Frontline Mom

The Resolution for no Resolutions

My friend who works in a gym told me that by March 1 many of her eager customers start to fade away. I know what is it like to give up on a plan but only 8 weeks after what was likely a New Year’s resolution to “work out more” seems to be to be too much of a defeat.

This time of year comes with some painful/expected revelations about the depth of our commitments to keeping New Year’s resolutions. Some of these may have been carefully thought up (and written up) throughout the course of the year. Some may have come to mind as we clinked champagne glasses right before the clock struck midnight; others have been carefully thought out and well planned.

I find that the most important resolutions — staying healthy, spending more time with family, going on that trip you’ve been thinking about — usually stay with us, and are things we work on regardless of whether they make it to the official “resolutions” list or not. Instead of resolutions, I think its easier to list out my priorities. What are the things whose accomplishment is supremely more meaningful to me than that of any others? This puts me under less pressure than to “keep that one single bullet resolution.” In the past my resolutions have included losing five pounds by a certain (unreasonable) date, reading a book a week, hitting the gym most days before work. While these sounded great, they were “Hail Mary” type resolutions that I really couldn’t easily stick too, which set me up for disappointment.

Ticking off priorities can sometimes be more helpful than coming up with one resolution, because priorities, rather than the silver bullet one thing to accomplish, can be juggled as life requires. They also imply not a single mission but an ongoing process or behavior to bake into life. Through a more holistic prioritization, the accomplishment of that fabled resolution does become not the end of the game; the hard work you put in has to continue. The failure/achievement dichotomy of resolutions can be superficial and very disappointing. That’s why this year, and next, my resolution is not to have any more resolutions. I’ll just focus on my priorities, thank you.

Do you set a New Year’s Resolution? How are you sticking to it?

Cabin Fever

I can’t complain about the winter this year. It has been particularly warm, March-like most of the season. Except today, after a light snow dusting yesterday, the cold hit. So much for my 4 mile run outside – 13 degrees is too cold for me to run outside. The last time I ran outside in this kind of weather my lungs froze…looks like it will be the treadmill today.

Living in the Midwest means getting used to inevitable snowstorms and regularly getting somewhat stranded in your home on account of bleak weather panoramas. In Chicagoland, its more the cold and wind that stops – less the snow. In Michigan, with their lake effect snow, its a whole other story.

So what’s a family to do when taking a drive, or even a walk, is out of the question? The only answer is to bring the outside indoors. Games become a key appeal – board games, video games and any made-up game that my five year old invents with her princesses, legos, blocks or other toy. We often build forts with pillows, create picnics in the living room for my children’s stuffed animals and make crafts with snowflakes and other wintery-themes.

These unexpected “holidays,” when everyone is at home with no plans for going out (understandably), is often a good time to call the relatives on Skype. Another fun activity is baking cookies like I did with my my Mom and brother when we were snowbound as kids. Something about snow seems to bring the family together.

Its also a fun time to curl up with the cats and read a book but quite frankly with two kids under five this doesn’t really happen too much.

Now, giving the kitchen an extra scrub or getting an early start on the week’s laundry duties are also options for being productive while stuck indoors, but why not use the time to do something that’s not a chore? Somehow when its a snow day outside the last thing I want to do is create a work day inside.

One friend gave me an idea to make a home movie about the experience of living through the storm. Most people don’t think of recording their homes’ interiors because they can come to seem extravagantly ordinary, but one’s ordinary experiences are usually what future generations find most thrilling to learn about. So why not also make a time capsule or a scrapbook? It’ll be interesting for the kids to consciously think about what they would like to say to family members or to themselves in the future. And it might just make for some fun viewing doing a snowstorm a few years from now.

What’s your favorite thing to do when “homebound” because of weather?

Steve Jobs, an innovation hero

The evening I found out Steve Jobs passed away on October 5th I was running about my home trying to locate my IPhone which I can’t seem to do without. My four year was playing a game on my husband’s IPad and I was listening to ITunes on my IPod (which replaced the stereo in my living room years ago). My husband was surfing the web – yes on his Mac.

