How to Jumpstart a Fitness Habit

Credit: Aryaziai.com

Credit: Aryaziai.com

I’m not crazy. Nothing about nearly daily workouts while juggling a husband, toddler and a full time career is extraordinary. Believe me. Millions of people do it every day, especially here in Colorado, and do it much better than me. They complete Ironman competitions, run ultra-marathons and compete in Crossfit competitions. I merely get my butt to the gym however it’s possible at least five days a week. Sometimes I exceed this goal, while other weeks I come up way short.

But I am flattered and excited whenever friends or coworkers ask me how I get it done. Fitness has become a passion and I truly enjoy giving personal tips for how I went from never working out to craving movement every single day.

The quick answer, I made it a daily habit. No excuses. Never miss a Monday.

For me it took about two months (plus a few years) of tossing excuses to the curb and saying no to a few commitments in order for me to grasp how daily workouts are absolutely possible. Whether you are just getting started, or looking to increase from two or three days a week to something more regular, I always go back to the following:

  • Block the time on your calendar like you would a meeting or doctor’s appointment
  • If childcare is a juggle, sit down with you partner on Sundays and map out workout schedules for the week ahead. Then put those workouts on each other’s calendar
  • Respect the calendar and others will begin to as well
  • Become a morning person. I’m serious. The only excuse I can count at 5 a.m. is being tired. However, by 5 p.m. my excuses range from being tired and hungry to wanting to be the parent who picks up Rylan from daycare and starts dinner
  • Sign up for classes with a penalty for not showing up. Over time you might be able to get away from this, but it’s really hard to hit snooze when $25 for an Orange Theory class is about to go down the drain
  • Try everything. Yoga, bootcamps, treadmill classes, Zumba, barre studios – try EVERYTHING until you find a gym/studio, fellow gym-goers and teachers who you absolutely love. People under estimate how powerful of a motivator community can be for workouts, even if you work out solo at a gym. The heart of my motivation comes, here in Denver, from Qi Flow Fusion and Orange Theory Union Station
  • Fill the gaps when all you have is 20 minutes between meetings or nap times. Download any of the myriad of smart phone apps for working out. I love the ab, squat and pushup challenges along with PopSugar Active. Follow trainers on Instagram and steal their moves. Lunge around the house while talking to your mom. Just move
  • Accept that you’ll miss things, like a happy hour or daycare pickup, or get your butt up early so missing happy hour (or pickup) is never an issue. Daily movement does come with a bit of sacrifice
  • Be okay with being called “crazy.” I can’t tell you how many times I hear it from family and friends. But those closest to me know I am tremendously happier, less stressed and more sane when I spin, run or lift out my worries and daily stressors. The gym is my perspective. My place to realize I have it really damn easy and I am lucky to have health and love in my life

I am in the best shape of my life at 32, almost 33. I look back at college pictures and cannot believe the way I took care of myself (meaning, not at all). While I have always been on the thinner side, just lately have I become truly strong. Strong feels so much better than skinny.

Motivate when you’re ready. Find kindness for yourself when you are not. The latter is where I struggle most.

Here’s to good health!

Daily Fitness: It Is Possible

Credit: Aryaziai.com

Credit: Aryaziai.com

The world doesn’t need another fitness blogger. And I am absolutely not qualified to offer fitness advice or routine suggestions.

However, working out is a huge part of my “me” life outside of parenting, marriage and a full time career. In fact, my workouts are what allow me to do all of those other things semi-well. I also think I am a pretty good motivator…I think?

Here’s my belief. Under very few circumstances can I NOT fit in a workout. Finding and maintaining this mindset has been a long, slow evolution. I used to be the queen of excuses. Work is busy. I’m sore. I have an 8 a.m. meeting so I can’t go before work. I have plans after work so if I go in the morning I’ll miss seeing Rylan. It’s Saturday, I deserve a break.

But then I decided to try my hand at a 5 a.m. class, and it changed everything. It opened up daily opportunities throughout the week to work out without Rylan even knowing I had left the house. I also blocked time on my calendar once a week for a 4:30 p.m. class. This gave me a reprieve from daily 4:30 a.m. wakeups and still let me pickup Rylan from daycare, a small task that makes me smile every time.

I downloaded squat, sit-up and pushup challenge iPhone apps to get me moving on the days the gym just isn’t possible. My Jawbone steps tracker pushes me to park a little further or take the stairs.

I find ways to move daily. “Never miss a Monday” is a guiding mantra that truly keeps me on track. Healthy decisions on Monday set the tone for a stronger, healthier week.

