Twenty years ago, just as my high school days ended, my exercise career began. With way too much free time, and no more school-organized physical activities, I made a pact with a friend to get in shape. After joining a gym, I quickly became addicted to high-impact aerobics and weight training.
With each new chapter in my life -- internships, job changes, a cross-country move -- I conjured up creative ways to stay active.
In the mid-'90s, during a 10-month internship in the hot and humid city of New Orleans, running replaced aerobics as my exercise standby. Then, after moving back to my hometown of San Diego, I began entering races, which led to marathon training groups and meeting friends for early-morning runs.
When I moved to New York in 2000, I exercised at lunch and ran in Central Park on weekends.
During my recent pregnancy, two years after moving to Los Angeles, I replaced running with walking. Living near work allowed for 40-minute strolls in the mornings. Instead of intense classes at the gym, I got acquainted with the stationary bike and step machine.
But six months after my biggest life change yet -- having a baby -- I've gone only for the occasional run and have been to the gym but once.
Time isn't a factor. I'm a stay-at-home mom and have plenty of opportunities in the early morning and late afternoon. But when my husband comes home from work and we put our daughter to bed, I want to spend time with him. On weekends we want to spend time as a family. During the week, I seem to be too consumed with my daughter's nap schedule and making sure she's adequately stimulated.
When I fast-forward 20 years, I can't help but think what my daughter's take will be on the matter. She'll probably say, "Couldn't you have taken care of me and exercised? After all, I want you to be around a long time -- you were no spring chicken when you had me." (That last part is me projecting.)
And of course, exercise has been much more than just exercise to me. In my 20s, it was the one constant in my life. I don't know how many times I started a workout feeling hopeless about something (men, bad jobs, you name it) only to finish with a new, optimistic attitude. How could I possibly get through motherhood without one of my closest friends?
My 20-year high school reunion is this summer. Not only is it a reminder of the commitment I made two decades ago, but it's also the perfect time to renew my vow to work out.
So, lately my runs have become more than occasional. I've dusted off the baby jogger in hopes of using it very soon. I'm even joining a family-friendly gym -- the Hollywood YMCA.
After a great deal of contemplation, and a much-needed break from exercise, I finally feel ready to tackle the next 20 years.
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen is a registered dietitian and freelance writer living in Los Angeles.