Apple is clearly one brand and company that has changed my life, and I know I am not alone.

Upon hearing the breaking news, I was stunned and saddened. We have lost a formidable national hero and a global innovator. Some people, recalling the impact that Steve had on their lives, have left flowers and apples at neighborhood Apple Stores. Others have turned to Walter Isaacson’s recounting of Job’s life, and still many more have simply bought a song on iTunes, downloaded an App on their IPad or have talked about his passing on all forms of social media imaginable.

My favorite social post was from a friend, forty years old like me, who facebooked a retro picture of herself as a kid with her Apple Computer. Wow, that brought back memories – Apple was the first computer I ever touched when I was a child. Today Apple continues to enchant me with their designs and technologies. Job’s legacy is everywhere around me – some might even call it the IWorld.

Jobs didn’t just lead the team that brought the above gadgets into existence — he was also a visionary of the computer-navigating mouse and touch-screen, the personal computer, legally downloadable music, and cloud computing. Through Pixar we thank him to infinity and beyond for the Toy Story movies.

Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs. You will be missed.

Discovering Bike Trails With the Kids

We moved into our new home last November, so this summer was full of discoveries. Besides being introduced to many new places to eat or visit during date night, I discovered some great bike trails near our house. Just minutes away from our new home we found the trails of the Cook County Forest Preserve and they’re amazing. Along these local nature paths my family found terrific views, lovely single-track bridges to heighten our journey’s sense of adventure, and many little parks equipped with swing sets. These last were perfect for comfortable stopovers along the way.

With so much nature in easy reach, my family decided to invest in a trailer and in an attachable bike, just in case my oldest daughter, who’s four, thought the trailer wasn’t spacious enough. When we go out bicycling, we don’t ever really get very far, but my kids love the adventure, and I do too. Once the bike trailer has been properly deployed, my kids sometimes like to crowd in together in its tight quarters, but other times my daughter ventures onto the attachable bike. Regardless of the way they chose to travel, they have a great time on bike trips.

When you first start out biking with kids, all the gear can seem a little overwhelming. As both you and the children get the hang of getting on the bike and getting off it, the trips will become more comfortable. Something that’s crucial is explaining safety points to your kids. Convincing them of the importance of a helmet can take persistence, but don’t give up or put off the trip for another time. Getting your kids biking at an early age can get them passionate about it for life.

How do you enjoy biking with your children?

Early to Rise and Run – the Only Option

Morning runs are the only option for me if I want to exercise. By the number of joggers, walkers, and rollerbladers I see each day in the early morning light, I know I’m not the only one facing the same predicament. Of course, while still in bed, I feel the pull of the desire to get in a few more winks of sleep. It’s a powerful pull, but what motivates me to push past it is the clear-eyed knowledge, even at just waking, that after work I’ll be too exhausted to keep up my regimen, no matter how much I try to convince myself that I’ll manage it.

After a full work day, my energy levels are down and I arrive home with a full appetite for dinner. I also want to spend this time with my two wonderful children and have an adult conversation with my spouse. I’ve come to accept that good thoughts of taking out the double-wide stroller after work only turn into excuses. Many such would-be outings have taught me my lesson.

When it’s not the weekend, working out means a 5:30 am wake-up call, but that also means getting what I’ve set out to do done. My tips? Let no one can tell you otherwise: there’s nothing like going to bed early for rising with the sun the next day. If you start working out regularly, you’ll notice that the impact of nutrition can become very pronounced while exercising. Keep a balanced diet and don’t skip meals because you’ll need the extra energy. By the same token, you’ll need to keep your body hydrated, so drink lots of water, not just before or after your workout, but throughout the whole day. Lastly, get your workout clothes ready the night before. Stumbling around looking around for socks or a shirt in the wee hours of the morning can get in the way of actually getting out the door.

Lastly, there are days when I only get in 10-15 minutes of exercise. Why bother, you ask? Even a little bit helps wake me up and keep in the groove. When I have limited time, I just turn up the pace a bit.

Do you have any tips of your own for getting up early and getting the workout in?

