Like most military spouses, my days are fairly jam-packed: career, a husband, a kid, two dogs and a house to manage. Since I work mostly from home, I don’t have a set schedule. Unlike a typical job with its start and end times and a few breaks in between, my workday starts around 6:00AM and I typically don’t ‘clock out’ until midnight. Breaks? Not so much.
I do have those blessedly delicious but altogether rare moments to myself, I like to spend my time reading. Yesterday, as I flipped through the latest edition of an innocuous women’s magazine, I started on an article about a Hollywood mom subtly bragging and boasting. When asked how she stays so thin and to outline her work out routine, she simply laughed (and I imagine tossed back her hair every so slightly, flashed a huge, expensive grin and responded), ‘Me! I hate working out! No, no, I just run after my toddler all day!’
I had to laugh and call false on said celebrity. In real life, this is more a typical exchange with a toddler.
Me: Yea, you’ve been awesome today. You can have a cookie.
Kid: (Takes one bite and drops it on the floor)
Me: Kid, don’t you want your cookie?
Kid: No! No cookie! (Runs away)
Me: (Rationalizing that I don’t want it to go to waste. Eats cookie. Repeats activity throughout the day until I’ve cosumed at least 500 ‘don’t want it to go to waste’ calories).
Adding to this guilt, when my husband comes home it is typical for him to launch into his work out, ahem, PT schedule of the day. There’s always something ‘amazing’ that he and his fellow Marines performed. When we were first married, I would smile and nod. After a year or so of this, I started to get irritated with his glee for PT. And by the time we had kids, well, I was just envious. Having not had any time to myself in nearly two years, the thought of doing something for me, even something I usually hate like exercise seemed like a totally foreign and enticing idea.
In honor of all us military spouses who go through the same vicious cycle of guilt, and because May is National Fitness Month, I decided to present a different kind of ‘get healthy’ list. Instead of launching into a myriad statistics why working out is awesome and good for you, I’ll lay out five negatives and flip them into positives on why being a military spouse gives us a leg up in the work out game.
1. SPOUSE WORKS OUT FOR A LIVING
Con: Living with my husband is like living with a male Jillian Michaels.He’s always on the go, he’s always working out, and he’s always eating healthy (unless I bring home some ice cream in which he’ll consume the entire quart in one sitting. I’ve been known to do this because his zest for health and exercise can get annoying and this is a little evil glee I do to remind myself that he’s not perfect- even if he is close). I’m fairly certain that there isn’t anything that he can’t do in terms of exercise and that is slightly intimidating. I mean, if someone asked him to run a marathon the following day, he would do it without issue. Pretty much every couple’s work out we have done together has ended quickly with me in tears and searching for the nearest glass of wine/hunk of cheese. In a sense, working out with my husband is like doing math homework with my dad when I was a kid: no one wins and it inevitably devolves into a mess of tears, (mine), blame (mine), stubbornness (mine) and frustration (both of us).
Pro: Personal trainers are expensive and my husband is cheap. Pretty much all I have to do is smile when he gets home, rustle a little something together for dinner and let him watch all the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ he wishes in terms of payment. Instead of devolving into tears, I will let him show me that latest fitness move, I will agree to up my weights, and I will let his zest for fitness rub off on me. He’ll be happy and I’ll be, well, hopefully a little more in shape.
2. ON BASE GYMS
Con: I can think of few things more intimidating than the on base gym: pretty much everyone looks like they belong on the cover of Fitness Magazine and there are quite a few really heavy weights machines that scream, ‘if you try this, you’re definitely going to dislocate your neck and be the talk of base for the next few months.’ In addition, grabbing a treadmill next to a guy that looks like he just ran an Ironman is daunting, to say the least. For these reasons, I have been known to avoid the on base gym for less threatening locations, like my couch during a ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ marathon.
Pro: Forget wasting money on pricey gyms, on base gyms are mostly free of charge. This May, instead of comparing yourself to every Adonis or Adonette in the gym, use it as motivation to succeed. Remember, at some point, every military member you see in that gym went through a form of boot camp. And I’m certain that every single one of them struggled in some capacity. Keep an eye on the exercises some of your ‘model’ gym goers are performing and see if you can’t incorporate that into your own work out. The only way to start working out is to actually start.
