Find missing shoe, wipe snotty nose, drive to swim team practice, get dinner on the table—when it comes to doing things for others, moms are the best! And if you happen to be a mom, you might find the hours you spend focussing on your family leaves little time to devote to yourself. (Especially when you’ve got other tasks on your plate—here’s looking at you, nine-to-five gig). But putting your loved ones first doesn’t have to mean putting yourself last.
It’s like the message in the safety video on an airplane, played just before takeoff: You have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before helping the passenger next to you. Mama, if you want to keep being your family’s Wonder Woman, you’ve got to take care of YOU, too.
Here’s how to carve out some precious “me” time, and prioritize your health and fitness goals—for at least 15 minutes a day.
What’s the number one reason to wake up at the same time every day? Better health! Experts agree sleep is an important factor in your overall health and wellbeing, and research shows waking up has a big impact on the quality of your sleep.
A regular bedtime is key, but a regular wake up time is even more important.
When you look at your personal data in your Fitbit app, you might be surprised to see several periods of restless sleep during the night. Chances are, you don’t have to worry about them—it’s common to move around a bit. “Sleep is not completely still,” says Michael Grandner, PhD, MTR, a Fitbit sleep advisor and director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. “It’s perfectly normal to have periods of restlessness—10 or even up to 30 could be normal for you,” he says. (Here’s when restlessness might be more concerning.)
Still, when restlessness leads to full on wakefulness, it’s time to get to the bottom of what’s preventing you from sleeping like a log. These five factors might be turning you into a restless sleeper.
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. It’s a sobering statistic, but it doesn’t mean you can’t rack up your steps outside. Wearing sunscreen can help protect against the harmful effects of the sun and slash your risk.
The Sun and Your Skin
A quick science lesson: Sunlight is made up of a spectrum of light waves. Some of those waves are harmless, but others can hurt. Ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation can burn the surface of your skin, and ultraviolet A (UVA) can go deep, causing cellular damage that can lead to skin cancer
Any amount of sun exposure can be dangerous—86 percent of melanoma and 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers have been linked to ultraviolet radiation. And because damage is cumulative, the more sun exposure you get during your life, the higher your chances of developing cancer.
That’s why it’s important to stay covered whenever you’re outside. “I like to tell my patients, ‘If it’s daylight, UV rays are hitting you,’’ says Brooke A. Jackson, MD, board-certified dermatologist and director of Skin Wellness Dermatology Associates in Durham, NC. Clouds and shade do offer some protection, but 40 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation can still reach the earth on an overcast day. If it’s light enough outside for you to see, the sun can see you, too.
You may no longer be a spry 30-, 40-, or even 50-something, but that’s no excuse to slack off in the exercise department. New research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine finds older men who do just 30 minutes of physical activity, regardless of intensity, six days a week have a 40 percent lower risk of mortality.
The research is based on the Oslo Study, which invited 15,000 men in their 40’s and 50’s to health “check ins” in 1972 and 2000, and then monitored the participants for an additional 12 years. Height, weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and smoker status were noted for each of the individuals, and the men were asked to fill out surveys on their weekly physical activities.
During the 70-year period, a number of participants passed away; however, conclusions drawn from the data show the more time the men spent exercising, the lower their risk of death. The researchers noted just 30 minutes of moderate activity six days a week decreases the odds of death from heart disease or any other cause, and more exercise reaped even greater benefits. On average, the active men studied lived five years longer than the sedentary men.
Although the study only tracked men in their 80s, gents aren’t the only ones who can benefit from getting more exercise. Researchers believe they would find similar results for older women as well.
Ready to make your golden years more enjoyable? Set a goal to add just 30 minutes of physical activity into your daily routine—walking, biking, swimming, and other low-impact activities all count!
Your head just hit the pillow, you’ve finally calmed the voices in your head, and drifted off into dreamland. Ah, it’s bliss… Except for that incessant racket. What is that? An annoying bird? A truck backing up? Nope, it’s the alarm clock. And there’s no room in your morning for the snooze button.
If this scenario sounds familiar, you’re in tired company. According to a survey conducted by YouGov, 45 percent of Americans sleeping 7 to 8 hours each night feel tired or poorly rested up to three times a week. 54 percent of people who clock six or fewer hours say they wake up feeling tired 4 or more days per week. Clearly, the Zzzzombie apocalypse is here!
MKFIII’s birthday was a roller coaster of emotions. (Is it possible for the same day to be the best and the worst day of your life?) My water broke 6 weeks early, so Michael K. Farrell and I rushed to the hospital.
Shortly after arriving, I was wheeled into a surgery room for an emergency C-Section. It wasn’t exactly the birth plan I’d gone over with my OB, but the little guy had to come out right away.
I didn’t get to put my endurance skills to the test. I didn’t get to go through labor and push a baby out, the way countless other mothers do. I felt—and to some degree still feel—cheated out of an experience that would have allowed me to prove my toughness. (I’ve completed three marathons and over two dozen half marathons; surely I could have risen to the challenge of contractions.)
Nonetheless, MKFIII entered the world with a healthy scream, and he has been making me smile ever since. He’s here, we’re happy, and that’s what really matters.
I have yet to lace up my sneakers for an actual run. But MKFIII and I have been racking up the miles walking along the Embarcadero. I have big plans to buy a new pair of shoes and a proper jogging stroller. Until then… I’ll be working on getting the nursing and napping schedule down (sleeping through the night would be nice!) and focusing on my core—my abs still haven’t finished knitting back together and my lower back is getting tired of doing all the work.
I’ll be doling out my “get back in shape” tips and mother runner advice soon. And I’d love to hear yours—please share in the comments!
