Making Time for Exercise

Making Time for Exercise Bipolar Mom Life{photo by my kids}

This is the fourth post of a 12-week series on How I Learned to Manage My Bipolar Illness by Cultivating a Healthy Lifestyle.

Growing up, I was never much of an athlete. Sure, I took dance classes since age eight, and swam on the swim team in the summers. But I could never stretch as far or jump as high as my dancer friends, nor swim fast enough to win first or second place in swim meets. Still, my love of being part of a team led me to meet some of my closest and dearest friends during college when I joined the club water polo team. I may have only scored one or two goals during my entire four years of playing, but I scored big time with the friendships I made through the sport.

Active, but not committed

Despite an active lifestyle for much of my childhood and early adulthood, I never pushed my body to truly discover what it was capable of. The closest I came to this was my junior year of college when I added a weightlifting routine to my water polo practice schedule following the advice of our coach. That year I was in the best shape of my life, but I got bored easily and gave up on the weight training during the spring semester.

Before my bipolar illness emerged, I was putting in long hours at the office, but I’d still make time for the gym. My husband and I belonged to a Gold’s Gym right across the street from our townhouse, and we’d go together five to six times a week. The time I’d log on the elliptical machine kept me in decent shape, but I always felt like dragging myself to the gym was such a chore. I didn’t look forward to it, I felt self-conscious, and when we moved we didn’t rush to join another gym. In fact, we bought an elliptical machine to put in our basement so we’d have the convenience of working out at home.

I attended my first yoga class at that Gold’s Gym, the week after I was released from my first psychiatric hospitalization. Yoga was exactly what I needed at that moment. Yoga calmed me, taught me how to breathe, and how to appreciate the struggles of my life.

Fitness took a back-burner when babies arrived

When I got pregnant in 2008, I used pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted. I gained 43 pounds during my first pregnancy and on my small frame it was a lot for me to carry. The elliptical machine definitely was worth the investment, although it took me an entire year to lose the baby weight. I was more conscious of my eating during my second pregnancy in 2010, and took a prenatal pilates class. I made healthier choices, gained only 23 pounds, and had a much easier time recovering from my repeat C-section.

In 2012, I became a vegetarian for about six months. I changed my eating habits and committed to an intense workout program, which jumpstarted my journey to a healthier lifestyle. Beachbody’s P90x program was exactly what I needed to understand what my body was capable of.

Realizing my potential

Since then, I’ve purchased several Beachbody home workout programs and have to say that I am a huge fan. They allow me to work out at home, whenever I can fit it into my schedule (which, with two kids on opposite school schedules, is a major benefit). Beachbody as a whole has moved almost all their programs to 30-minute workouts (or less! Shaun T has a 25-min workout), which makes their programs so attractive. For beginners, they always have a modification on the exercises in the videos, so if you are just starting out you follow the modifier until you’re strong enough to do the full exercise.

Exercise is now an important part of my treatment plan because it allows me to de-stress, unwind, and feel a sense of accomplishment for taking care of my body. Here are some tips for making exercise a priority in your daily life:

  • Write it down – schedule it on your calendar each day so that you don’t reach 9pm and realize you forgot to exercise
  • Set a goal – sign up for a 5k (or an 8k on the same day Annie runs her first half-marathon!) to give yourself something to work towards
  • Workout with a friend – set a date to walk with a friend or try out a new yoga or cycling class

I think it’s important to find a type of exercise that you enjoy, so that you don’t dread doing it. There are so many ways to get active: at-home workout DVD’s, walking, yoga, cycling classes, pilates, swimming, and more. Find what you love and then go for it!

Playground confessions

4036587818_808fece881_bBrandon Christopher Warren via Compfight cc

I don’t know what it is about me that makes me want to tell people my life story when I first meet them. Sometimes I wonder why I’m so open, why I wear my emotions on my sleeve, why I have such a strong sense of trust in people I may have just met.

Why do I think my life is so important that everyone I meet needs to know about it?

Take yesterday afternoon for example. Vivian woke up from her nap a complete disaster, so upset that I dared come in her room to get her before she had fully woken up. After fifteen minutes of a terrible-two’s-almost-three tantrum, I was finally able to calm her down and convince both kids to let me push them in the double stroller to the playground.

Let’s talk about who got the better deal here for a moment. They got to enjoy a tasty snack of a cherry-vanilla cereal bar and a generous handful of sweet red grapes, along with a beverage of chilled water fresh from the fridge in their water bottles filled to the brim by yours truly, while I had the luxury of pushing them for thirty minutes in 85-degree, muggy heat to the playground.