I’d be lying if vanity isn’t a driver. Who doesn’t like to feel their best in a bathing suit or bounce back from a pregnancy, stronger and more fit than before? But it’s bigger than that. Much bigger. Daily movement is my Xanax. It’s one of the only assurances I can control to help me stay healthy for Mike and Rylan. I can’t answer emails or go down the Facebook rabbit hole when I am doing sprints in an Orange Theory class.

How did I function for so long without daily fitness?

This weekend I am lucky enough to be a part of The Blend Retreat (#blend2015) in Boulder, Colo. The bloggers who flew in from all over the country and brands that graciously gave bags upon bags of free product were inspiring to say the least. The experience also made me realize that I want to infuse more fitness and wellness into what I talk about here–through the lens of a hectic working mom of course.

I hope to create a culture of motivation here!

Moms. Step Away from the Superhero Cape.

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I was given an advanced copy of the book in order to complete this review. However, all opinions are 100% my own. 

Being selected by Kerry Rivera and Alexa Bigwarfe to review an advance copy of Lose the Cape, Realities from Busy Modern Moms and Strategies to Survive, is still a “pinch me” blogger moment from the tiny and inconsistent corner that is currently Lex & Learn. My initial reaction to the copy is even included in the opening “Praise for Lose the Cape” section of the new book! So cool.

And “praise” is an understatement for what Kerry and Alexa deserve.

My current state of motherhood is 100 percent unique. Rylan is his own person, Mike and I have our own marriage and the way we run our household only makes sense to us. And guess what? Every single parent on the planet is living, day in and day out, their own 100 percent unique parenthood journey as well. Perhaps that is why at times, parenting can feel so isolating.

This reality is also why I love this book. It’s written to be a reference for the widely varying stages of this insane ride. For example, the chapter about scheduling doesn’t really apply right now because Rylan isn’t signed up for a myriad of evening and weekend activities yet. However, I shed a tear (or 20) over the pages about laundry, mom guilt and the unattainable Pinterest standards fueling insecurity among mothers who should otherwise be lifting one another up. I. Don’t. Craft.

Here are just a few tidbits I took a highlighter to and want to frame next to my pillow…

Invisible lists. These are “… all of those “other” tasks we instinctively do as moms: scheduling appointments, organizing birthday parties, arranging summer camps and lessons, buying gifts for teachers and friends, filling out paperwork that comes home from school, and beyond.” YES!!! These are what I don’t articulate to Mike, yet lose sleep over and get resentful about, even though he’d be more than willing to help.

“Sixty‐three percent of couples with kids still living in the home argue over cleaning, according to a 2012 survey of more than 12,000 BabyCenter readers.” I’ve blogged about it before, but I implore soon-to-be parents to budget for a cleaning person. We have yet to fully work it into our monthly budget and cleaning is a HUGE (if not the main) source of stress for me.

“Your kids need to see you without a device permanently attached to your hand.” Guilty. Both of us. We have to get better about this after work and on weekends. Completely our bad.

“Stop being a martyr. NOW! You can find time and make “me” time a priority. Or, you can just be a bitch. You choose.” I actually have a lot of me time. I work out at least 4 days a week, travel, see friends, etc. However, I always have a LOT of guilt about this me time despite it keeping me sane, healthy and happy. See the next sentiment below!

‘“Lose the Mommy Guilt!” This stuff will tear you down, eat you up, and kill your soul.” TRYING! I do not think it’s feasible to rid yourself of mommy guilt altogether. In fact, on certain days the guilt actually makes me a more present, creative and thoughtful mama. But the (sometimes) soul crushing guilt of booking a kid-less trip or leaving him every day to work outside the home has to stop.

Moms to be. Moms in the newborn and toddler trenches. Moms carpooling all over the universe with pre-teens. We all need to take a deep breath, read witty and honest books like this during uninterrupted me time (preferably with hot coffee or a cocktail) and give ourselves a huge hug. We, and our partners, are kicking ass and probably don’t even know it.

If you like your cape, maybe vow to take it off once or twice a week. If the cape is dragging you down, toss it into the Goodwill pile or trade off cape days with your partner.

Our littles will thank us in the long run. I’m quite certain we are already incredible superheroes to them anyway.

Summer Espadrilles

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I love shoes. I used to dream about buying Jimmy Choos with my first bonus out of college when I started working. While 10+ years later I’ve never worked up the nerve to drop that amount of cash on one pair of shoes, my shoe closet runneth over with stilettos, wedges, sandals and everything in between.