Fitness for Kids

I’m doing my best to get and stay fit. As a Mom of two kids though I’m now tasked with ensuring my kids stay fit. They are too little to really have any worries yet and are quite the active ones, but physical fitness is important for children just as it is for adults. According to, children and adolescents should participate in 60 minutes or more of physical activity per day. Although most of the 60 minutes per day can be moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, at least three days per week should include vigorous-intensity physical activity, muscle strengthening and bone-strengthening.

The good news is that most kids are drawn to physical activity by nature. Playing sports, running around the block, and playing tag all seem to be second nature for children.  Still, not every child has the same interests. Some children may not enjoy spending time outdoors, playing sports or going for a walk. Some children rather sing or participate in arts and crafts. Regardless of personal interests, however, it is important to encourage all kids to participate in physical activity.

According to, the key is to introduce physical activities that are “appropriate for their age, that are enjoyable, and that offer variety.” Here are a few ideas to consider for children.

Aerobic activities: Aerobic activities increase cardio-respiratory fitness and typically move large muscles in the body. While your child may not enjoy running a mile, he or she may prefer dancing, jumping rope, or bicycling. Plan a family dance night or a weekend bicycling trip. Other creative aerobic ideas for kids include hopping, skipping, swimming and running.

Muscle-strengthening activities: In order to strengthen muscles, your child needs to do more work than usual during activities. Instead of traditional muscle-strengthening activities such as lifting weights or working with resistance bands, allow your kids to climb trees, play tug-of-war or play on playground equipment (with supervision, of course).

Bone-strengthening activities: This type of activity can only be accomplished by impact with the ground.  To promote bone growth and strength, encourage your child to run, jump rope, play basketball, tennis, and hopscotch.

I’m now off to the park with my kids! What are some creative physical exercise ideas you’ve introduced to the kids in your life?

Re-building a Calcium Habit

There was a time when taking my calcium supplements was as easy as pie. In fact, there was a time (not so long ago) when I was not only consuming calcium supplements, but I was eating right and exercising.  Now, as a wife, mother of two young children, and a time starved working mom, the thought of doing anything more than I absolutely have makes me a bit crazy. At the end of the day, if my family is fed and clean and I’ve managed to work on my passion, I’m done right? Not quite.

Calcium deserves attention, too. Our bodies need it to build and maintain strong bones and if we don’t get enough of it, we could develop health issues related to weaker bones. Without the proper dose of calcium over many years, we may have more bone fractures. A calcium deficiency can also increase your risk of osteoporosis. And since our bodies do not produce calcium, it is important to get it through diet or supplements.

Calcium and Food

A typical woman consumes about 640 mg of calcium a day. However, the recommended daily dose of calcium for pre-menopausal women is 1,200 mg. The best way to consume calcium is through a healthy diet. Calcium is found in a wide range of foods, including:

  • Cheese, milk, yogurt and other dairy products.
  • Broccoli, kale and other dark-green, leafy vegetables.
  • Sardines, canned salmon and other fish with soft, edible bones.
  • Calcium-fortified foods and liquids, such as orange juice, soy products and cereal.

Calcium Supplements

Even if you eat a healthy diet, you may not get enough calcium.  In order to meet your daily calcium requirements, you can take supplements. However, there are many different types of supplements on the market.  

As my MD would say check with your doctor or pharmacist about the best type of calcium supplement for you, depending on your needs, preferences, medical conditions or the medications you take. You should also ask them about the best time to take your calcium supplements, especially if you take other supplements or prescription medications.

Off to have my yogurt! What kind of food habits are trying to (re)build?

Top of the FitBloggin Mornin’

Yay! It’s finally here – FitBloggin that is. FitBloggin is a rocking fitness and wellness conference for those that blog about all things related. I’ll disclose that my employer, Sears Fitness (@searsfitness) is a sponsor this year, but that’s not why I am writing this. This event brings together a group of people that share a passion for health and wellness and they enjoy talking about it. This morning we started with a 5K run/walk….I honestly had not participated in a group run like this since before my son was born 14 months ago. It was fun, and actually a bit challenging (the pacesetters certainly did their part). The conference is in Baltimore this year, and on our run we weaved along the inner harbor, discovering cool condos, inviting coffee shops, sailboats, tall ships and an old lighthouse along the way. Fun, fun. For me, a run is the best way to see a new city – and to chat with new friends to pace the way. That being said, I’m still feeling out of shape, so perhaps I wasn’t as chatty as I normally would like!

