Our local YMCA is a pillar of peace and sanity in my crazy life as a stay at home mom. I’m not exaggerating – our Y membership has been a lifesaver. But how do we make it happen? Read on for some tips from a highly qualified mom-athlete (and by “highly qualified” I mean, I usually make it to the gym twice a week!)
- Know your style; go with it; grow with it. When I first started going to a gym, years & years ago, my favorite thing to do was weight machines. Despite being out of shape and uncoordinated, I was actually able to achieve something at the gym – increasing the weight or my reps each time. I had never experienced success with any physical endeavor before. It was exhilarating, and gave me the confidence to pursue other kinds of exercise later on. Later I played soccer (badly, with kind friends) for a few years, and eventually made my way into running, which is now my favorite. I’m not into biking, I’m not much into Zumba, I did try PiYo with my sister once and really enjoyed it … the point is, find something that you enjoy and that you can actually make some progress with. That way you won’t give up, you’ll start to get into shape, and then even more options will open up to you.
- Embrace childcare. I think many of us are all too glad to drop off our kiddos and go work out! But some worry about how the kids will fare while being watched by a stranger. I’m fortunate to have AMAZING childcare at the Y, and I know not every place will have staff quite so kind, loving, competent, and fun as ours. But I feel confident that every gym out there has childcare staff who have been trained and background-checked and you should just not worry about having them care for your kids. Yes, my kids get sick more often because they’re exposed to a couple dozen kids at the Y; totally worth it. Yes, some kid hit Elizabeth on the head at the Y; it was handled appropriately and Elizabeth was fine. Yes, each of my kids went through a couple weeks of crying each time I left them at childcare; they got over it. Don’t let childcare worries stand between you and health/sanity!
- Get the right gear. I’m not talking about the right running shoes or whatever – I mean get what you need to make a gym trip possible! If you’re planning on showering at the gym, here are some things you’ll need:
- a good, sturdy, dedicated bag for your gym stuff. I say “dedicated” because it doesn’t work to just cram more stuff into your diaper bag. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it can be a canvas grocery bag, but you need a gym bag!
- doubles of all your toiletries! This might be obvious, but it wasn’t to me at first, so every time I went to the gym I had to remember to pack my shampoo, conditioner, body wash, razor, deodorant, and lotion. How many items do you think I forgot each time? It was a pain. Now I have an extra of everything I need, and they stay in my gym bag, so all I need to pack on gym day is clothes and a towel.
- a bag for the kids’ stuff. You can just leave your whole diaper bag, but if you’re like me and your diaper bag doubles as a purse, this is less than convenient. We have a drawstring bag, christened “the Y bag,” which contains diapers (the Y has wipes) and a change of clothing for each kid. The Y bag lives in the car so that I don’t forget it at home.
- Eat healthy, sleep enough, drink some water. My workouts are immediately and drastically affected by how much sleep and how much water I’ve had. I have actually postponed workouts on occasion when I know I haven’t had enough water! It’s more difficult (at least for me) to see the immediate effects of nutrition, but I will say that when I’m at my healthiest weight, running is much easier for me. All of these things are just important so that you don’t feel crappy when you’re working out. If your workouts feel crappy you will risk giving up! So have another glass of water and go to bed early. And skip the ice cream, at least sometimes 🙂
- Accept setbacks. Pregnancy and childbirth do a number on your body*. You might make great progress in your physical fitness, and then lose all (or much) of it when you have your next baby. You just have to be at peace with this, and do what you can (swimming is great for those last months of pregnancy!), and remember that you might not be in ideal shape, but you’ll still be much better off than if you had never started.
I’d love to hear tips from other moms who go to the gym regularly – what makes it work for you & your family? I’d love to hear questions too – what else might hold you up from going to the gym?
*I have some more practical things to say about some specific effects of childbirth on our bodies, but they’re a little personal. If you’re struggling with any of that, email me at uncommonmotherhood at gmail.com and we can chat about it 🙂