Category Archives: fitness

My First Stroller Derby

One of my summertime projects has been to get back into running. See, I signed up to run the Army Ten Miler this fall with a group of mommies like me who have wee ones and soldier husbands. Our team is called the “Military Mommas” and to motivate us through those 10 undoubtably painful miles, we’re raising money to support the Fisher House Foundation, which provides housing for military family members while their soldiers undergo medical treatment. (Click here if you’d like to donate.) While the charitable fundraising is helping pump me up for the run, it’s not doing the work for me, so I decided to sign up for the Save the River 5K last week as a fun way to log some miles.

This particular 5K is a little event–about 300 participants–and anything but competitive. It’s one of those small-town events where it’s ok to walk, kids and grandparents are totally invited to participate, and strollers are more than welcome on the course. I used to be a runner, but it’s been a good five years and change since I could last call myself one, so this low-key event was so my speed (or lack thereof). Given the baby-friendly set up, I decided to take the wee one along for the run and fun.

I run with baby and the buggy from time to time, but this was my first baby-in-tow race and I definitely learned a few things about being a mom on the run:

  1. Learn to be loud. Chances are you’re not going to be the first up at the starting line–stroller pushers tend to wind up near the back of the herd–so find your stride becomes first about just finding a clear path. You don’t realize how much extra room you need to maneuver when you’ve got your front traversing wheel locked into a stationary position for a better ride, so moving through the crowd becomes a little more difficult, especially when the people ahead of you are doing their own thing. Many thanks to my friend Eva who was clearly a good 30 seconds faster than I and was alerting people to watch out behind them that a stroller was coming through as she passed them. I actually heard someone call her a bitch for doing it–mostly because she passed them, I think–but I thought she rocked because as much as I wished my Baby Trend Jogger had a horn, it didn’t. And god knows I didn’t have enough breath left to do my own shouting–on your left!
  2. Don’t run alone. Misery definitely loves company, so I count myself lucky enough to have a couple of friends do the race with me because I think I can officially say it would have been rough to do it alone. Somewhere into mile 2, I know I definitely looked at my friend Lesley and said, “This sucks.” But having a running partner (or two or three) was a lot of fun, too. I know as Lesley and I came into the last half mile we decided to pick up the pace and as we were sprinting toward the finish, our heavy breathing was definitely punctuated from time to time with encouraging words to each other like, “We can do this.”
  3. Water breaks are for sissies. There were two water stations along the course. I wasn’t thirsty when I ran past the first one, but when I saw the second I was dying for something at least sort of cool. I let go of the stroller handle to grab a cup and as soon as I did I realized that there was no way this water thing was going to happen unless I stopped. Not only was water splashing out of the cup, but I felt like I could barely steer the stroller. And seriously, stopping was not an option because I was never going to get the baby rig going again if I did. Next time around I’ll definitely have a water bottle with a squirt top stuffed into the cup holder.
  4. You’ll make insta-friends. When you’re working a stroller at one of these races, you automatically start picking out other stroller runners and kind of naturally gravitate toward each other. I had seen two mommies with their strollers before the race that sort of caught my eye, mainly because they had the same stroller as I did, their babies looked to be about the same age as mine, and they looked like they could tear up some asphalt with three wheels. (Turns out one was a half marathoner and the other was a triathaloner.) As I headed into mile 3, I saw the two of them up ahead of me. They got hung up at the water station, so I ended up passing them. But after the race, the two mommies wheeled over to me to congratulate me on my finish. I was kind of blown away–my face was too red to have made my finish look easy–but I thought it was really cool of them. Turns out we had more than just the strollers in common–their husbands too are military–so it was a fun way to meet some new people.
  5. It’s more fun that you think it’ll be. I set out with no goal other than to finish. But just being with the crowd on a nice day on the River turned out to be quite a bit of motivation. I ended up finishing in the top quartile–if you want to check out the rankings, you can find them here–despite what during my running heydey would’ve been an embarassing time. But out of all the fun runs I’ve done over the years, I definitely won’t forget this one because it felt awesome to hear someone yell, “You’re the first stroller!” as I ran over the finish line. Of course I would’ve felt even better about my final results had there a 1 minute handicap, but it was enough to know I at least finished in front of the only dad I saw with a stoller at the start line.

So, it was a lot of fun and just what I needed to help me get a little closer to be ready for the big 10 mile trudge in the fall. Many thanks again to my running buddies–definitely couldn’t have done it without you–and to Save the River for organizing such an awesome event. Definitely signing up for the stroller division next year!

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Filed under activities, babies, baby travel, daily life, fitness, health, military families, mommy care, moms, photos, strollers, workouts

Tuesday, I’m in Love

I love Tuesdays. Tuesdays are the days that baby goes to music class. But before I claim the title of Super Mom, I’ll just put it out there that I don’t actually take him to music class. Baby’s nanny has that joy.

