Incontinence While Doing Jumping Jacks, and Other Exercising Confessions

by Maile on June 12, 2013

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I moped around the house all morning in yoga pants and a green tank top with a built in bra. Really, if you don’t have mosquito bites for boobs, those “built-in” jobbies are about as helpful as a double layer of tissue paper wrapped around your chest. Thank God we live in the middle of a forest, down a ½ mile lane with only the company of birds and groundhogs. I wasn’t fit to be seen by human eyes.

I worked through the list of “to-do’s” sitting on my desk, the typical daily run-down: laundry, dishes, vacuuming…exercising.

The last item sat there like the chubby kid whose always last to get picked in gym class. I happily busied myself with my other chores, perhaps even lingering a little too long over the detailed cleaning of our coffee bean grinder, anything to avoid the inevitable chore that still awaited me.

Eventually, I crossed another bullet point off my list and stood, staring at the lone remaining item. About that time my husband walked into the office all sweaty and invigorated after an hour of splitting wood in the back yard and asked the question:

“Are you going for a run today?”

I slumped down in my chair and glared at his back while he toweled off with his t-shirt. He continued, chipper and innocent, “It’s just beautiful outside.”

I huffed and rolled my eyes till he turned around and acknowledged my pouting. “Babe, what’s wrong?” he asked, concerned.

I slouched over my desk and mumbled, “I don’t want to go for a run, but I know I should.” (My occasional resemblance to a melancholy and over-dramatic 12 year old is truly uncanny.)

He smiled and kissed my cheek. He knows the story. For me, like a lot of women, exercise is about so much more than hitting my target heart rate. It’s about self-worth and maintaining an acceptable appearance. It’s about wanting to have the same six-pack as the over-enthusiastic twenty-year-old wearing pink spandex in my workout video that I am willing to bet on the life of my youngest son that she never bore a child, let alone 4 of them, and consequently doesn’t have to worry about resurrecting her abs from the dead or, while we’re at it, incontinence while doing jumping jacks.

Don’t mistake me for being completely sour on the topic of exercise. I do it the prescribed “four to five times per week” and thoroughly enjoy the endorphin high I get afterwards. However, many times exercising keeps a different sort of list for me, a mental compilation of all the things I can’t do: more sit-ups, faster miles, longer held planks, further reaching stretches, another rep of squats. And while I’m attempting to delete the negative language I’ve associated with exercise for so long, I still have my days where the lead up and execution of a run or exercise routine are mentally grueling, far more difficult than the physical act itself. And my husband gets that, and so when I sat there sulking over my looming run, he told me what I could not tell myself: “You don’t have to go for a run if you don’t want to.”

Can I just take a moment to say: I love this man.

In college I had a boyfriend that assured me that, should I gain weight after having children, he would quickly get me back into shape. Alarms and red flags went off till I was blind and deaf all at the same time. So after we broke up, I tucked away this little question for any of my future beaus, as a sort of litmus test shall we say.When Shawn and I started dating, I eventually sprung the question on him: “What if we get married and have kids and I get fat after my pregnancies?”

I want to walk over to him right now and kiss his unshaven cheeks for the answer he gave me well over a decade ago. He shrugged his shoulders and answered, “I don’t care how fat you get; I’m always gonna think you’re sexy.” A naïve answer? Absolutely. Was he probably just trying to sweet talk me so that I would stop with all the heavy conversation and just make out with him on the couch already? There’s a strong possibility. Nonetheless, those were exactly the words I needed to hear.

Most importantly, though, he proved to me over the years that his words translated into actions. In our almost 15 years of being together, he never, not once, remarked about my weight fluctuations. (I gained ten pounds within the first 2 months of getting married; if ever there was a time to say “step away from the ice cream”, that may have been it.) In my pudgy years and my toned ones, he has continuously showered me with adjectives I seldom felt I deserved: beautiful, sexy, hot, amazing…

Simply put, he was able to do what I could not do for myself: love the whole package.

What perspective do you adopt to keep exercise in its appropriate place?

How have you struggled or managed to “love the whole package”?

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