I wouldn't consider myself a morning person, yet my alarm goes off before 5 a.m. most days of the week. And on the days when I'm supposed to have the luxury of sleeping in, I usually hear the pitter-patter of three-year-old feet entering my bedroom by 6 or 6:30 a.m. at the latest.
I've gotten used to getting up before the sun, and actually embrace it (most of the time) because it means I'm doing something good for myself. You see, I used to weigh more than 100 pounds more than I do now. At my heaviest, the number that flashed before me when I stepped my 5'4'' frame onto the digital scale was 237 pounds. Finally in 2003, after years of struggling with my weight, I did something about it. Now, heading to the gym is the early morning habit that keeps me happy, healthy, and at a weight that I can be satisfied with.
Usually, my exercise routine involves sneaking around the house, trying not to wake up my husband, our toddler, or our miniature schnauzer, Jack, as I get dressed, throw my hair into a ponytail, and brush my teeth before heading out into the dark. This morning, however, was different. As I tiptoed through my bedroom, using the light of my cell phone to guide me toward the door, I reached down and put my hand on Jack, all warm and snuggly in his doggie bed.
"Wanna go for a walk, buddy?" I asked him. The magic words propelled Jack out of his comfortable spot instantly, and a few minutes later we were outside in the crisp early-morning Colorado air.
Like most dogs, Jack loves his walks--and he used to get one every day for a minimum of 45 minutes to an hour. Then Jack's "little brother" Henry arrived in 2008. Life with a baby was busy, and regardless of how hard I tried, slowly Jack's walks began to happen less frequently, and were getting shorter and shorter, until eventually he was getting three walks per week that were, at most, 30 minutes long.
Jack was obviously not happy with the walking situation. After dinner, he'd follow me around with those puppy-dog eyes, dropping his tennis ball at my feet every few minutes. I'd always intend to head out for a walk--as soon as dinner was cleaned up, or Henry was bathed, or my lunch was packed for the next day--but before I knew it, the sun would be setting and time for a walk had run out.
"Tomorrow we'll go for a walk, I promise," I'd say, handing him a treat. Jack didn't need words to tell me what a bad doggie mom I was--his disappointment was written all over his sweet, bearded face.
Soon, it was someone else telling me I was a bad doggie mom: our veterinarian. Jack's weight was climbing, and he now was considered overweight. With all of the effort I was putting into my own health and fitness routine, I had completely neglected my dog's. What's even worse: I tried to deal with my guilt and make him happy by overfeeding him treats. Something had to change.
I once read a quote: "You can do anything, but you can't do everything." I have to remind myself of this idea often. I try to take on a million things every day, only to disappoint myself and others when 990,000 of those things aren't completed as I had hoped. Jack's health, along with the health of myself and the rest of my family, needs to be a priority. If the dishes don't get done, they don't get done, but Jack will get his walk every day.
The great thing about walking Jack every day? We often make it a nightly routine, happening after dinner, so the whole family benefits. We're all getting more exercise, and we're all healthier and happier because of it. Now, fingers crossed that the number on Jack's scale will begin to drop, just as mine did more than nine years ago.
Do you have a fitness success story about you and your pet? Or a unique way the entire family can be active together? I'd love to be motivated by your inspirational tales! Leave a comment with your story below.