Staying in shape (I use that term loosely) is getting way harder than it used to be and I’m blaming my age. And my kids. Everything but myself and my eating habits. Before I married Favorite Farmer, it was easy. I would just run to the YMCA for my daily cardio/strengthening workout and take whatever time I needed to get my sweat on, whether it was to give myself a pick-me-up, fit into that dress for my bestie’s wedding or just try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who obsess over working out (running is pretty much my version of the Bad Place) but I’ve always played sports and enjoy being somewhat physical. After I got married, I burned enough calories chasing cows around on foot and walking miles along the fence lines, that I didn’t worry about my waistline too much. 

Then we had a kid and while I still did the above, it was at a much slower pace because I had a littler person who had to keep up with me but at the end of the day I could just strap him in the stroller and head out for my miles-long speed walk to make up for whatever pace I had lost. Then we had three kids which made it virtually impossible…and now there are four.

Anything that remotely resembles a speed walk has gone so far out the window there’s no sign of it anywhere. I can only walk as fast as the slowest kid is biking or walking, which is not fast when you find things to stop and look at every six feet, and you can only get a quarter-mile from the house without some kind of dramatic meltdown (usually my own). I try to use the Elliptical we have stashed in the guest room but that usually lasts about ten minutes before some three-alarm-catastrophe needs my attention. Between a nursing infant who has absolutely no feeding schedule (except the one where she eats when she wants, however much she wants, and not a moment too late), three other kids who seem to have bottomless stomachs, and a husband who only has 30 minutes to slam the food down before heading back out to check cows or avert some other calving fiasco (thank goodness he really likes sandwiches), I usually just eat whatever is left over; then dig into whatever brownies, cookies or other treat I somehow find the time to bake, feeling even better about stuffing my face with them if they include oatmeal or peanut butter.

Times have changed but I still do whatever I can to find ways to work up a sweat, both intentionally and just by design of my current life station. When I give the heifers their five-gallon buckets full of grain and treats, I use them as weights and do bicep curls and shoulder raises. When I pitch the hay in along the bunk line, I do it left-handed until I get half way down, then turn around so I can use all the muscles on my right side. Then there’s the 20-pound five-month-old that is strapped to my chest every time I step out of the house. I doubt I could beat anyone in a mile race right now but I’m really good at doing one-legged squats with a child in one arm and the laundry basket in the other, in order to pick up a dropped sock. Actually, if that mile-race involved running across thigh-high drifts of snow to extricate a three-year-old from a face-plant situation, I just might win. 

When I go to town and walk past the 24-hour fitness place and see everyone running on Treadmills in their cute little cutout leggings, I can’t help but let a little part of me wish I was one of those people. This “workout schedule” that is currently my life isn’t pretty or glamorous and the exercise clothes that go with it are even less-so (whether the unknown substances staining everything is poop or vomit and comes from an animal or child is up for debate) but this is what I have to work with at the moment.

Maybe when our youngest is in preschool and I find myself in town with nothing to do (that’s funny) I’ll join the gym but for now, I’ll just keep finding the balance that works for me and try not to be so hard on myself. Most days I’m able to do that but some days, like the one when the rooster attacked me and ripped the only pair of “normal” jeans I could still fit into, it’s a little harder to have patience with myself. After four kids, my physique isn’t exactly what it used to be. My abs are pretty much nonexistent and my “batwings” are getting more prevalent by the day but this body has spent three and a half years housing our babies and four more feeding them, is able to flip calves and throw bales of hay and has enough strength to hold everything that’s important to me in my arms. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.