The Moving Crew

Excuse Me, but Having Kids Is No Excuse

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Tuesday, November 7, 2006

One thing we often hear from parents is that they lack the time to exercise. I find this curious: As a youth, I gave my parents hourly opportunities for exercise -- diving to catch falling lamps, for example, hoisting the bureau off my little sister and yanking me from the jaws of one self-inflicted disaster after another.

But I guess times have changed, which is one reason Cathy Moxley, an exercise physiologist and motivational coach, has written "The Busy Mom's Ultimate Fitness Guide" (Fitness InSight, 2006). "Great," you're thinking. "No time to exercise, and you're telling me to find time to read a book on finding time to exercise." Well, yes. From a strictly informational standpoint, Moxley doesn't offer much new -- let's be honest, this is fitness we're discussing, not nanotechnology -- but she does a nice job of providing perspective and motivation within the context of reality parenting.

She's not telling you that you'll have a brand-new body in five weeks or buns of titanium after just four seconds a day. With three kids of her own, she coaches moms to work around the challenges. For example, she suggests "mini-exercise options," such as doing 20 minutes of treadmill and a few crunches instead of your typical 75-minute routine, on particularly crazed days.

Echoing a steadfast plank of the Moving Crew platform, Moxley writes that a consistent habit, regardless of the length or intensity of the workouts, is "the most important part of exercise." Her book is a guide to changing one's mind-set so that exercise become part of even the most harried life.

Moxley lists common cries of the sedentary -- no time for exercise, too tired, boring, don't need it, bum knee -- then cheerfully dismantles those excuses with familiar but important points: Make exercise a priority and you'll find the time; activity boosts energy; make it fun, etc.

Like many nouveau fitno-preachers, Moxley can be almost too gentle -- for example, by instructing the sedentary to launch their fitness journey with "pre-contemplation." But that same compassion works well in helping readers through the inevitable setbacks of the fitness struggle: Treat yourself as you would a friend during a rough patch. Instead of self-abasement, give yourself consolation, encouragement and another chance to succeed.

Moxley only occasionally defaults to nerdy kinesiology, and when she does, she uses the science to make valid points, such as explaining how regular exercise over the years trains your body to release fat from cells.

The book offers a speedometer approach to fitness progression, starting with the "I'm not going to change into exercise clothes" plan, where moms are nudged to simply accumulate an extra 30 minutes of activity every day, and accelerating through the beginner, intermediate and advanced stages. And readers can turn to almost any page and derive some benefit without having to thumb back through the whole section for context.

The endgame: Parents should stay fit, using this book or other tools, both for their own good and to keep their reaction time sharp to yank their kids from the jaws of death.

-- John Briley

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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