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The Quest to Be My Very Best: Physical Wellness Part 1-Exercise

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It always amazes me how fast time passes.  Sometimes I wish I could make time stand still, just to catch my breathe, to sleep, or to actually be ready for the next thing coming.  If only that were possible.  Again, I come to the conclusion that all I can do is be my very best.

Over the past 8 years my body has taken a beating inside and out.  There have been surgeries.  Doctors discovered I have asthma and chronic lung damage due to being untreated for so long.  (I was too busy taking care of Bulldozer's medical issues to make a doctor's appointment for myself.)  My environmental allergies became increasingly worse, no longer manageable with a simple prescription.

The word "stress" took on a whole new meaning.  The land of nod seemed foreign to me. Over time, it seemed my entire existence was dedicated to the care of my special needs children, and others foster children we had in our home.  I would do whatever I needed to help them, because I was the one who had something to give.  I could be flexible.  I could do without sleep.  I could exercise tomorrow.  I could cancel my appointments, because their appointments were more important.

The result of my choices...  60 extra pounds and continued decreasing lung capacity.

Many are familiar with the explanation of safety procedures reviewed at the beginning of a flight on an airplane.  "If cabin pressure changes, the panels above your seat will open revealing oxygen masks.  Place the mask over your nose and mouth. Slip the elastic strap over your head and adjust the mask if necessary.  Be sure to adjust your own mask before adjusting others."  There is an important lesson to be learned from the last phrase of the warning of the explanation.  You can't help others, unless you take care of yourself first.  Last year I worked hard learning how to take care of myself.  This year I'm working hard to apply that knowledge.  I need to be my very best, not just for myself, but for them too.  The task is much harder than it sounds.

Over the summer I met with my doctors about my weight gain etc. I had my thyroid checked.  I joined a gym.  I worked with a personal trainer once a week.  She gave me some very valuable advice.  My first priority was to make sure I was getting 8 hours of sleep each night.  If I didn't, there would be no point to my diet and exercise efforts.  My second priority was to my diet.  My third priority was exercise.

Though I was eating fairly healthy and trying to exercise as much as I could, my weight loss efforts were failing because I was getting too little sleep and my life was FULL of stress.  My body couldn't respond to exercise the way it needed to.  Until Sunshine learned to sleep, any efforts I put forth would be in vain.  It was important that I recognize this, because it was something completely out of my control.

Then there was my biggest hurdle.  Myself.  I have Congenital Ectodermal Displasia.  This means that my hair doesn't grow and my finger and toe nails are formed differently than others.  At most, I've had the same amount of hair as a 1 year old toddler in my lifetime.  Growing up, many thought I had cancer or alopecia.  Mind you, I can only remember two people during the very early part of my childhood who ever teased me for being bald.  I had many friends all through school.  I was popular. I was smart.  I graduated in the top 10% of my senior class, as Class President.  And unlike all of my other girl friends, I've never once had to shave my legs.  (There are definitely perks to having no hair!)

I did not wear a wig until the age of 21, when preparing to serve a proselyting mission for my church.  I was worried that people would be frightened by my appearance when I came knocking on their door.  I did not end up serving a mission, but I continued to wear the wig.  Though I did not enjoy wearing it, it ended up becoming part of who I was.

Wearing a wig has many inconveniences.  Whether it be the wind or a roller coaster, there's always a chance that it will come off (even with clips or adhesive).  One can't just dive into a pool on a whim.  Exercising in public is difficult.  When it's hot outside, you feel like you're wearing a winter hat.  Depending on the length of the wig, even hugs can be an issue.  My decision to wear a wig has had a huge impact on my daily functioning and ability to participate in activities with my kiddos.  But one can't just go from seemingly having a full head of hair to being completely bald in public places, especially as an adult.  (All of my hair fell out after having my boys, partly due to the rubbing of wigs and partly due to hormone and chemical changes.)  If I stopped wearing a wig, it would not only affect me, but my husband, and my children.  I worried about others and how uncomfortable they might feel.

