Well, the project started before the blogging. I sit here in my basement with a fistful of M&Ms at 10:55 p.m., preparing to squeeze in Day 8's workout. (The Day 8 workout, I should add, is probably going to consist of jumping jacks and yoga poses in front of a Redbox rental of "Something Borrowed." This is yet an imperfect science.)
I don't want to exercise tonight. I don't. I spent the morning in a waterpark hotel with the family and our friends. I spent the afternoon driving back home to Rochester. I spent the evening grocery shopping, overseeing homework, sorting three (count 'em, three) containers of widowed socks, unpacking a ridiculous amount of crap considering we were only gone two days, and finishing up a writing assignment due tomorrow.
I don't want to exercise. But I'm going to. Because this is what I've vowed to do. I've vowed to exercise every single day for the 365 days between my 40th and 41st birthdays with a specific goal: Feel and look better at 41 than I do at 40.
Here's where I started:
Day 1: November 6
"Jay," I say. "You need to take a 'before' picture." I want a record of where I was on my 40th birthday--an image I can compare to 41.
I stand against the living room wall in my bra and underwear. I lift my arms, holding one hand in a "4" and the other in a "0". I smile. He shoots.
"OK, let me see it," I say. I'm not all that nervous to look at a flabby, near-naked picture of myself. This is, after all, the point. We have to start somewhere. Must have an unfortunate "before" in order to have a kick-ass "after."
But it's worse than I expect. My bra is too small. My Hanes Her Ways are too big, the sides too wide. Holy crap, I think, my husband is married to a woman in granny panties.
So now I have two items on my to-do list: (1) Exercise at least 30 minutes a day every day for the next 365 days. (2) Buy sexier underwear.
Day 2: November 7
After a slow start, I feel like the momentum starts today. Yesterday, my exercise session consisted of swimming at the gym while the kids splashed around me and ambling through the neighborhood with my friend LaNae. Not wildly successful, really. (Though I did have a giant fruit bowl instead of a birthday cake and when I blew out my birthday candles, I wished for a good, healthy year with all my boys. So there's that.)
But today! Today, I hit the gym after I pick up the boys from school and go straight to the fitness floor. I do five miles on the elliptical while listening to NPR's "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" on my iPod, followed by yoga poses and core work on the stability ball for 20 minutes. One full hour. Shazam.
Day 3: November 8
Today, I take Daisy for a run before work. It's a slow run, sure. It's a run littered with doggie potty breaks and squirrel distractions. But it's a run--the first I've done in months. By the time Daisy and I make it back up the driveway, I'm feeling mighty good. As empowered as I am fatigued. I check the time: We've been out 28 minutes. Close enough.
Day 4: November 9
It's back to the gym today: Elliptical + treadmill + yoga poses on the mat between work and dinner. I'm feeling pretty good until I call Jay from the gym. "I didn't have time to plan dinner tonight. You?"
"I'll figure something out," he says.
By the time the boys and I make it home, Jay has canned soup and sliced apples waiting on the table -- a fair job considering the contents of our pantry and the extent of my forewarning.
But my workout high is gone. I feel like a failure as a wife and mother. Why can't I manage to work and take care of myself and take care of my family? Why can't I do it all? Why do I feel I have to?
Day 5: November 10
It's another long walk for Daisy. She's lo-o-o-o-ving this. I also do some arm work with five-pound weights. The three-pounders had seemed too wimpy, but halfway through my arm raises I wish I'd started there.
Days 6 and 7: November 11, 12
We're in Wisconsin Dells with the Winklers, our family-like-friends from Green Bay. Oh, how we love them. "I have to figure out how to work out while we're here," I tell Sara. "I'm doing that Project 40 to 41 thing."
"Playing at the waterpark is exercise," she says. "Totally qualifies."
And because Sara is a fitness queen -- a yoga, Pilates, swimming master -- I jump on her logic. "Hell yeah," I say. "The waterpark IS a workout."
The thing is: She's proved right. Fighting the "tide" in the wave pool, climbing flight upon flight of stairs to the top of water slides, and screaming through "The Tornado" does get my heart beating. It doesn't feel like a cheat to claim these days as exercise days. Still, it will feel good to get a "real" workout tomorrow.
Day 8: November 13
Ah, and here we're up to speed. "Something Borrowed," jumping jacks, yoga poses. So maybe it's not the "real" workout I'd planned, but it's something. And something is better than nothing.