Yet the one style always lacking was a classic espadrille. Talk about missing out on comfort meeting effortless style.

A friend from San Diego is a gorgeous world traveler whose Instagram account has always made me green with envy. A few months ago I noticed she was starting a small import business of espadrilles made in a small village in the French Pyrenees, either by hand or by the original crafting machines. Today, it‘s the only village in France which still offers handmade shoes based on traditional  production. Check out these stunning production photos! Intrigued, I stalked her pictures and website for months–always a little timid to commit to the price tag.

But as more and more of our mutual San Diego girlfriends posted pictures of their French espadrilles, I had to place an order.

I. Am. Hooked.

Her site, Basque In The Sunlight, makes you want to toss caution to the wind and book a trip to France. However, if that’s not possible do yourself a favor now that spring is finally here and treat yourself to a pair (or two) of these lovely, comfortable and versatile shoes.

For sizing you’ll want to order them so they arrive a bit snug. The shoes mold and stretch quickly. I am a true US size 7 and am very happy with the size 37 equivalent I chose. It was really tough to pick a color, but I like to have fun matching patterns, especially in the summer, and thought the navy + white/cream stripes would complement a lot in my wardrobe.

Next I have my eye on the “France,” “Citron” or “Bleu” colors. And don’t even get me started on the Pestemal towels she’s carrying–versatile enough to use as a cover up and beach blanket. They are made following an old traditional technique which uses wooden looms. These definitely have my name on it for Mike and my escape to Riviera Maya in June. I am eyeing the “Menthe” color.

I can’t say enough about Jen and what she has created. Follow her on Instagram for more drool-worthy style, travel and fashion goodness.

 

Hitting Toddlerhood, Literally

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Rylan…99% smiles, but with a growing slice of attitude.

Parenting a budding toddler is marked by extreme highs and maddening lows. I am grateful to be surrounded by friends and family who don’t mind my endless texts with questions and venting sessions about eating strikes and teething mayhem. Molars suck! But lately there is one behavior that is coming out more and more, and we will not tolerate it.

Hitting.

“Hands are not for hitting.” It is a book we read and, unfortunately, a phrase we’re using more and more with Rylan.

At 20 months Rylan is expressing frustrating and seeking attention through hitting. His teachers reassure me it is normal and so far he is responding well to discipline at school. There has only been one day where a teacher said he had more “calm your body” time outs than normal, and the next day he was much more gentle and cooperative. Currently, Rylan hits me more than he hits Mike, which drives me nuts. I also probably say no more often than Mike does and have a very low tolerance for tantrum-like outbursts.

I can usually anticipate what will trigger a hitting tantrum. Transitions from something Rylan likes to the next activity, even if he likes what is coming, triggers hitting at home and as of this weekend, in public. The worst! For example, if we need to end playing in the backyard for a bath, he will raise his arm and go to hit me when I pick him up. On Saturday he came with me to the car wash. He loved watching the cars and was happily eating snacks as my car was dried. When it was time for us to leave, he first threw his body onto the ground screaming. Then when I picked him up he proceeded to try and hit me. He was still swinging as I fastened him into his car seat! I was mortified and sad. Mainly, I wanted to turn around and tell everyone around me that he’s an incredibly well-behaved and happy dude.

My mom says I remind her a lot of herself as a mother of a toddler. She expected a great deal out of me, and I feel the same about Rylan. When he hits I am simply blown away. I can’t believe the same toddler who smiles 99% of the time can turn so quickly into those screaming kids I used to stare at in Target or a restaurant. I too find myself sometimes being the mother who is trying desperately to squeeze more applesauce out of the pouch before Ry’s world falls apart in the beauty aisle.

While hitting is a “normal” phase of toddlerhood, we’re unwilling to look the other way. I am about halfway through the book 1,2,3 Magic and need to get serious about trying the counting method it outlines. Hitting is an automatic “3” according to this philosophy…so multiple times on Saturday when Rylan hit I firmly told him “that’s a three” and we went into his room to calm down. His teachers also have us act very dramatic and say, “ouch!! That hurt mommy when you hit me. Is that a safe choice?” Depending on his mood, this reaction can make him very sad or he laughs at our antics. Ugh!!!!

But the biggest problem for me is consistency in public. He hit me in church on Easter and I just tried to have him keep it together since mass was almost over. I didn’t give him a “three count” and he wasn’t reprimanded. It was the same scenario at the carwash since we needed to get into the car and move out of the lane.