I was happy to do it though. I’ve made a commitment to myself to be more active in September (and beyond, but I’m taking it one month at a time). My new therapist says I need to schedule self-care into my day or else I will end up neglecting myself and I know this is true. I’ve felt it lately. I can definitely tell a difference in my mood, my parenting, and my overall enjoyment in life when I take time to do things for myself each day.

So pushing the kids to the playground and back home is my way of having some time for myself (great exercise and fresh air) while also allowing them to burn off some energy.

The bonus was meeting a really cool mom and her two kids who were the only other people there when we arrived.

I didn’t expect to strike up a conversation with her. When we got there… [Read more…]

Running with the Wind


Yesterday I reluctantly pulled on my running shoes, tied them up, and left my husband with the kids for a thirty minute jog. My mind was telling me to just skip it, given that the temperature had plummeted from seventy degrees earlier in the day to forty-five at 7pm when I finally made it out the front door. But it felt good to be moving after all the sugar and heavy food from Easter Sunday.

My phone provided music while I trotted along, my legs still sore from my first jog of the spring two days before. Now that the weather is changing I just want to be outside again. Too much time passed without us being able to go out due to snow, rain, or plain frigid temperatures. The air smells different when spring emerges. Trees and flowers perfume the breeze, along with the fresh mulch that neighbors spread to make everything look fresh. My favorite is the scent of hyacinth at this time of year. I slowed my pace when I ran past a house seemingly anchored in them, taking in the heady fragrance.

The wind was fierce, slapping my face with its icy coldness. But the extra oxygen I sucked in from the air flowing at me propelled me forward and it was as if I ran faster. My bad knee held out thanks to the patella strap I had pulled tight around my knee cap. The rest of my body got a thrill from being on my old route. I didn’t do the whole loop, but it was enough to remind me of last year’s jogging nights. Made me long for the strength I felt back then when I was running almost every day. I’ll get there. One step at a time.

Yesterday my second post for’s Word of Mom Blog went live. Please head over and check it out if you have time! :)

Exercise – finding the right balance

Living with bipolar disorder I find that I constantly have to find a balance with everything. From my diet to my sleep to the amount of exercise I get on a daily basis, all these things affect my mood and have to be carefully monitored to keep me “in the middle” as my Dad describes it. I’m like my own personal see-saw, and the goal each day is to make sure that it stays as close to horizontal as possible.

In a future post I’ll get into sleep, but for this one I wanted to focus on exercise because it is at the forefront of my mind lately. I decided that I wanted to lose my squishy mid-section – leftover from having two bouncing babies who grew inside me – and in order to do it I thought I’d train to run a 5k. I’ve never been very good at running, but it seems like such a great exercise to do when trying to lose a little bit of weight. Also, I felt it would be a good goal to say that I accomplished.

I recruited one of my best friends to join me and I began training using an online training tracking website called It is so motivating for me to use the site to track my progress and so far I’ve done a really good job of keeping up with the program I found online: The Cool Running Couch-to-5-k training program. You basically jog/walk on increasing intervals for six weeks until week seven when you’re jogging 2.5 miles at a time. I am really excited about it.

This morning during my jog/walk, I realized that it felt really good and that when my timer beeped that the two minutes were up and it was time to walk, I felt as though I could actually continue jogging. Pretty good sign, right? Hopefully the program will work for me and I’ll be able to jog the entire 3.1 miles for the race in October.

What I need to be careful about with exercise is that sometimes it can catapult me into a hypomanic state. I’ve discussed it with my psychiatrist and we came up with techniques to help me recognize the mood lift and how to make sure it doesn’t go too high that it leads to mania. For me I have found that sticking to about 30-45 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, done in the morning or early afternoon, is the best way for me to keep my mood at a good level. When I exercise I feel strong and it also helps me to watch my diet more closely because after putting in all that effort to burn calories, I usually don’t want to negate it then.

Yoga and pilates have also been other forms of exercise which I have enjoyed tremendously. When I was first diagnosed and was having trouble sleeping, my parents gave me a yoga DVD for Christmas that year. It’s called zYoga and was a tremendous help to me in dealing with my insomnia. The woman in the video is so calming and has such a relaxing voice, it became a wonderful sleep ritual for me. I practiced prenatal pilates when I was pregnant with my daughter last year and I truly believe that the class helped me to recover so quickly and easily from childbirth that I would recommend it to any pregnant woman looking for a prental exercise class. It became more and more challenging as the weeks went on, but I found that I gained only 24 pounds with that pregnancy compared to the 43 I gained with my first pregnancy when I did not exercise.

There have been numerous studies on the benefits of exercise for people struggling with mood disorders. If you can find even ten or fifteen minutes a day to walk outside, I am sure that you will quickly feel the benefits and will continue to notice them if you commit to it.

Given today’s busy lifestyles, how do you find time to exercise on a daily or weekly basis? Do you think it helps you to manage your moods?