5 lessons homeschooling has taught me about exercise

A couple of weeks ago, I started exercising again. I hate even typing that sentence because it means that, even after getting into relatively good shape and running a 10k for the first time, it should be clear that I must have quit exercising if I had to “start up” again. And while I didn’t really “quit”—-I had a lingering, mystery virus that derailed me—-it sure felt like I was starting from the bottom when I finally laced up my running shoes again and hit the road.


Another time I had “started running” (again).


I’ve lived this pattern most of my adult life: 1. Get motivated. 2. Exercise like crazy (and tell everyone I know all about it until they are ready to scream or unfriend me). 3. Get hurt/sick/busy enough to get derailed for  a week/month/year. 4. Feel bad about myself until I circle around to #1 again.

But one thing that hit me as I was again circling around to  #1 in my “Stages of Fitness”, was how much my experience homeschooling has helped me deal with these relatively small setbacks. Yes, this teacher has been schooled.  Keep reading if you want to know what lessons I’ve learned to take to heart.

1. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

This is an often-shared piece of advice in homeschooling circles. It helps those of us who start panicking over the progress (or lack thereof) our kids are making in any given subject by reminding us to step back and look at the big picture. I daresay that most homeschooling parents would say that they are more interested in raising curious, intelligent, and literate children, and not just trying to have kids who are on lesson 45 of their grammar book by February 1st.

I love how this advice applies to fitness and exercise. My ultimate goal is to live a long, healthy, active life, not just fit into my “skinny jeans” or even finish another 10k, right? In the grand scheme of things, getting derailed from any exercise program for a bit of time isn’t the end of the world–just pick up and keep on going. This long-term goal keeps me from acting like a missed workout is the end of the world.


Another goal? Being fit enough to swim away from sand sharks.

2. Get the hard stuff done early.

I’ve learned that if we don’t do our hardest subject (math) first thing in the morning, it looms over our heads like a gloomy (math) cloud. And then, by the time we get to tackling it (math), we’re all tired, cranky, and that one subject (math) take about five times longer than it should.

For me, at least, the same can be said for running. It is much, MUCH better for me to get up and run out the front door before I do anything else (OK, sometimes I do need a sip of coffee first).


Getting out early also means running by this before the tourists are out.

The same goes for my 30-Day Shred days: I’d pop on that Jillian Michaels’ video before the kids were even out of bed, get it done in under a half hour, and then collapse in front of my laptop feeling a wee bit smug that I was “done” for the day.

3. Pick a curriculum that works (for you).

I will never reveal how much curriculum I’ve purchased because someone else raved about it, only to then resell the barely touched books because it just isn’t right for us. It’s just too embarrassing and makes me look a bit gullible and indecisive. But, when a friend tells me about a great curriculum they are using for spelling (a subject we’ve been pathetic at covering), it’s easy for me to overlook the fussy manipulatives, the multi-step daily instructions, and the steep learning curve in an effort to just “get something that works”. But it doesn’t work if it just sits on the bookshelf, does it?

I was reminded that I need to be wary of “hot trends” in exercise too, especially when all the warning bells should be ringing: This Isn’t Right For Me (e.g.,  Zumba). I just stopped myself from purchasing P90X (but look how pretty their bodies look!) when I realized that I’d never, ever push myself that hard for a six-pack. Never.

4. Grades are just one measure of success.

We don’t “do” formal grading, though I obviously check the kids work and, when pressed by them, will give them a letter grade. But, even if they were in school, I’m sure I’d be telling them that it isn’t only about the grade. It’s about effort, and enthusiasm, and retention.

I don’t get graded for running (thank goodness!) or situps (ditto!), though I’d say that any time I step on that cursed scale, I feel like I’m giving myself a grade. I lost 3 pounds? A+!!! Gained 5? FAIL!

I’d never let my kids feel like their intelligence is all about a letter grade. And I’m not going to let my fitness progress be defined by a number on a scale, or the size jeans I’m wearing, or even how many sit ups I can do.

5.  If everyone is crying, I’m doing something wrong.

I admit to posting Facebook updates that read something like, “If one more kid cries over their math workbook, I’m going to call the public school in the morning!” Teaching my own kids subjects like history, science, and math can be, simply, Not Fun At All.

BUT, I don’t homeschool to have sullen, miserable kids around me all day long. I want to have fun with them.  I want to see them light up when they learn something new, or we do a fun experiment or project. I want to give them breaks to play, pet the dog, or just run around the house.

That’s why I run/walk. For me, running nonstop is torture on my asthmatic lungs and my knobby knees. But running with walk breaks is just more fun for me. It gives me time to catch my breath and look around outside. It allows me to run longer and farther which feels like a victory to me. It keeps me from crying, sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively.