The run energized me and made me feel more welcome – by the time we finished – I felt like I already had made new FitBloggin friends.

How did you make your morning Fit?

Remembering Grete Waitz

It took me 36 years to run my first (and thus far only) NYC marathon but growing up in the suburbs of New York City, I always wanted to run it. This marathon is and continues to be an event that brings the whole city together. I love the international flavor to the event – people seem to come from everywhere! It enables the city to showcase awesome neighborhoods full of ethnic and religious diversity that make the city what is it, a true melting pot or as some of my New-Yorker-centric friends like to claim the “capital of the world.” Growing up, I was in awe of the many great runners who took on this amazing and yet very challenging course (don’t let those bridge hills fool you!).

One runner in particular, Grete Waitz  from Norway, not only ran the course, but she dominated it – winning the event 9 times between 1978 and 1988 – more than any runner in history. She set the course record three years in a row – and blazed the trail for women runners everywhere. In doing this, she became my female sports hero, together with Joan Benoit Samuelson, who took the Gold Medal at the Los Angeles Olympics, while Grete took the silver. Both women inspired my love of running as a child, which I bring forward each and every day with me.

I was very saddened to hear that Grete Waitz died of cancer on April 19, 2011, aged 57. I still remember her poignant last marathon in 1992, when she ran with NYC marathon great Fred Lebow, who had been suffering himself from brain cancer. Since her retirement Grete continued to impress as a great ambassador for running and for great charity organizations. It’s hard to believe somebody so strong could succumb to cancer. But she’s definitely not going to be forgotten – not by me, or by the countless number of New Yorkers – and runners – she inspired citywide and worldwide.

I’d love to know: Do you have a sports hero?

Rave Runs

As you’ll start to see in this blog I love to run. While since I starting having kids four years ago I haven’t been as consistent with running as I would like one thing continues to remain true; I love to run to see the sites when I travel. It is the best way to see the sites! I have tripped while staring up at the Eiffel Tour in Paris, gotten lost running while running around Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, braved impressive rainstorms along the Río de la Plata in Montevideo and taken in the peace of Hyde Park in London, all during some of many memorable and touristic runs.

I have experienced altitude sickness running in the historical Peruvian city of Cuzco, appreciated the majesty of Chile’s lake region, pushed myself hard on the super steep hills of Steamtown, aka Scranton, Pa and enjoyed the amazing oceanside views of great running cities in Brazil like Florianopolis and Rio de Janeiro.

When I travel I don’t only go the running path or the park to run– sometimes I just like to weave through where the people are and take in the action. When I lived in Sevilla, I had a route that took me along the River Guadalquivir but also through the dense action of the Triana neighborhood. When I visited Puerto Rico I loved running through the colonial section of Old San Juan, checking out the many feral cats that greeted me along the way.

Running through the Plazas in Madrid is amazing as well (however tempting it is to stop for tapas) although I still love the Retiro park as well, especially on weekends, teeming with families and friends enjoying the outdoors. San Francisco is another amazing running town, with great calf muscles made not only along the Bay but also up and down the hills (again, like in Scranton, what an amazing leg workout). Portugal is also a spectacular place to run – my favorite run there has to be Sintra , the westernmost point on the continent of Europe, which the poet Camões defined as “where the land ends and the sea begins”  

These are just some of the memorable places that I have run – there are so many more that I want to run still! Every place I have I run lives on with me in some way – through a funny story, a beautiful image or a cultural or historic appreciation. Through these runs I have connected with the locals, found nooks and crannies far beyond the typical tourist eye and garnered great fodder for storytelling.

What runs – and where – do you rave about?