how to go to the gym

Maggie, October 2013, with one of our most-beloved childcare ladies at the Y. (It was pirate day!)

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!)

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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 🙂
  5. 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 and we can chat about it 🙂


6 thoughts on “how to go to the gym

  1. Love the practical encouragement. Burning question: at what time of day do you fit Y trips in when the baby is taking solid morning and afternoon naps (and the toddler’s afternoon nap is long)? We are at this stage, and I am struggling to get us all to the gym without stealing time from something else, such as naps, snacks, lunch, or dinner prep.


    1. GREAT question – it’s a tough one! Currently I have a morning napper who goes to sleep between 8 and 9 and wakes up between 9 and 11. I’ve finally chosen to manage her morning nap by putting her down at 9 if she’s not already down, even if she’s not acting sleepy; and getting her up no later than 10:30, no matter what time she went down.

      So then we head out to the Y (or whatever other errand) at 10:30ish, and lucky for me the Y is five minutes away 😉 I can manage to get in a good run and shower, and get the girls home by 12:15ish for lunch before Maggie goes down for a nap a 1:00. (Then I put E down at 1:30.)

      The other option is, if it’s leftover night or I can get dinner prepped ahead of time, we go after PM naps. The childcare at our Y is closed from 1-4, so we try to get there right at 4:00; this can be tricky if the kids sleep long or have grumpy wakeups. Pete doesn’t get home until 6:00, so that gives me plenty of time. The girls are fairly hungry when we get home, but they have a PM snack right after PM snacks so it’s not a dire situation. And the bonus to all this is, even though it’s a hectic 15 minutes when we get home, I’ve missed out on most of the witching hour 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And I forgot one of my #1 keys to gym success – I always make lunch before we leave the house. Actually I do this no matter what errand we go on.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Brilliant. Thank you! I am not eager to wake up the baby from their nap, but you confirmed my suspicion that it may be necessary for schedule regularization.

        Probably something similar could be done with the toddler’s PM nap. In the end, it may make their sleep better overall…? At least one can hope.


      3. I think regularity is generally helpful! My unscientific, untested theory is that if the kid generally seems to need, say, a two-hour nap in the PM, then it’s totally fine to wake her up after two hours so that your schedule doesn’t get thrown off. I think I’d only recommend this after the kid has established somewhat of a schedule and is clearly well-rested. Also … Dr. Weissbluth does actually recommend waking a baby up if the morning nap gets too long, in order to “protect” the afternoon nap. I’l recommend, again, reading his whole book – I’ve found it sooooo helpful and enlightening!


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