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How to Love Exercise

I used to feel selfish for unrolling my yoga mat and doing 20 minutes of core work, with the children playing around me. Sometimes, I still do. Mostly, I know I'm a better mother for taking care of myself -- my own needs, my own body, my own mind.
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My body holds my tension from yesterday, unless I unravel it through movement.

I charge myself each morning by moving, whether for five minutes as the kids play, and we perform our morning getting-ready-for-the-day rituals, or for closer to 60, if the baby naps and I'm able.

My dad asked me yesterday about my sequence of exercise; for example, do I practice yoga after I lift weights? I told him that I don't, currently, have the luxury of so much planning.

Instead, I might place my mat on the carpet, next to my daughters' two tinier sticky mats; where we'll "play" through some vinyasa yoga sequences or Pilates movements. Other moments, I hastily grab a few free weights, from where they've frequently been stashed in my bedroom -- much to my husband's annoyance as he tries to open the closet door quickly before work. I press out a few shoulder sets as the kids and I watch Signing Time on Netflix.

And then there are the mornings, like this one -- grey and overcast, with snow barely covering the still-green grass. The baby is in her crib, not yet sure if she wants to fall asleep. (I watch her breathing become deeper on the video monitor, but then she moves, and sits up and starts talking.)

I have my cheap little TENS unit on my back as I write this, preparing my spine and cranky back muscles for, what I'm hoping, will be at least a 30-minute yoga practice.

My oldest daughter is at school, but only for a few short hours in the morning. (I'm grateful for this -- I love having her home with me, but she loves school too.)

For me, moving my body isn't something I have to force. I mean, from time to time it is, but generally it's a highlight of my day. More, as a stay-at-home mother, it's something I do just for me.

I love the sensations of tracing my breaths along with the movements of my body, as it flows and shifts through postures, or as I inhale and exhale intentionally while strength training.

I used to feel selfish for unrolling my yoga mat and doing 20 minutes of core work, with the children playing around me. Sometimes, I still do. Mostly, I know I'm a better mother for taking care of myself -- my own needs, my own body, my own mind.

Exercise is a mood-buster, when the skies are grey and my temperament follows suit.

I feel the tightness from yesterday, that I carried into today, in my shoulders or jaw, from holding my mouth shut in an effort to not yell at my daughters when I'm intensely frustrated by their little-girl shenanigans.

I feel the emotion lodged behind my heart, where it catches in my shoulder blade, from stifled sobs at watching them grow up faster than I want.

I do cry sometimes -- not often, but I do; I yell sometimes -- more than I wish I did -- and each day I leave behind the one before, as much as I humanly can, through moving myself, and making space within my body.

I make space for new opportunities in a new day.

I'm grateful for my love of exercise and I'm even more thankful that I finally understand balance. After years and years of over-exercising, I accept that I love it perhaps more than the average person, but that life isn't meant to revolve around working out either.

I told my dad that I workout because I like it, but that I'm conscientious that what I'm doing is functional, for me and for my life.

I told him I do leg weights and hold Warrior poses and boat poses and planks, because I want to run after my kids and have kitchen dance parties. I do shoulder weights so that I can pick them up.

I stopped working out to look good in a bikini the day my daughter was born, and that's the real secret.

We want to guilt our bodies, shame our hearts, or trouble our brains, and force ourselves to move. I decided I'm not willing to hate my body, or over-train it anymore, simply to look a certain way at 30-something.

The baby didn't nap. I picked her up from her crib as she smiled into my eyes. We bundled her up and went to meet her sister at the bus, at the edge of our stone driveway.

Inside, I put off making lunch, and I unrolled my sticky mat. I didn't change clothes. Rather, I tossed my jeans and socks to the side and moved and breathed through a backbending sequence. The baby giggled at me from her swing and my oldest decompressed to another episode of Signing Time.

I felt a tinge of guilt in my mommy heart for taking this time for myself. The guilt unraveled and released, along with my back muscles.

I want to create a lifelong love affair with my body, and with myself. I want to show my daughters what it's like to be in love with ourselves, and not unnecessarily battling for a fickle societal standard.

If we want to love exercising our bodies, then we have to find enjoyment in moving for our souls.