As some of you know, I'm a Group Fitness Instructor at the Y and also recently got certified as a Personal Trainer - so I obviously think exercise is kind of important :) However, I just recently realized just what an important lesson about health and fitness the last 2.5 years of my life have taught me. I rarely ever write about this here, so please indulge me just this one time - and I promise, next time I'll post cute pictures of the girls again :)!
When we lived in California and I was working full-time as well as going to school part-time, I was a bit of a gym rat and attended group exercise classes regularly throughout the week. Back then I decided that once I had kids and decided to quit my job to stay home with them, I would get certified to teach fitness classes. It just seemed like the perfect way to get back into shape and find time to work-out as a new mom. So when I was only a few weeks pregnant with the girls, I got certified as a Spinning instructor. Less a month later, our unborn daughters were diagnosed with Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, and I ended up on strict bed rest for 13 weeks, 10 of which were in the hospital. In case you've never had the experience of being bed-ridden for that long, let me tell you that our bodies are NOT made to be completely inactive for such a long time. After being in a side-lying position for that long, my entire body ached and being upright long enough to take a shower made me dizzy. Even a week after my c-section, walking from the parking ramp to the NICU was a struggle. When the girls were about 10 weeks old, I began cycling again, and started teaching my own cycle class shortly after.
Our first months with the girls were pretty much the dictionary definition of insanity. We had to keep 24 hour watch on them - meaning either Bjorn or I were ALWAYS awake with them, around the clock - to prevent them from accidentally choking in their sleep. They were colicky, suffered from reflux, had feeding problems, developmental delays and serious sleep issues. There were doctors' visits, therapies, even hospitalizations. I'm telling you this because there were sooooo many times I taught a cycle class on 4 hours of sleep or less when I could barely walk or think straight. And trust me, working out was the LAST thing I felt like doing. I'd get ready to go teach and think quite frequently: "Why again did I think this was a good idea?!" And then I'd get there and teach my class, and not only have lots of fun doing it - but leave feeling refreshed, stronger, with a clearer mind and more energy. Not only did teaching my cycle class help me to rebound from a twin pregnancy and months of bed rest. But as my body got stronger, I felt my mental strength increasing also. As my body adapted to exercise and I overcame the physical challenge of each intense workout, I also gained the strength and confidence to tackle the other, often very daunting challenges in my life as the new mom of premature infant twins with lots of health challenges. The extreme sleep deprivation of our first year with the girls often left me feeling anxious and depressed, and I really credit exercise for helping me feel more upbeat and positive again.
While I was studying for my Personal Trainer certification, I learned that regular exercise literally causes our body to function more efficiently as our cardio-respiratory, muscular and neurological systems adapt to the continuous challenges placed upon them during each training session. And that is exactly what I felt like. Like my mind and my body started to function "better" with regular exercise. As the girls got healthier and our life started to settle down, I started teaching more classes and also added some weight-training to my workout schedule. I am so thankful for these lessons that I learned entirely by accident ... because trust me, if I wouldn't have "had" to go teach a cycle class, there was no way on earth I would have made it to the gym on many of those early days. And yet ... with doubtlessly the most challenging, overwhelming, and exhausting 2 years of my life behind me, I feel strong, healthy and well (even if I'm too often too tired - but it's still just too darn hard to get a good night's sleep around here ;))
So, no matter where you are in your own journey with physical fitness, please don't take this blog post as a "guilt trip"! Just know that even adding a 10 minute walk during your daily lunch break can help you reap the many benefits of exercise, and by neglecting it, you are literally cheating yourself out of an easy and powerful tool to live better and feel well.