See? Smiling, because I know I’ll be walking in 3 minutes.


And it also gets me to a certain level of fitness that allows me to then go for a long bike ride with the family in Acadia National Park, or scooter down the street with my son, or even kick my girls’ butts in a Just Dance dance-off in our family room.

No pain, no gain? Yeah, I’m with this to some degree. But if that also means “no fun”, I won’t be sticking with it for long.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to start homeschooling this morning. Maybe that’s another lesson I’ve learned that I can apply to exercise: Step away from the computer if you really want to get stuff done.

ScreenShot2012-09-27at74056AM I’ve partnered with Harvard Pilgrim on this sponsored post (and others to come!), though the thoughts, opinions, and advice expressed are my very own. Want to find even more ways to be well? Check out HarvardPilgrim.org/CountUsIn. 

Getting a Colonoscopy, again

You never forget your first time.

Five years ago, I had my very first colonoscopy.

And it was so much fun, I had another one last week. Well. . .actually, I was just due. And since last time they found an “irregular” polyp, I wasn’t about to ignore this date.

This time around though, my prep was different. Instead of guzzling a gallon of the disgusting, salty-sweet HalfLytely, I “only” had to take a couple of pills, along with two Gatorades mixed with an entire bottle of MiraLax powder. Yes, an entire bottle—that would normally last me years—guzzled down in an hour.

You can imagine what happened next. I’ll just go on the record to say that you should not drink blue Gatorade unless you want to think “swamp” every time you go to the bathroom.

And while the Gatorade was MUCH more pleasant a drink, this prep actually took a lot longer to work its way through me. Five years ago, I was “empty” and sleeping by 10:30. This time, I was asleep by 10:30, but up again at 1am for an hour as I was apparently not “finished”.

So, yeah. . .much, much more tired in the morning.

The good news is that the procedure itself was as painless and non-eventful as possible. The only thing notable was my doctor who started ranted about women’s rights over their own bodies, and the men who try to force their will on women. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t hallucinating any of this, though I do think it a bit ironic that he was saying this right before he shoved a camera up my backside.

The good news? As Katie Couric says, I was “clean as a whistle”–no polyps or anything of concern. Just come back in five years! And this time, no blue Gatorade.


For those new to this blog, you may wonder why I am telling you about such a personal medical procedure. My father died of colorectal cancer at the age of 63 after a long, painful battle. Since he isn’t here to tell you this, I will: Please, if you have any reason to suspect an issue, get a colonoscopy. If you are 50 years or older (or younger, if you have a family history), get a colonoscopy. If your parents have never had one, please urge them to get a colonoscopy (or get another one if it’s been five years since their last one).  If you aren’t sure, go and read this post which should give you a general idea of what to expect.

50 Shades of Tan

Twice a year, I get naked and stand in front of a man who looks over every inch of me. And then I wait for the scolding. I’ve been a bad, bad girl.

I have a tan.

Whenever he starts to tsk over the color of my skin, I remind him that I’m probably one of the few people who actually keeps an August dermatology appointment. And I silently think, “Listen Mister: You could use a little color on that pasty-white skin of yours.” Though I don’t say that out loud. He has access to a scalpel.

I’m not one of those tanaholics who can’t wait to get out to fry in the sun, and my sunscreen doesn’t fall below SPF 30, (and my “tan” would make many of you laugh at its meekness), but I still see my color darken as the summer goes on no matter how often I reapply the block. And I am well aware that years and years of SPF 4 and “burn then peel” tanning was not in my long-term best interest.

In other words: I do not love the affects of the sun nearly as much as I did in my 20’s.

Do you remember those photos they’d show with a smiling woman’s face, “before” and “after” years of sun damage? Her “before” face would be clear and shiny . Her “after” face would be covered in brown freckles and patches.


Freckle beard just visible on one side. Cute boy on other side.

I am the “after” face now. For the past two years, as soon as I start getting in the summer’s sun, I get a huge “beard” of freckles across my cheeks and across my chin. Nothing, nothing makes me feel so old as those freckles and age spots. Well what would happen if I entered a bounce house runs a close second. But we won’t go into that right now.

So when my kids complain at how much sunscreen I lather onto their skinny little bodies—when my oldest begs me not to make her “white” with zinc oxide—when they screech at sand mixed into the sunscreen that I’m trying to spread across their feet: I show them my freckly face and say,

Heed My Warning. Beware the freckle beard.

 Something tells me they aren’t finding this nearly as scary as I am.