Exercise routines come with challenges and rewards. This is especially true for parents, who have to balance the needs of other family members as they work out a training schedule.
In January 2011, Susan McDonald started a walk-run program – which alternates intervals of several minutes of walking followed by several minutes of running – to get into shape.
McDonald, an employee of Columbia Association and mother of two kids, aged 14 and 17, makes a point of scheduling workouts at least three times a week. She’s tackling the program with her friend Michelle, also a mother of four.
“Finding the time is always a challenge because … with kids and working part time, a lot of the time everything else comes before you,” McDonald said. “You’re always last. If they have an appointment or if something happens, you have to work around their schedules.”
Stacie Pare, who has three children aged 9, 12 and 15, likes to ride the stationary bikes at the gym and lift weights, and she also swims with the Columbia Association’s Masters Swim Team (Full disclosure: I train lifeguards for Columbia Association Aquatics). Pare enjoys weekend bike rides with her husband.
She agrees that one of the biggest challenges is the time crunch. Pare, a teacher, coordinates with her husband’s schedule to make sure the kids get up and ready for school in the morning.
“If anything changes, then it’s hard to coordinate,” Pare said.
Still, these mothers find ways to make time in their busy schedules for exercise.
Claudia Zohorsky, mother of nine kids that range in age from 13 to 29, swims with the Columbia Masters Swim Team, but also with teams in Reisterstown (about 14 miles north of Columbia at McDonogh School, with the Masters program associated with the Eagles Swim Team) and the Maryland Masters at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She logs laps in the pool early in the morning.
“If I can do 30 to 40 minutes of cardio two to three times a week, I’m happy,” Manack said.
The child care at Manack’s gym is one factor in her ability to spend time at the gym.
“Lifetime Fitness has an excellent childcare center. When I work out, my daughter can go and play,” Manack said. “She gets stimulation and it tires her out … meanwhile I can go and work out and do something for myself. It’s killing two birds with one stone, which as a mom I’m a huge fan of.”
Pare agrees. When her children were young, she said, “it was the only time that I had to myself, and they had a nursery at the gym … Now, it still is the only thing that I have for me.”
Sue Mangan, head coach of the Columbia Association’s Masters Swim Team, has three daughters. She values the time she spends on her bicycle or going for long walks. Mangan likes the peace of mind and personal time she gets with each workout.
Manack, too, says she exercises to clear her mind.
There are tradeoffs, of course. Pare and Zohorsky work out early in the morning. McDonald has adjusted her work schedule so that she works later in the day and meets her friend after the kids have gone to school.
“I’ve decided this year that [exercise] is important to me and that other things will have to be pushed back,” McDonald said. Her goal is to get into shape, and possibly run a 5K.
For Zohorsky, the challenge of fitting in fitness time has changed as her kids have grown older.
“It used to be a lot more challenging when I was getting kids off to the bus ... or juggling nursery schedules. Right now the kids are pretty self-sufficient .. so it’s just me getting on a routine of getting up early and going to bed early also,” Zohorsky said.
Of course, with meetings and carpools, that early bedtime can be a challenge itself.
“If my kids have late games or practices, it can be hard to get up in the morning and get going,” said Pare.
For each of these moms, the benefits of fitness clearly balance any difficulties they have scheduling the time. They list peace of mind, personal time, and better health. They also talk about their families.
McDonald said she told her kids about her walk-run program, and that her daughter latermade to a friend. “She said, ‘I don’t care what size my mom is, I just want her to be happy.’ ”
McDonald added: “I think they notice that, as I’m getting out more, my mood is better, too.”
Zohorsky doesn’t hesitate when describing why she exercises.
“It helps me be a better mother, keeps me healthy for raising kids and gives me energy during the day,” Zohorsky said.
Zohorsky also sees her training as a social activity. “I meet a lot of people and it’s really fun,” she added.
Jody Frey, mother of two girls, exercises to stay healthy and counter stress, but also for her children.
“I try hard to show my kids that even though you may be aging, it is always good to set goals and try to achieve them. It shows them that you should never give up on reaching your potential,” she said.
Frey sees exercise as an opportunity to spend time with her daughters, aged 12 and 16. “Maybe even run a race with them when they can,” Frey said. “How wonderful to share your love, admiration for what you both can accomplish together.”
There wasn't much hesitation among these women when asked what moms need in order to make exercise a routine.
Mangan summed up what seemed to be a universal need in a single word. “Time,” she said with a smile as she walked along the pool deck at the Columbia Swim Center in Wilde Lake.
“Columbia’s excellent,” Zohorsky said, when asked what resources would make exercise easier for her. She cited opportunites for triathlons, masters swimming, and the availability of dance classes and yoga.
“I don’t know that there’s too much I can say,” Zohorsky said. Then she added with a laugh: “Other than maybe have a chauffeur.”