Work-Out Hugs

I’m one of “those” kind of folks who loves to hug other people (especially my kids) but any just-made acquaintance is fair game. When I was growing up, my family had atherapist-suggested requirement for a certain number of hugs.

I think it was something like eight hugs a day, so we hugged and met our quota. These days my son actually gets “hugry” (“hungry for hugs”), and I love wrapping my arms around his little-boy-10-year-old body and squeezing all that good love out. My girls are the same—sweet, huge, warm hugs that fill my heart and make me slow down for a minute. There are never any short, polite hugs in my house. EXCEPT after mami’s been working out.

The Hold-Your-Breath Hug

It’s one thing to hug your workout partner after a tough run. You both stink to high heaven and we surely cancel each other out in the smell department. It’s quite another to walk in the door, elated to be done with your workout and feeling oh-so-proud that you actually did it, and grab a kid to squeeze.

My girls run screaming and rightfully so. My son has adopted a slightly different approach. He takes a deep breath while still 10 feet away from me and then goes in for the quick “I’m proud of you hug.” It’s very sweet but a bit crazy. I know that I wouldn’t hug me.

The No-Contact Hugs

This past weekend my good friend, and fellow tri-mom, talked me into a bike ride called Tour de Cahaba. It’s put on by one of our local bike shops. It happens around the Tour de France time, and to honor the great bike race our local tour sports a 3,200-foot elevation change in the 46-mile route I chose to ride.

My friend is an amazing biker, she’s fast and strong and confident. I often find myself laughing as I “blaze” down a steep hill with both hands squeezing the breaks for dear life or when I look ahead at the next hill and think “no f-ing way am I getting up that hill alive.”

My friend rode with me the whole way and she gave me the greatest non-hug hugs at the top of each hill. She’d be up there, waiting for my slow ass. I’d be breathing like a tennis player—an audible groan with every exhale—until finally the hill let up and she’d say stuff like “You did it! You are amazing! Way to go!” I, of course, could not respond because breathing is more important, but her words felt like hugs and kept me pedaling with a smile on my face.

The You-Do-It Hug

There is something spectacular about the hugs you receive after finishing a race. Hugs from my kids, hugs from my man, hugs from other racers. Those are hugs of exhaustion, exhilaration and accomplishment. I’m done! I did it! I don’t have to run another step or bike another mile today. But there doesn’t have to be a race to celebrate with a hug.

You-did-it hugs can happen at any time, after a training run with a group of friends, maybe it was faster than normal or some crazy, long-distance in %100 humidity and 98-degree heat. Hugs happen when I run into (bad pun) friends coming the other way on a route. Damn, any excuse to stop for a minute and catch my breath—and a hug. A nasty, sweaty, welcomed hug.

The Dangerous Hug

Dangerous hugs do exist. My first run-in with this rare embrace happened a few weeks back while I was on my bike trainer in my living room. Let me set the scene. It’s early morning and my 10-year-old is playing Minecraft on our old PS3. We live in a small apartment so the only TV we have is in the living room and that’s where I also set up my trainer. When I can, I prefer to take over the TV (like when kids are at school and there’s a break from work) and bike while watching back-to-back episodes of a show where two extremely hot brothers battle supernatural forces of evil and always win. But this particular morning my son was in control of the TV.

I recently gave in and went to clipless pedals on my bike—something that always terrified me but has made a huge difference in my speed. My bike (her name is Lucy) is locked into the trainer, my feet are locked on to my pedals. I have my daughter’s fan rigged up to blow directly on me so there’s a power cord stretched across the floor about a foot off the ground. My husband’s bike is to my right, leaning against the piano—its wheels are off. Got this all in your head?

I’m doing these “lovely” speed intervals that are kicking my butt. I’m doing the tennis player breathing again and at the end of each speed interval, I gasp for air. My son doesn’t like the sound of me gasping for air—it concerns him. I assure him I’ll be fine regardless of the noises emanating from me. After the second interval, he looks back at me with big, worried eyes and says “I think you need a hug.” Around the back of the couch he comes, maneuvering between the wheel-less bike and the rigged fan with the dangling cord.

He reaches out to hug me and I reach for him and then my bike wants in on the deal and starts to lean precariously to the side with me clipped on to the pedals and my bike locked into the trainer. I try to right myself and realize I’m past that point. My son starts to back away to avoid being crushed and then at the last minute he turns towards me, puts out his hands and pushes me back upright. It was hilarious, to say the least. So please heed my warning: avoid hugs while on a bike trainer. Wait till after you are off the bike and get the You-Did-It hug instead.

So, go out there and get your recommended eight hugs a day, spread the love and remember to practice safe hugging.