You may have noticed I took some time off from blogging. Okay, a lot of time off… I thought about apologizing, but honestly I’m not sorry. I’ve been focused on myself and my own daily goings-on, and I simply didn’t feel the need to document those activities here—mostly because they weren’t running related, but also because I was being, well, selfish. (Gasp—I know!)
Now I’m ready to share the love! Here’s why I’ve been absent lately:
1. Michael K. Farrell and I tied the knot! Last month, the 53 people who love us the most in this world squeezed into a small church in Virginia and witnessed the beginning of our marriage. Planning the wedding took over my life. Don’t believe what you hear, single ladies, even a small event pulls your attention away from the rest of your life. But in the end, I loved every minute of it. It was a day filled with love and laughter—and I still get all smiley thinking about it!
2. I became a pregnancy expert. I’ve never had the pleasure of bringing a life into the world. (Michael K. Farrell hopes to knock that off my bucket list later this year. Wink. Wink.) However, I took on a really awesome set of assignments for Parents.com and learned more about pregnancy weight gain, breast tenderness, and relationship changes than any non-mom needs to know. I can’t say that I’m looking forward to swollen ankles, but at least I’ll understand where all that fluid is coming from.
3. I’m the new managing editor at MyFitnessPal! This month I started working with the phenomenal team at MyFitnessPal. The incredible health-tracking app that you know and love is beefing up its healthy living content, starting with its blog, Hello Healthy—and I’ll be steering the ship. Stay tuned for fun changes over there (and possibly some spillover here)!
The New Year brings with it an opportunity to reassess and reevaluate. For most of us, that includes taking a hard look at our health and wellbeing and figuring out ways to improve our lives.
Michael K. Farrell and I spent New Year’s Eve moving to a new apartment. We decided we want to spend less time in the car this year, so moving downtown to be closer to coffee shops and work became a must-do. It was a big change, and we made it happen with about a two-weeks’ worth of hard work—and we’re still swimming in boxes, so there’s another week or so of unpacking to go. But eventually, we’ll feel more settled and have more time to fully enjoy our pedestrian-friendly lifestyle.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. And the resolutions you set on January 1 won’t necessarily be accomplished before the month ends. Still, the sooner you start, and the more attention you shine on them, the more quickly you will notice the benefits. Whether your aim is to become a better eater, improve your fitness, or take control of your calendar, here are some ideas to get you started as you set your goals for the year ahead.
Eat outside of the box. The easiest way to clean up your diet is to stop eating packaged and processed foods. That means, opting for steel cut oatmeal and berries for breakfast rather than toaster waffles, and fresh fruits and veggies at snack time instead of pizza pockets or cheese twists.
Get your blend going. Veggie-heavy green smoothies are another fun way to get more healthy vitamins and minerals into your day. I like to start with spinach or kale, then toss in a banana, frozen fruit, almond milk, and a handful of nuts. There are tons of recipes online if you need a little direction (here are some of mine!). But you really can’t make a mistake with a smoothie, so have fun creating your own signature blends!
Just move. Fitness should be fun! I repeat: Fitness should be fun! There’s no rule that says you have to spend an hour a day slogging it out on an elliptical machine, while staring at a gym wall. Get outside! Skip up a hill—don’t laugh, this will make you a faster, stronger runner if that’s your goal. Invite your friends for a power walk and some girl time. Find an activity that you love—track, adult kickball, roller-skating, anything!—and make that part of your routine. You’re more likely to stick to an exercise plan that makes you smile than one you dread.
Make sleep a priority. A lot goes on when you’re snoozing, skin cells turnover, muscles go into repair mode, and much more, so skipping a date with Mr. Sandman has negative effects on your health. When you’re exhausted your hormones go haywire, causing you to become cranky, your appetite goes into overdrive, leading to cravings for all kinds of unhealthy stuff, and your immune system slows down, making it nearly impossible to fight off colds and infections. Aim to get eight solid hours of sleep at night, and listen to your body—rest when it tells you you’re tired. If that means napping on Saturday afternoon or sleeping late on Sunday morning, do it.
Stop scheduling in stress. We like to feel as though we’re in control of our lives, but the bottom line is: Balance is an illusion. Trying to stick to a rigid calendar can often be more stressful than helpful. It’s easy to feel down on yourself when you can’t fit it all into one day, so my advice is to stop trying. Instead, do what absolutely needs to be done first—like that expense report that’s overdue, and then have tentative plans to do what you love. Only say “yes” to the activities you truly enjoy, like chaperoning your kid’s field trip, and turn down the things you don’t (not everyone was born to make cookies for bake sales). Doing so doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it means you’re authentic and true to you.
Don’t slack off. Science tells us it takes 21 days to fully create a good habit or to give up a bad one. That can feel like a long time when you’re starting out, but sticking with it will not only add a healthy new ritual into your life, you’ll also be proving to yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to—and that’s a powerful lesson.
Don’t focus on what you’re giving up. Instead, think about all the positive benefits you’ll be adding into your life. For example, if you decide to stop biting your nails, you’re not losing a coping mechanism for stress; you’re gaining gorgeous hands—not to mention suffering from fewer colds. Or, if you decide to start a daily yoga practice, you’re not losing 20 minutes a day; you’re gaining stronger muscles, greater flexibility, and a more peaceful mind.
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Share your goals for 2014 in the comments below!
Well, folks, the inevitable has finally occurred: I have appeared in my very first “bad” race photo. I knew it was coming. Everything had lined up perfectly for me to score some incredible shots at the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot—I felt great, the weather was terrific, all of my smiles were genuine. But I never once caught the eye of a photographer on the course, and I didn’t even see this one at the finish. C’est la vie!