State, national lifestyle columnists

Though not a ‘fitness mom,’ she’s on the move

By From page A2 | August 14, 2012

I marvel at the “fitness moms” in my neighborhood. I know several of them, and they are an inspiration. Some of these moms work out more than once a day, often getting in the first round early in the morning, perhaps tucking in yoga or Pilates around their children’s lunchtime, maybe training for marathons, sometimes even becoming personal trainers themselves

Such moms were the subject of a recent Wall Street Journal piece, “Don’t Hate Her for Being Fit.” Reporter Elizabeth Holmes looked at the growing cadre of moms with young children who make fitness a foundational part of their identities and lifestyles with their family. Yes, typically — but not always — these moms don’t work full time outside the home and have really supportive husbands. Many responses to the piece lamented the time struggle moms already face — and the article’s added pressure to exercise.

I think such folks might be a tad bit too defensive.

I like to think I’m doing my own part for the cause of fitness. Not long ago, I was in the produce department of my local grocery when one of the fellows working there said to me, “You know, I see you in here all the time. And you are always running.”

Um, single working mom and four kids 24-7. Do you think?

Long before I had children, I moved fast. Some 25 years ago, I worked on the Reagan White House staff. I wish I could say I was in the little-known junior high White House intern program, but no, I was already a full-fledged adult. Anyway, I worked in the huge, neighboring Executive Office Building, with its miles of corridors. The guard who regularly sat near our office laughingly commented all the time, “I never see you but you are running.”

I actually think the speed at which I walk is more about personality than commitment to exercise. My best friend, who might even be a little more intense than I am about most things, particularly working out, couldn’t walk at a moderate pace if she were paid. I was once driving through downtown Chicago and marveled at the speed at which a woman was charging through crowded streets. Yep, as I pulled closer I realized it was my friend Lynne.

She and I might be in luck in that recent studies suggest the speed of one’s natural gait may indicate things about brain function — including, as we get older, whether we are on the path to Alzheimer’s — and it might even be a predictor of longevity overall.

In the main, faster is better.

On the other hand, my own mom was a fitness fanatic, ate lightly and thoughtfully, and moved quickly. Still, she died at 62 of a blood cancer. And wow, does 62 seem younger now than when she passed away 17 years ago.

In other words, we can’t control as much as we think we can.

So when I think about overall fitness, sure, I want to do everything I can to stay active well beyond the golden years (the pale golden years?). But mainly I want the ability to live life to the fullest right now. For me, exercising a few times a week at my gym and, yes, taking lots of fast walks feels like I’m doing my part.

The point is, we don’t have to feel defensive or intimidated if we don’t want to or can’t be “fitness moms.” But almost any of us can do something to stay more fit right now. I’m just trying to do what I can to be able to keep moving quickly through the produce department and more. And that makes this mom feel pretty good.

Betsy Hart is the author of “From the Hart” (Putnam Books). Email [email protected]

Betsy Hart


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