I am reassured by the fact that we are very mindful of his hitting already and that we’re being proactive now instead of in preschool or later when it can become a serious issue.

But my heart hurts every single time he hits.

Please let me know if you have any advice, tips or insights to share from the trenches. I appreciate it.

When Did…

When did Rylan become much more boy than baby?

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When did he learn to grab a hand and lead a person to exactly where he wants them to go? 

When did running replace walking? 

When did he start to sit in a regular chair and have a snack with me at coffee shops?

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When did he start truly enjoying the company of having his littlest pals over to play? 

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Of course I know the answers. It has happened little by little every day. But days and weeks are busy and this mama knows so much goes unseen when we are away at work five days a week. Let’s also be brutally honest. No matter how much I try to be 100% present at night after work or on the weekends, there are emails to be answered, dishwashers to be emptied and laundry to be folded. There are errands to run and the Instagram and Pinterest itches to be scratched. There are workouts to do and cleaning that never ends. I try to save all of these things (and so much more) for after he goes to bed. I try, I really do. And sometimes I succeed while many other days and nights I fail.

I also know he’s my first and I baby him way too much. “Can he eat that?” “Cut it smaller.” “Mama will carry you.” “He’s too little for that.” “Be careful, Ry!” I may give the poor little dude a safety complex.

But in March we had a tremendous amount of together time in Vail and then Florida, so these tiny changes that had built up over time became extremely evident to both Mike and me. In Florida I began to observe Rylan through a new lens. A lens with a little, unbelievably adorable toddler boy on the other side.

Sure, he needs help up and down stairs. And yes, I can still carry him everywhere and zip him into a sleep sack for bedtime.

But at times he prefers to walk or take the stairs “alone” with no help from mama/dada. I can ask him if he wants a cheese stick for a snack and he’ll answer yes or no. His vocabulary is popping like crazy and he tells me he wants to “dance dance” when he sees his CD player on the bookshelf.

It’s an incredible transformation. I am addicted to his curiosity, smile and even his moments of tantrums–because when he’s crying he is expressing his independence and trying so hard to make me understand why he wants/needs something. I cannot get enough of him.

When did it become possible for him to start growing up even faster than before?

Minor Miracle. I’m Reading Again

On New Year’s Day this year I made one formal resolution — to read again.

For nearly a year and a half Rylan was my excuse (and a damn good one) for being far to tired, busy and generally overwhelmed on a daily basis to read books other than toddler cookbooks and a random US Weekly Magazine.

Reading

As of March 26 I’ve successfully finished two fiction books for fun. No where in these books were tips for getting your toddler not to hit, or sneaking in spinach to smoothies. These books were all for me to relax and escape. It feels fantastic to reconnect with such a simple yet important habit.

First I read And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I absolutely loved it. The weaving of Afghan history through numerous, heart breaking stories kept me intrigued from start to finish. I cannot recommend this book enough.

This week while in Florida I was able to plow through the beach read Where’d You Go Bernadette. This one took me a bit to get hooked. But hooked I was by about a quarter of the way through and I really enjoyed the sassy, fast-paced story with its unexpected twists at the very end. It’s a great vacation or weekend read.

Next I’ve downloaded The Boston Girl and I hope to dive in over the weekend during one or two of Ry’s naps. Or at the very least, a few pages each night before bed. Reading, no matter how riveting the plot, is like NyQuil for me. Three pages and I cannot keep my eyes open!

If you have other recommendations I’d love for you to them! I’m determined to keep up a realistic but steady pace this year.

Fastest March Ever

The end of March is around the corner, officially making it the most “on crack fast” month of the year so far. We had a lot to look forward to this month, which naturally makes it fly by in the blink of an eye.

I rounded out my 2014/2015 ski season on day 18 (not bad for having a toddler!) in Vail at the beginning of the month. Then the second weekend of March I got to sneak away to the luxurious St. Julien Hotel & Spa in Boulder for a night with two dear college + mom friends. Our massages, quiet time sipping bubbles on the patio, shopping and a decadent moms-only dinner at Black Cat was just what each of us needed.

Then the very best part came…our week long Florida beach escape to Hutchinson Island with Mike’s parents and sister’s family.

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As a southern California girl I haven’t spent much time in Florida. The beaches and delicious seafood wildly exceeded my expectations and I took advantage of every moment. There were hours of sand castle building and chasing waves, reading and solo time while Rylan napped, afternoon Mai Tai’s and beers, good nights of sleep and quiet morning runs. Rylan ate lobster, clams, calamari, oysters and crab cakes like they were going out of style. I reconnected with my nieces and nephew during faux shark attack play times in the pool and beach walks for seashells. I cried when we left…always the sign of a good, unplugged trip. I can’t wait to share more pictures.