Con: The last time we tried to work out together, I had signed up for one of those ridiculously difficult marathon/endurance courses where you get muddy and get electrocuted (or something, it just seemed intense). On our first day of training, I gave up five minutes in because I didn’t have the right ‘work out’ gear. Later that day I went to the store and bought some really cute attire for motivation. I never actually trained again for the race because in my head the work out gear would perform some sort of osmosis magic and I’d just get skinny wearing the outfit for every day chores. On the downside, the only thing that actually got skinny was my bank account after purchasing the pricy gear.
Pro: Hello instant work out gear! There’s really no need for me to buy the obligatory work out tees, because we have SO many at home. Bonus, the shirts that are dedicated to his unit actually make me feel kind of cool-especially when working out in a civilian gym. It gives me a little pep in my step, like a magical shirt that whispers to me, you can do it-do it for the MARINES! So when all those decked out girls in their teeny, tiny gym uniforms pounce past, or the beefy gym rats saunter by in their expensive work out gear, I can stand a little straighter on my elliptical. Oh, you’re wearing a $100 perfectly matched tank top? Well, ‘SEMPER FI, layyydeeees.’ See? Cooler. So pull out those Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard tees and get to work! You’ll soon be hearing those cadences in your sleep.
Cons: The title of Military Spouse comes with more than just a pride ones significant other, it’s a giant juggling act. Most military spouses are spinning multiple plates and titles in the air at any given time, so trying to find the time to work out isn’t usually on our top list of priorities. By day’s end, all I can typically think about is heading to bed for at least a few hours of uninterrupted sleep in order to wake up yet again and do it over.
Pro: Having a full schedule can actually be a motivator and not a de-motivator in terms of working out. Following a strict schedule doesn’t have to equal stress, instead it can be a great pathway toward organization, healthy self and less stress. Sit down and make up a weekly chart of all the activities occurring in the upcoming week and find those moments that exist for just you. I know that I find myself complaining about how little time I have in my schedule for myself, but that’s because I’m just not making the time. Writing down every single task to accomplish that week will give you a nice overview of those spare half hours where you focus on numero uno for a bit. They say exercise is a de-stressor, try it for the month of May. Don’t think of it as scheduling exercise, think of it as ‘me’ time. After all, with so many plates juggling in the air, a tired, stressed out individual is more likely to drop a few than someone who takes a few moments to make certain that they’re doing OK.
Con: Let’s face it, on base housing isn’t exactly the Taj Mahal and BAH won’t exactly afford you a Penthouse suite. Between furniture and toys and all the other accoutrement that goes into our home, it can be difficult to get in exercise when all you can see are the shelves that need to be dusted, the food that needs to be made, the jobs left undone. Instead of getting out and hitting up the gym, going for a walk or heck, even throwing in a DVD, I’ll find any number of chores that need to be completed in my house before I can take the time to work out. Gettting out and meeting people? Who has time!? On top of that, it always seems like our neighnors can peer in and see our every move. Considering I look less like a sexy Latin dancer and more like an uncoordinated jellyfish when I do Zumba, the last thing I want is for any nosy neighbors to spy on me during my work out.
Pro: Flip it and take advantage of the smaller house living and proximity to neighbors. When I first married and was looking at on base housing, I remarked to my husband that it was kind of neat that all the houses were close to one another, yards touching, individuals all roughly the same age and in similar points in life. It reminded me of college the way that everyone lived and worked and studied in the same area. It’s likely that there are others in your position just itching to find that time to work out. As the weather turns nicer in May, get out and find neighbors that would be interested in taking walks around base, exploring new paths and roads. Many fitness experts suggest finding a work out buddy to motivate one another, and on or around base there are sure to be others in your position. Don’t think of it as exercise, think of it as taking the time to meet a new friend. When two or three people go through arduous tasks together, it can be a shining moment of honesty, friendship, and heck, even a little bit of therapy. Some day, we’ll likely all be living far from a base and we’ll miss those moments when the next great friendship and motivator was likely right next door.
Enjoy Fitness month, MilSpouses! Get out there and get to it! After all, June is National Bathing Suit Month* and what a better way to celebrate than in your new, bathing suit ready bod!
(*I made that up, June is actually National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month and National Bathroom Reading Month, but that didn’t really fit with my story. That’s a little tricky to make a cohesive segue).