Regular Fitness Routine Should Be A 'Must,' Not A 'Plus'
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
And now to the pages of The Washington Post Magazine, where we look just about every week to find interesting stories about the way we live now. It's that time of year when the days get longer and the prospect of some outdoor exercise seems less daunting and more urgent. But working fitness into your life means finding the time and well, you know, the rest of that story. So, writer Sarah Wildman sought some wisdom from a few very well known and busy folks about how they stay fit.
She joins me now, here in our Washington D.C. studio. Also with us on the line is Phil Fenty. He opened a sports store, sports apparel store - Fleet Feet in Washington D.C. and he is the proud father of one of this country's fittest mayors, our very own mayor of Washington D.C., Adrian Fenty. He's on the phone from Brooklyn. Welcome to you both.
Ms. SARAH WILDMAN (Columnist): Thanks for having me.
Mr. PHIL FENTY (Owner, Fleet Feet Store): Good morning.
MARTIN: Now Sarah, you wrote about a very interesting collection of Washingtonians - we'll claim them, they're not all from here, but about their fitness regimen: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, hockey star Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green, celebrity chef Carla Greene(ph), MSNBC anchor Norah O'Donnell and of course, the Fentys. How did you choose these folks?
Ms. WILDMAN: I like the diversity between them. Carla Hall from "Top Chef" is a sort of accidental celebrity, Norah O'Donnell is a news anchor. There are two politicians and then you have a professional athlete, who is sort of the flip side of everybody else because he works out as a living. So he actually fits in normal life.
MARTIN: And Phil Fenty, it was very interesting to me to hear your story. You talked about the fact that when you and your wife started running, there really was no fitness culture here, that people would actually throw stuff at you on the street and yell things at you. What would they yell?
Mr. FENTY: Generally, they would sometimes yell from their cars, you know, you're running in your underwear or something foolish like that. Or one time we were down at the beach, and we were running along the road, and some people threw some stuff at us, and it was in this sort of joking sort of way, as people would harass you about out running in the streets and so forth.
MARTIN: How did you get the kids involved? One of the points the article made is that you were very - you got the kids involved early on. How did you do that?
Mr. FENTY: Well, we were very fortunate in the time that we began our exercise. The DC Roadrunner's Club had small races at Haines Point, and they always had small fun-runs for the children. They always tried to make it a family affair. So we would take the boys along with us, and they would participate in the half-mile or one-mile run for children.
MARTIN: Did you have to induce them with a cookie at the end or - I'm just trying to figure out how to make this work.
Mr. FENTY: No, it was part of the family culture. We went to races, they went with us. And they really liked to travel when we traveled on the road to go to races because they got to jump up and down on hotel beds and so forth. So they enjoyed it most of the time, until they got to be teenagers, when they didn't want to perspire.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: And Sarah, I understand that one of the reasons you were interested in this piece is that you - as a new mom, congratulations - are having trouble fitting in time to exercise. I must tell you, I hear from a lot of moms about this, and myself included. I talked to myself, and I let you listen, about just where am I supposed to fit this in? Now, that - did you learn something from talking to these folks about how to make it work, how to fit it in, that you can share with us?
Ms. SARAH WILDMAN: I did. Well actually, Phil can attest that I've really been struggling not just with exercise but with everything. I actually had to bring my baby to the interview I did with Phil, forgot a pacifier. And he had to rock her the entire time we spoke as she screamed in the background of my tape.
So the whole thing was a bit of a learning experience for a very new mom. I think - and what's nice about the Phil Fenty and the Fenty family story is that they do exercise as a family, but for the other characters, it's a little bit more about how to try to find time for self. Norah O'Donnell talked about that a lot, you know, where - this sort of scales-of-justice system of work-life balance, where you leave self out.
So I think for me that's been really interesting. I didn't realize quite how much time a newborn would take. I sort of thought she'd sleep a lot more than she does. And you know, I have a great deal of guilt about the idea of running out to take a yoga class. And I need to sort of recognize that I need to do that to rejuvenate myself, to do my work, to sort of recharge and not just only have baby time.
As much as I will like her to be part of an exercise culture when she's old enough to be, there's still time - there's still Sarah time that's necessary.
MARTIN: Phil, what about you? Did you and your wife debate that? Did you ever feel guilty about taking that time, or you just worked the kids into the situation?
Mr. FENTY: Well, we made exercise a part of our lifestyle so that if you make it part of your lifestyle, it's as important as eating breakfast or going to a movie or watching a television show. So you set it into your schedule, and then you work that in. And it doesn't have to be a guilt factor. I take some solace from my son, Adrian, who has a very busy job, but he also speaks very well that he has to get his exercise in as part of his day. And my other sons and children believe the same thing, that you have to work it in as part of your day, not as something extra.
