Active investments

I have been a pretty active mama since my second son was born in August 2007. Staring down a bridesmaid’s dress and a Hawaii destination wedding within five months of his birthday, I had ample motivation to get going. I started walking, then running, and the baby fat melted off. The next spring I ran my first 5K and was hooked on racing. I was on my way.

So it was more than a little surprising that I had a heart attack anyway, four years, one marathon, one half-marathon, and at least a dozen shorter races and hundreds of training miles later. And while I had a good base of fitness, I didn’t have the whole thing mastered, especially post-heart attack. For that, I needed help.

I started cardiac rehab about five days after I was discharged from the hospital, and I discovered I loved being told what to do, how fast to do it, and for how long. I worked as hard as I could (or the staff would allow), and left cardiac rehab dripping with sweat, which from what I could see was a fairly rare phenomenon. I loved it, but I couldn’t stay forever.

After eight weeks I was discharged from rehab, having maxed out the treadmill and using up a space that someone new really needed (and sadly, there is always someone new). I was sent to “Transition” at Exercare, the hospital-owned gym across the street. You get three weeks there and after that, unless you join, you are on your own.

I was definitely not ready to be on my own. But I hemmed and hawed about joining for about two weeks anyway, running on my own (very cautiously) and even resorting to Biggest Loser DVDs for company because I missed my rehab friends. And then it hit me: It wasn’t a gym, it was a support group. Sign me up.

So I joined, and then went even further. I swallowed my pride and stifled my shyness and signed up for a personal training package too. I now had someone to tell me what to do, how fast to do it, and for how long. Someone also trained to work with cardiac (and diabetic and stroke) patients. Someone with access to my entire cardiac history, tests, results, and medications. Perfect.

I absolutely love it. With great stress test results and my cardiologist’s clearance, the trainers know they can push me hard, and they do. I’m doing one-armed planks while lifting a weight with the other arm, kettlebell routines, and bridges with resistance bands, among dozens of other things. We don’t just lift weights, we jump while doing it. We don’t just do crunches, we do it balancing on a Bosu. When I recently admitted to slacking off on solo cardio workouts, I got an exercise log to fill out and turn in. I’ve been doing this for about three months. I’m significantly stronger. And a whole lot happier.

The only thing is, it’s expensive. It feels like a major luxury. It takes time. I drop Noah off at school and go straight to the gym. By the time I’m done and showered, I’m back to school for pickup. I don’t get much done. It seems indulgent. Sometimes I feel guilty.

But then I read this great quote in an interview with the authors of the book Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom (which I finally bought and am halfway through). They were debunking the oft-used excuse for not exercising: “I’m putting my family first,” or “My family is more important.”

To which they reply: “Aren’t you a pretty important member of the family?”

Whoa. I never thought of it that way. Yes, I’m important to my family. Yes, I actually AM a member of the family. I don’t give a second thought to paying for baseball league and summer camp and swimming lessons and piano lessons, nor to the hours I spend carting them to and from and waiting around. My husband is in graduate school and gone two nights a week and I think that’s a good thing. So why is an investment of time and money in me less worthy?

I told my husband this story, about my guilty feelings and about this interview and how it made me feel. I talked for a long time. Then I asked him if he thought my personal training was an important investment, if he felt okay about spending the money.

And he deadpanned, I kid you not: “You spend more each year on your hair.”

There’s really nothing more to say.

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