And in fact, it was her idea. She came to me and asked if it would be okay if she signed him up for the free class, which is held in a nearby school. I think she thought he needed more musical exposure. I remember one of the first weeks she was working with us she took him to a children’s concert. If this tells you how sweet she is, she brought me back a CD from the concert, signed by the artist Jose-Luis Orozco with a personal note to me. I have no idea what the note says and cannot understand much of the lyrics, as everything is in Spanish, but baby loves the music. (There’s this one part in the beginning where the singer says, “Eye-eye-eye!” sort of Speedy Gonzalez style and baby always looks up and smiles when he hears that; it’s hilarious.)

I guess maybe she thought it was strange that all she ever heard in my house was the blare of two TVs–one tuned to CNN; the other to MSNBC. (Okay, if I’m being honest, occasionally she’d find one of them on Bravo, if it was a slow news day.)

At any rate, of course I said yes–Lord knows I would’ve paid for it if it weren’t free–and then Tuesdays became all about his music class.

Weirdly enough, I like how the class gives us some structure in the week. See, the first time baby went to class, he cried the whole time. The music teacher told the nanny that it was pretty typical for babies to scream their lungs out until they got used to it. But I had a sneaking suspicion that part of it was that 11:30am class feel within his normal nap time, so I was pretty sure that exhaustion led to the meltdown.

So, I started switching things up and trying to get the wee one to nap earlier, so he’d be in a good mood for all the singing and dancing. Amazingly enough it wasn’t that hard to make the change. Of course it meant my day went at a different pace–showers now were on hold until after the nanny picked him up–but it was a good move, as the next week the nanny reported he didn’t cry once and had a ball.

While I love that our nanny is enterprising enough to seek these types of activities out, I have to not-so-secretly admit that I’m a little jealous. I wish I was taking him to music class.

I feel a little selfish saying that because I get to do plenty of things with him. Baby and I, we have our gym routine and its requisite play group friends and we have French group and all of its fun times. But it’s that mommy-ness in me that makes me always feel like I could/should be doing more. Or at least not feeling as guilty about not doing it, even though I know it’s not only good for baby to have his special things he does with his nanny but it also affords me the time to work uninterrupted, which is key when your job requires you to be at least a little creative.

A few months ago, I was telling my mom about baby’s music class when she asked me what the babies did during the music class. I’m sure my guilt showed through when I told her that I didn’t know. I mean, I assumed that the group listened to music and did sing-alongs and such, but I had no idea what type of music they listened to, whether the group was mostly babies or toddlers, or even if they were speaking English or Spanish. All I really knew is that occasionally I would find the dog with one of those multicolored plastic Easter eggs, stuffed with dry rice and taped shut–a make-shift percussion instrument.

I broke down and asked my nanny to video baby during class. I felt a little strange asking her to do that even thought all I wanted was like 2 minutes of video to be able to send my mom. But in asking her to shoot a little video, I wondered if she thought I was checking up on her. Or ‘if the other parents or nannies in the class were going to look at her askance for taking video of the class. Some people are really funny about that kind of stuff even though it is innocent enough. And really I just wanted to see my son have a good time.

Fortunately, when my nanny asked if shooting the video would cause any problems, no one said it would. So, here’s an inside look at what happens on Tuesdays when I’m not around.

I don’t know about you, but I think that kid’s got real musical talent. While he may have appeared to be more interested in the other people than the music, I know I saw him shake a castanet a couple of times and do one clap. 🙂 So, here’s to Tuesdays!

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Filed under babies, bilingual baby, child development, daily life, fitness, infants, mommy care, parenting

Doing the Diaper Dip

One of the fun things we did with baby–at least for Mimi and me–during our trip to Chamonix was take baby to bébé nageurs swim class at the local aquatic center. Basically it was a Saturday morning free swim deal where parents (or grandparents) could take their babies and diapers would be welcome in the pool.

This wasn’t the first time baby had been swimming. He went three times last summer–twice in the River and once in the Lake–but it was definitely his first time in a pool. For as much as I thought he would be squealing nonstop in the water (he absolutely loves splashing in the tub, sink, or any other vessel of water), I’m not sure that he really loved it–despite the fact that the pool was heated for the comfort of the bébé nageurs.

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Part of the problem was definitely that he was tired; the jetlag was still kicking his dimpled butt. Part of it may have been that it was sensory overload. There were a ton of babies (and parents and grandparents), all moving in a gazillion directions; lots of shrieking toddlers jumping and splashing; tons of really brightly colored toys and mats floating all around; and even a big fountain shooting up from the middle of the pool.

But part of it also was me. Turns out there’s an art to baby swims.

I only learned that after one of the swim coaches (can they even be called that at this stage?) bee lined for my mom, baby, and me. At this point, I had taken baby out of this cool floatie thing–basically it was a thin mat cut in the shape of a fish with a hole in the middle where you stick the kid–and was just sort of holding him on my hip as I walked around the pool. Baby wasn’t unhappy, but he wasn’t splashing like a madman either. So, the swim coach came over and asked if I was familiar with le système de portage. The what?

I mean, I speak French, so I get what it means: a carrying or transportation system. But what was wrong with the way I was carrying my baby? That’s the way I carry him all the time.