But then I started remembering something I've taught my children for a very long time.  EVERYBODY HAS SOMETHING.  Whether it be Autism Spectrum Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Cranial Facial Microsomia, Bi-Polar Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, blindness, deafness, a fake limb, a learning disability, an addiction, etc...  Some issues may be more visible than others, but no one is perfect.  If I wanted to teach my special needs children that they were lovable, amazing, and full of potential just the way they are, I needed to lead by example, and show them that I knew I was lovable, amazing and full of potential, just the way I am.  And so began the Power of Pink.

Before going swimming at a friend's home last summer, I went to a sporting goods store and purchased a bright pink swimming cap.  For the first time since my children were born, I was able to swim with them, and not just wade in the shallow end, always keeping my head above water.  I did hand stands with Dinomite under water.  I swam in the deep end with Bulldozer.  I hadn't felt so free in years and spent hours in the pool with them that day.  They had the time of their lives.
After struggling at the gym with a wig on several occasions, I wore a bright pink bandanna instead.  My husband was the one who actually went to the store and bought it for me, showing his full unwavering support.  The kiddos had a blast trying it on themselves.  The day I wore my bandanna to the gym was my last workout there, but it was my best.  The freedom that came with just being me can't be described in words.  Later, I purchased bright pink sneakers to add to the Power of Pink.

My meetings with a personal trainer and gym workouts ended because of schedule conflicts.  The only time I could go to the gym by myself was early in the morning.  Jason needs to be to work by 7 AM.  My trainer was not available in the evenings.  I'm unable to use the gym child watch due to Bulldozer and Sunshine's allergies and Princess and Sunshine's attachment issues and behaviors.  This is when I realized that if I was going to be successful at taking care of myself and improving my own physical wellness, I needed to have a plan that included my children.

It was fall by this time.  The leaves were falling.  Weather was beautiful.  I still wasn't getting enough sleep, due to Sunshine's sleep disorder.  Finding physical activities that all four kiddos could participate in was difficult, so we started walking.  I figured no matter how much sleep I received, walking was a safe low impact activity that could only be beneficial.  And it was.  I learned just how much my body needed the physical activity to reduce the stress that was causing my weight gain.  I didn't lose weight, but I was much happier.  I was less likely to become frustrated by my children's behaviors.  I had more patience with them.  I was more accepting of all of our faults.  Daily physical activity with my kiddos helps me to be my very best!  It also helped my kiddos!
The four kiddos on one of our walks in the cemetery behind our house.
Winter came with it's below zero temperatures and several feet of snow, making our daily walks impossible.  I still wasn't sleeping.  This meant still no weight loss.  Fortunately, I came up with a plan, invested in the materials needed, and the kiddos and I are having a blast.
As of January 2015, we work out together 3-4 times a  week using kid's exercise videos.  (As long as we're not sick.)  We have three favorites.  All of the kiddos can participate at their own level.  Each video shows kiddos who are advanced and those who are just struggling to become coordinated as they attempt each move.  The videos have been great for exercise, physical therapy, anxiety, and stress relief.  I highly recommend them!  We'll continue using them through the winter.

It makes me so happy that I've been able to work to do my very best, and include my kiddos in the process.  We are all benefiting, and now have a plan for every season.  They see their Mommy doing hard things, and know that if I can, they can too.  If I'm still wearing the same size clothes when the year 2015 comes to an end, that's okay, because I will know I've done my very best and chances are I'll be breathing a lot easier.

This post is part of My Quest to Be My Best Series.  To read the introductory post, click HERE!  If you've enjoyed reading today, stay tuned for Part 2:  Diet & Nutrition coming soon!


  1. Renae you are such a unique person, I have never met anyone like you in my life. You are so strong , brave and full of life. Problems and difficulties don't stop you. You continue to do what is best for your family no matter what. You are doing wonderful things every day. Life is challenging you and you are not afraid. You are so wonderful and it would be so great to meet your family in real life. Thank you for sharing your story. I think you will reach your aim, I even don't say I hope, I just know it

  2. Such a great example Renae! We all have something! Love reading how you overcame your obstacle. Thanks!