March has made me appreciate and reflect a lot. We’re healthy. And really lucky to be surrounded by friends who are like family. And speaking of family, I’m not sure anyone has two sets of parents, siblings and nieces/nephews as fun and endlessly generous as we do.

Simply perfect months are few and far between, but this has been one. I am clinging to the way my heart feels at this moment with all my might so I can tap back into it when future days or weeks are not so hot.

March 2015. One for the books.

Selfish Sanity

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Parenting strips away overall selfishness. From the moment your tiny human joins the world it’s never “all about you” ever again. However, I am 19 months into this parenting gig and have realized that I still carve out ways to be selfish. Why? Because it is these me-centric choices that some people try to make you feel guilty about that keep me sane, balanced and happy.

I think every mom (stay-at-home, working outside the home or some combination of the two) needs to feverishly protect her selfish sanity time…whether it is a few hours each month or a couple weekends per year. For me, that means:

  • Daily (or as close to it as possible) workouts
  • Skiing on weekends (Mike goes in the morning and I take the afternoon). This, I know, isn’t a forever reality once Rylan has weekend commitments like sports and friends that keep us in Denver most weekends
  • Not talking on the phone after Rylan goes to bed in order to spend time with Mike, watch trashy TV, catch up on work or just zone out on Pinterest. I cannot handle phone conversations after 7:30 p.m.
  • Tacking on a pedicure or quick mall trip to family errands, especially if Rylan is napping. I have a lot of guilt about not being home anytime during the weekend when Rylan is awake. But if he is napping, all bets are off.
  • At least one girls trip per year – be it overnight and close to home or somewhere that requires plane travel

I love Rylan and Mike more than anything, but to be the best mom and wife I know how to be, I have to wave the white flag from time to time. I still have and want to be Alexis. I feel recharged and recommitted to my family and work every time to steal away for a few moments of me time.

And to be fair, I have to remember to let Mike do the same. He still plays in his band and practices weekly. He snowboards most Saturday and Sunday mornings. He is going on a guys trip the first weekend of April from a Thursday to a Sunday. He golfs in the summer. These things make him a better dad and husband too.

Call me selfish. I don’t really care. It’s how we do things right now.

Celebrating Stella

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On Friday evening Mike, Rylan and I will travel home to California to celebrate the life of Grandma Stella, my dad’s mother. She passed away on Saturday surrounded, most importantly, by her son and four daughters.

Her 92 years were rich. Not with great material wealth, but with family, friends and one forever soulmate. I cannot even begin to imagine the happiness and joy that surrounded them when they were finally reunited in a world beyond ours.

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Grandma, her beloved Joe and all five kids!

Grandma Stella had a smile that shined across a room and stories that could go on for hours. Her ability to exude pure joy was effortless, and came in the form of hugs, pride in everything her family did and food–so many of my memories are wrapped up in her in the kitchen prepping our favorite Italian fare and eventually, her overseeing operations in the kitchen when her son, daughters and grandkids took over the heavy lifting.

Saying goodbye is never easy. I am thankful every day that I have not endured the loss of a parent, so I know our dad and aunts are feeling something completely different–and each grandchild and great grandchild is as well.

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Dad perfecting the secrets of her sauce

I am grateful she did not suffer for weeks after her fall. I feel blessed that my memories of her ravioli are so fresh that I can almost taste the ricotta. I will cherish the way she held Rylan as a baby as she told me how wonderful it is to be a mother and how no one will ever love your children more than you do. I feel lucky that Mike was a part of my life when she was and that he’ll understand why I’ll want to hold onto as many of our Anzalone family traditions that she helped shape while we can. I am grateful to have been one of her grandchildren.

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Meeting Rylan

While a funeral is never a reason anyone wants to travel, I know we will celebrate and honor her memory fully this weekend. Her grandchildren and great grandchildren will come from near and far–a gathering that she would have bragged about for weeks and weeks to anyone who would listen. We’ll look at pictures from black and white memories of her childhood in Massachusetts to just a few months ago during the holidays. There will be many tears but, I’m hopeful, double the laughs, smiles and tight hugs that she was famous for giving.

And the best part? She and Grandpa Joe will be watching it all. Taking it all in, bragging to anyone who will listen about their incredible family–the smartest, most successful and beautiful family there ever was.

Grandma and Rylan

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