But I listened as he explained in that very explicative French way that the proper way to have a nine-month-old baby in the pool was to put my hands under his bottom so that he was sitting in my palms, extend my arms out in front of me, and then begin to walk through the water. He then pointed out that I should pretty much make sure baby was submerged in the water pretty much up to his shoulders so he wouldn’t get cold.

Ok, so I was a little skeptical that there was a huge difference between what I was doing and what he was telling me to do, but I was polite and did as he recommended. Wow, what a difference. Baby went from just sort of being chill in the water–content but not excited–to really moving his arms and legs around, splashing and carrying on.

The guy went on to explain to me that when you hold babies on your hip in the water like you would do on land, they sort of go into a set position and don’t really have a lot of wiggle room. But by basically pushing them out in front of you–they don’t fall over, amazingly enough–they have the freedom to fully ambulate and interact with the water.

I’ll admit that I kind of felt stupid because I had sort of gone, “yeah, yeah, yeah,” to the swim coach and it turned out that he really knew what he was talking about. No wonder every baby in pool (except Aleksi) was just having the time of his or her little life. Their moms weren’t so ignorant as to the correct système de portage. But once I was clued in, everyone–baby included–had more fun.

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Run, Momma, Run

Anyone who knew me in high school or college probably knew me, among other things, as a runner. I loved to run. Rain or shine, sleet or snow–and there was a lot of snow in Upstate New York–I would lace up my Nike trainers and hit the road to pound out some miles.

I kept up my running even out of college, logging miles in as wonderful places as Paris, London, and Washington, D.C., where I eventually made my home. Then something happened. One day I ran 11 miles–I was in training for a medium-distance event–and when I finished something had changed in me. It was the furthest I had ever run, and I should have been really proud of myself and confident that I was ready for my race. But I couldn’t shake this one thought: Where was I going so fast? Nowhere.

And that was it. I never really enjoyed running much after that. I still stayed active, but I never really ran again. I got into other things–kick boxing, yoga, weight training, etc.–but my daily run had turned into a trudge. I started to dread it and eventually hated it so much that I pretty much stopped running altogether.

I think I hit that point about six years ago. Hard to believe it’s been that long. But something happened a couple of weeks ago that may have flipped the switch back again.

I wasn’t able to get to the gym one morning, so I had missed the window of in-gym daycare. (I hate when that happens.) The dog was going nuts, as he’d been cooped up all day. And I was short on time. So, I had an idea. I’d throw the kid in the stroller, the dog on the leash and take off for the smart, newly rubberized track just down the block. I had 30 minutes, so I figured I could pound out 3 miles before I had to be back home.

Okay, so that was a bit optimistic. Between getting the stroller up and down the stairs to the track, keeping the dog from getting tangled up in the stroller, and stopping for doggy potty breaks–and if I’m perfectly honest, I’m a heck of a lot slower than I used to be–I only squeezed in two miles. But it was the most enjoyable two miles I’ve gone in a long, long time.

I think it was more fun than I was expecting it to be for a few reasons. First, I was under no self-inflicted pressure to go fast. I know I’m so out of running shape–and shape, in general–that I just wanted to get out and run around rather than reach a certain goal.

Second, I love my dog more when he’s tired. Remember I have a soon-to-be-six-months-old Dobie puppy that needs a lot (a lot!) of exercise or he’s a terror. And boy was he tired after our little jog. When we got home, he grabbed a few laps of water and went right to the living room to take a multi-hour snooze, leaving the house in order for a small moment in time.

But I think the reason I most enjoyed my run was this:

On your mark, get set, sleep!

See, my kid is not much of a napper, particularly in the afternoons, so anything I can do to get him to get some shuteye during the day, I will do. The alternative is a slow meltdown that begins in the late afternoon and crescendos around 6pm when he’s sobbing between bites of food and rubbing what food has missed his mouth into his eyes. But a few laps around the old track and goodnight; baby’s eyelids start sliding shut as soon as the stroller’s tires hit track.

So, while I don’t think I’ll ever be the runner I once was, the fact that I’m even remotely liking it again is a stride in the right direction in my book. I’m looking at running now as the ultimate multitasking tool–it gets me exercised while tiring both the baby and puppy out, making for a much more pleasant day all around. The fact that I’m able to accomplish these major tasks with in fell swoop or 12 around the track makes me appreciate running and dare I say enjoy it more than I have in a good long time.

Even the fact that I’m running on a track, which I used to absolutely hate, makes no difference to me anymore. In fact, it makes getting out and doing it that much easier. I don’t have to plan a route, I don’t have to negotiate uneven sidewalks and curbs, and I don’t have to stop for stoplights. The track is now efficient rather than boring.

About the only thing that’s been able to deflate my newly rekindled joy of running of late was that a man started yelling at me during my last run, telling me I couldn’t have the dog on the track. (For the record, my dog was running on the grass next to the track.) Given that there are no signs posted to that effect–in fact, there’s a sign at the entrance to the track area that says dogs must be leashed–I took a chance that whatever authority the man screaming at me had came with absolutely no power and just kept on running. Try and catch me, fat boy!

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