In our September “Dr. Mom Knows Best” feature, internist Katherine Chretien, M.D., offered smart advice on making a nutritious dinner in a pinch, the #1 thing you can do for your health and more. For this guest post, Dr. Chretien reveals what inspires her to exercise. And it’s probably not what you think.
I lost my regular exercise motivation for the same reason I lost the will to wash and blow-dry my hair every day: pregnancy. Was it the fatigue or the mobility of a beached whale? I’m not sure I’ll ever know. But I do know that my once-regular habit of exercising several times a week went missing and I didn’t go looking for it.
Meanwhile, my husband, also a doctor, is a bit of the overachiever when it comes to exercise. He’s run many marathons and even competed in a couple of IRONMAN triathlons (that’s code for races for the insane). He had been trying to get me back into some kind of regular exercise for years. Not because I let myself go—at least I hope not—but because he felt it was important for my health. After all, he would be the one pushing me around in a wheelchair someday. I agreed in theory, but when, pray tell, would I exercise in between caring for all these kids and working? The whole idea sounded unpleasant, if not impossible.
Then one day, I came across research that showed people who engaged in regular exercise were less likely to develop dementia. As an internist who takes care of hospitalized patients, many of whom are elderly, I am terrified of developing dementia and not knowing where I am, who I am or what decade I’m living in. Sure, there are sweet-as-pie patients with dementia, “pleasantly confused,” as they are often described. But there are also mean ones who try to take out the staff with cans of Ensure, as if they’re at a booth at a county fair. If exercise can stave off dementia, please pass my sneakers.
So, I decided it was time to get back into the exercise habit. I started S-L-O-W, riding the recumbent bike at the gym while reading guilty pleasure celebrity magazines a few times a week. I didn’t sweat a single drop, mind you, but it felt somewhat nice to be moving with purpose. I further motivated myself by purchasing a few cute new workout outfits to replace the tent-like leftover maternity yoga tops I had been wearing.
It’s been a couple of months now, and I’ve progressed to running a few miles a few times a week. Don’t get me wrong: an elderly person using a walker might lap me, but I’m sweating now and getting a serious workout. It feels GREAT. I’m making time for it and hoping this habit sticks (and dementia doesn’t). The added benefits of a healthy heart and stress reduction are nice bonuses. More importantly, I feel like I’m making regular deposits in the long-term investment that is me. Body and mind.
Need motivation to get exercising again? Visit a local nursing home. It worked for me.
How do you keep yourself motivated to work out? Post a comment and let me know!
Katherine Chretien, M.D., is an internist, mother of three and associate professor of medicine at George Washington University. She is editor/founder of the group blog, Mothers in Medicine (www.mothersinmedicine.com) and runs very slowly.