MARTIN: And I can attest to that because I often see our mayor, your son, running with his posse when I'm coming to work in the pre-dawn hours. So I can attest to that this is not just something - this is not a photo-op. This is actually part of his lifestyle. But I will have to say that this does require support from other people. The fact is, he has three young children also, which means somebody's got to be home so he can run out. And also he's the boss.
I mean, he's the boss. I mean, people - I mean he has things that he has to react to, but he is setting his schedule. And I wondered if you have some advice for people who don't feel that they are the boss, don't feel that they are the captains of their own ship, necessarily.
Mr. FENTY: Well, I think it is very important that the family be involved. I think everyone has to buy into it. You can't have hostility going on as one person runs out of the house and the other person has to do the dishes and do the children and so forth.
So there has to be some sort of working relationship in that way. And sometimes you have to do your yoga in the house, or you have to - you have a treadmill at home or walk around the block and take the child with you. Buy a baby jogger and take the child with you. And Adrian pushed his twin boys in baby joggers many times before he had his posse thing going. So there are ways of working it out, and it's staying more positive than looking for the negative things that you can't do, look for the things that you can.
MARTIN: Sarah, what about you? Did you learn any other coping techniques from some of the people you interviewed about how to make fitness, as Phil Fenty said, just kind of something you have to do, not something you just kind of, sort of, maybe do?
Ms. WILDMAN: I think what was interesting about this piece was it was packaged as a sort of celebrity exercise group experiment. And what it boiled down to was the banality of the struggle, that everybody struggles with this, even if they do have a staff, even if they do have a great deal of support.
I mean, what's nice about the Fenty model is that their whole family is around. And the problem for many of us, including myself, is my family's in New York. So I don't have a grandparent to throw the newborn to if I want to run out. It really has to be a constant balance between me and my partner, and that's something, I think, is going to be a question going forward.
And I do think that that's interesting. The guilt question still comes up again and again, and I do wonder if that's somewhat gendered. And that's something I faced, as well. Do I, as a mother, feel more guilty, whether that's fair or not?
And what I liked about this conversation - for example, the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, she said to me she had, you know, five children in six years, which is tremendous. And she said, well, I didn't work out. I napped, and that was my way of finding balance. And she wasn't working at the time. And you know, she sort of addressed this in this very grandmotherly way. And what I liked about it was it sort of cut through with all these people who sort of are put on a pedestal or a little bit removed from us; that everybody has struggled with this in one way or another and each of them having their own path.
You know, Carla Hall talked about she'd modeled at one point, and that was something to do between what she didn't want to do and what she did want to do. And she didn't know what that next thing was, and I thought that was really interesting that everyone was on this journey. And Phil talked about this a lot, too, that question of balance and where are we going, that everything is practice and that we're not actually doing anything, 'til we're practicing it. And he has it tattooed on his arms.
MARTIN: I was going so say, you have some fabulous tattoos, Mr. Fenty. Mr. Fenty, I have about a minute left. What's your final word of wisdom for folks who say, well, that's fine for those folks, but I can't do that. I have a desk job. I'm tied to the clock. I can't make it work.
Mr. FENTY: Find something you love. I mean, everyone has a sport or an exercise or something that they can do. You can even do, there's books on doing exercise while you're sitting down at your desk. I mean, you can find something, but find something you love, and you will practice it so much more.
MARTIN: And what are you doing now to keep fit? Do you still run?
Mr. FENTY: I'm no longer running. I'm cycling, swimming, and I go to the gym every day, and I'm doing yoga.
MARTIN: All right.
Mr. FENTY: So I'm keeping busy with those activities.
MARTIN: You sure are, and chasing those grandbabies.
Mr. FENTY: And chasing those grandkids. Love it.
MARTIN: Freelance writer Sarah Wildman wrote about the fitness regimens of a group of well-known personalities in this week's Washington Post Magazine. She was kind enough to join us in our Washington, D.C., studios.
We were also joined by one of the subjects of the series, Phil Fenty. He's the father of Washington, D.C.'s mayor, Adrian Fenty and a well-known fitness leader in this community. He joined us from Brooklyn, New York.
And you can find a link to Sarah Wildman's article on our Web site. Just go to the TELL ME MORE page at npr.org. Coming up, the recession is sending many people back home to live with their parents. We'll hear about that in our Behind Closed Doors conversation, next.
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