When I was younger, I'll admit I primarily exercised to look good and to stay in shape for the sports I played (in high school, those included volleyball, field hockey, and softball). In the off-season times, I discovered my mom's seldom-used exercise VHS tapes (think mid-90s Jane Fonda, Kathy Smith, and even Joan London). On chilly Wisconsin winter nights when it was dark by 4:30 p.m. and I had no interest in venturing outdoors for exercise, these videos kept me in an exercise routine.

When I went to college, I squeezed these aerobics routines out in my tiny dorm room. I also joined the campus gym, walked everywhere (including the huge hill on our campus - many people actually drove or rode the bus rather than hoof it, and I often walked up it 3 or more times per day), and met my now-husband (great motivation to stay in my cute Express jeans). I was in the best shape of my life (well, other than the enormous amounts on candy I noshed on while writing term papers).

However, once I was working full time teaching, I found it harder to fit in time for exercise, even to my Jane Fonda classics - sometimes I managed it when I got home from school before having dinner, but the main space in our bungalow for exercising was the partially finished attic, and the temperature up there was either boiling or freezing, depending on the season, and after standing much of the day, my legs were tired, etc. However, it was about that time that I realized that exercise was a great stress reliever, and at the least, my hubby and I walked our dog together every night after dinner (a good chance to catch up on the events of the day as well).

During my pregnancies, exercise was prohibited for medical reasons during my first trimester (very frustrating!). Later I was allowed to walk, but I admit I didn't get very far. After having my first, I tried to exercise to my old videos while she watched, but that rarely worked out, as she was a hold-me-all-the-time colicky kid. Around her first birthday, I made a dedicated effort to get back in shape - and promptly found that my get-sexy-back attitude resulted quickly in another pregnancy.

Ok, fast forward a bit - after my second child was probably around 6 months old, I got it together again - and guess who helped the most: the exercise videos. While the child care at my local gym was a huge help, a lot of days it just wasn't practical to use up the whole morning driving to and from the gym and I felt guilty dropping my kids off in a room where they put the boob tube on and had the kids color while mommy got her exercise. So a lot of days I worked out with my kids - yep, they loved bopping to Fonda and Kathy Smith and Denise Austin as much as I did! Again, those Wisconsin winters can be harsh, so my kids couldn't play outside for hours as toddlers, but they sure could dance!

It's still true today - now, while I exercise to energize myself after a day sitting at the office or when I'm hitting a mid-day sleepy slump, I also turn to it to help my kids vent their excess energy. Sometimes they want to do one of my videos (without real weights of course); other times it's a Wiggles or Kidsongs video - anything with music that encourages music. Interestingly, Jane Fonda did put out two kids' videos back when the TV show Fun House (starring JD Roth) was all the rage. However, watching kids get covered with slime after exercising freaked out my small daughter, so thus far those haven't been hits in our family. I hope, too, that when my kids see me lifting handweights, walking the treadmill, or jumping around to aerobics, they're learning that exercise is a healthy habit for all ages. Oh, and did I mention that I've also learned to appreciate exercise as my "me" time too? It's wonderful to have a little downtime to read while I'm on the elliptical or stationary bike at the gym (magazines work best), or to watch my guilty pleasures DVDs while on the treadmill (I'll admit to two: Golden Girls and Full House). And on days like today, when I stayed up til midnight last night and dragged through much of the day, I really thought about slacking off and skipping my workout. But my stress level was so high I figured maybe a short workout would be good for me. I popped in my Denise Austin Sizzler workout video, and her chipper manner really perked me up too. After the video, I had the classic pop songs she'd used in the video stuck in my head (which I promptly belted in the shower): She Works Hard For The Money and It's Raining Men, among others.

So, to any moms out there who are frazzled from high-energy munchkins or who need a personal pick-me-up alternative to coffee or danish (believe me, I've been there), get up and get movin' - it might be hard to get started, but I'll bet you'll never regret it afterward, and you'll have more energy to carry you through the rest of your day.

What's your favorite way to work out? How do you fit it into your hectic schedule? Write me!