exercise are to us as moms. We spend so much time watching after our kids that sometimes we forget what we need to do in order to stay healthy ourselves. I’m not saying my mom brought this on herself, but I often wonder what things might be like if she’d kept up with her tennis game, continued golfing on a regular basis, or skipped a few of my sporting events so she could exercise. Maybe she’d be taking my kids on walks, reading them books, babysitting.

But we’ll never know.

I love my mom, and it kills me to watch her go through this.  Sadly, she was in a similar situation with her mother. I’m not going to let the cycle continue. If I can help it, my grandkids will have active grandparents.  Be a role model for your kids.  They need to learn good habits, and you need to keep these habits going.  Remember, some day your life may depend on it.



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Sweating It Out With a Writing Exercise

Today I’m not blogging about finding fitness in the chaos of motherhood; I’m blogging about writing the chaos of motherhood for posterity. Yes, especially those moments you think you’d like to forget. Every mother has her own way of cataloguing her memories, from elaborate scrapbooks, to pulling out anecdotes–the most embarrassing ones–over large holiday gatherings. My way is through essays, writing as many words as I have pictures stored on our hard drive.
My twin girls were two and my youngest daughter had just turned one when I discovered nirvana in a class for mother writers at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. I took Kate Hopper’s class for mother writers over and over again. Partly because I connected with Kate and that inaugural class of writing moms, which helped me feel more grounded after moving to Minnesota from Texas. Six years later we continue to meet monthly; we even occasionally escape for a weekend to write together. Many of these same women have also become running partners, becoming not just Sweaty Sisters, but Sweaty Writing Sisters.

But the writing–and specifically writing about motherhood, because as a freelance writer I was already writing–became essential to my survival. OK, survival sounds a little dramatic. But it is essential for me. Essential to thrive as both a mother and a person. Writing about motherhood is more than capturing the memories and the narrative of my story as a mom. It gives me proof. I can go back and laugh and realize, even when I felt I didn’t know what I was doing, when motherhood seemed so hard and I felt like screaming, “I can’t do this,” I read those essays and I know that I did do this, and did so better than I felt at the time.

I have to give credit to Kate for her gifts of drawing out the real story (it’s never what you think it is), extracting peripheral memories from our sleep-deprived subconscious, and creating vivid images of our children so we truly capture their essence at that moment in time on the page.

Now Kate’s genius has been published into a book called “Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers,” (Viva Editions 2012). I’m giddy that moms everywhere can experience the coaxing, nudging, and nurturing from Kate to get their experiences down on paper. To make sense of what perplexes us as mothers; to illuminate the highs and lows; to capture in words the story behind the picture that you didn’t think to take, because, as everyone around you always says: “You have your hands full.”

See for yourself. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 4: Our Children as Characters.

You want your readers to feel a connection to the characters in your writing, and in order to make that happen, you need to write them in enough detail so readers really know them. Sometimes when I mention that I’m working on character development with my students, someone will say, “I thought you were teaching nonfiction.” There is an assumption that because the people in a work of creative nonfiction really exist, there is no need to concern ourselves with character development. But nonfiction writers need to write believable and three-dimensional characters precisely because these characters are real people; writing them accurately is a way to honor them. We also need to think about character development when we are writing about ourselves. How does the reader know us? How do we reveal who we really are?

One of the wonderful things about writing about our children is that we, as writers, get to decide how the reader first “sees” them. What do you want readers to notice first about your child? How do you get readers invested in your children as characters? Keep these questions in mind as you write about your children.

You want this book, don’t you? But what you really want is a one-on-one session with Kate to help you figure out where to start or help you along with your writing. You can win both if you enter the writing contest that Kate is hosting as part of her virtual book tour. To participate you have until this Thursday, May 31 to write 600 words or less in response to the writing exercise below. Email it to me at I get to judge round one, which I’ll announce on the Hot (Sweaty) Mamas Facebook Page on Friday. The winner will receive a copy of Use Your Words and I’ll forward the winning entry to Kate for inclusion in the grand prize, which she will select from the best writing from all the participating blogs on her virtual book tour. The grand prize winner will receive an hour phone or Skype session with Kate and get their writing published on Literary Mama.

The writing exercise is: Character Sketch

Think of your child (or one of your children if you have more than one). Try to convey his personality by using dialogue, gestures, and facial features. Ground your writing in detail. It may help to think in terms of objects—what your child eats, what he likes to play with, his hobbies. What does her face look like when she is absorbed in a task? Write as if you are watching your child from the other room. What does she look like when she doesn’t realize that you’re watching?

Writing babies can sometimes be challenging because they don’t do that much. So if you have a very small baby, you might choose to describe her while she’s sleeping, or crying, or gnawing on her hand. Or you can try this exercise with another person in your life.

Note: Some of my students who have twins have found that they cannot write about one without writing about the other. If you have multiples and feel this way, go ahead and write them together in a scene. Think in terms of differences and similarities. When are they most alike, most different?

Are you ready to write? If you have to skip a “sweaty” workout to get this writing exercise done,  you have my permission!

Can’t wait to read your entries. Get busy Hot (Sweaty) Writing Mamas!  –Kara

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May 29, 2012 · 6:30 pm