Parenting: An Endless Workout

07/06/2010 03:17 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

While on the treadmill today, I was reminded of the ravages that mothering has taken on my body and my personality. I connected the two activities (parenting and exercising) and decided that parenting was like an intense interval training session with no definable end in sight.

In other words, the regimen of the treadmill is similar to the regimen of parenting. Its a potpourri of a workout chock full of intense challenges which defy even my own overactive imagination. It is a mixture of hills and valleys, plateaus, high-intensity/low-intensity, incline and sprints, all of which are hurled at a dizzying speed and without rhyme or reason. At least that's how it feels to me.

My boys are now ages 17 and 15. I have "worked out" with them consistently 24/7 with the very same intensity, pace and exertion level over an 18-year period. There have been high intensity hills which have unexpectedly popped up all over the place. There have been plateaus which have dropped out from under me without warning. I have had no time for recovery between intensity blasts. How come no one told me what parenting was really about? (I will save the driving aspect of parenting for another blog topic.)

When is it "my time" again? Am i wrong to still feel the joie de vivre of a young girl and want to have fun and enjoy myself? I love my kids more than anything else in the world. I have not been relaxed for almost 20 years. The miracle of my two pregnancies, my childrens' births and the process of watching them become young adults has, without question, been the most rewarding experience of my adult life. But, I am burnt out on the daily treadmill of parenting. Where is the red "off" button? Time to get unplugged.

Now, it is summertime and summertime means sleep-away camp. This is the closest to an "off" button that I have. It is the season for which I live all yearlong. Ah, the joy of sleep-away summer camp. This seasonal respite gives me a chance to revitalize and recharge. This year, only my youngest is away. Two minus one still equals one. It feels like less than half the workout because the rhythm of the summer is different. A more relaxed vibe without the rigors of school and scheduling, etc.

My older son is interning/working in NYC. Although sometimes kicking and screaming, he is on his way to becoming a self-sufficient member of society. For me, this means more freedom and I can pretty much do whatever I want for eight wondrous weeks. A plateau ...

However, this upcoming fall, my oldest son will be applying to college. We are already exerting stamina off the Richter scale, or the Borg Scale (see below), which is really more appropriate. SATs and ACTs not to mention college applications, visits and essays have provided the workout of an Olympian for this tired mother. And, my younger son will be transitioning to high school next year. Its all new for him and in NYC, etc. As a mother, I find that I am still mentally exerting myself even now when I should be pacing myself for the upcoming inclines and high intensity which lies ahead.

Some of you exercise nuts may be familiar with the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion. I found a more modern scale which i related to created by Paige Waehner on

Here it is:

* Level 1: I'm watching TV and eating bon bons
* Level 2: I'm comfortable and could maintain this pace all day long
* Level 3: I'm still comfortable, but am breathing a bit harder
* Level 4: I'm sweating a little, but feel good and can carry on a conversation effortlessly
* Level 5: I'm just above comfortable, am sweating more and can still talk easily
* Level 6: I can still talk, but am slightly breathless
* Level 7: I can still talk, but I don't really want to. I'm sweating like a pig
* Level 8: I can grunt in response to your questions and can only keep this pace for a short time period
* Level 9: I am probably going to die
* Level 10: I am dead

My own perceived exertion is generally between 8-10. My kids feel that I am usually at one or two. Somewhere, in between, lies the truth.