The burn and how I learnt to love it.

What had sounded like a fun date together during our blossoming romance ended in tears (mine) and bewilderment (his).
“I never want to do that again!” I said, with more drama than a room full of five-year-olds in Elsa costumes.
I sat there, my chest heaving with each breath and pain shooting through my lungs. My (then) boyfriend sat there next to me, looking at me like I was dancing the Macarena while speaking Klingon.
What was this terrible date we went on? A bike ride. To the end of the street.
But I was so unfit at that point that I (quite literally) felt like I was dying. Exercise was torture. And people who enjoyed it were very, very strange.

Fast forward 10 years, and we are now married (I guess he overlooked the crazy) and I thoroughly enjoy getting my heart rate up and getting a bit sweaty.
So what changed?
Well, we had three kids, for one thing. And I discovered that being a mother to small children when you are unfit is really, really hard.
I felt tired all the time and I wasn’t coping with the constant up-down-up-down-up-down, let alone managing the house work too!
But the other thing that changed is that I learned to listen to my body. I learned that when I begin to feel irritable or sluggish, that’s my body’s way of saying “I need to move more!”
When I listen to my body and respond with some good blood-pumping exercise, I almost immediately feel better.
A key part of embracing exercise in my life has been finding things that are fun and enjoyable, not just “exercise for the sake of exercise”.
Here’s what is working for me at the moment:
– Bike rides. My husband found me a bike that has an electric “pedal assist” motor. So, the harder I push the more power it gives me. Some people may consider this cheating, but for me it has meant that I can now go on bike rides without the fear that I won’t be able to make it home (on a regular bike, I would often end up pushing it up the hills). And I still get a great workout.
– Dance workouts. There are many different options for this kind of workout on youtube, but my favourite is the Fitness Marshall, because he doesn’t take himself too seriously and his moves are just so fun!
– Incidental exercise. This is all that “movement” stuff that happens in my day naturally – I can choose to have a “not again” attitude or I can choose to have an “another chance to move!” attitude. Walking to the supermarket? Take the longer route. Waiting for a child to… do anything? See how long you can squat. Someone needs something the minute you sit down? Jump up and get it.
– Playing with the kids. My kids just love to play physical games with me like, chasing, wrestling, piggy back rides, tickling and “aeroplanes” (lying on my back and then flying them up on my feet). All these things get my body moving and make the kids happy.

Just recently, my husband and I went on what sounded like a fun date together, for our (still) blossoming romance – a 30km bike ride.
At the start was a big, though not too steep, hill. As we got to the top of the hill and the bike path levelled out, my husband brought his bike up next to mine.
“I could see you really pushing yourself up that hill, honey – well done!” he said.
“Thanks,” I said between puffs, “I feel great!”

Jessica Harvey

Mum to 3, wife to 1, when Jess isn’t riding her bike or writing for the MOPS Australia blog she can be found blogging here.

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