My Life at the Gym

Many, many people ask me, a stay-at-home mom, what I do each day while my children are in school. It’s easy to get offended at this question, because what stay-at-home parents do can’t easily be quantified.

(Then I stopped getting annoyed, because at some jobs I had to track my whole day in 15-minute increments. It’s extremely useful when learning how to budget your time, but also demoralizing because I Am An Adult Who Can Manage Her Workload And Meet Deadlines All By Herself.)

To put it very simply, I stay home because it gives our family flexibility. I don’t have to get in arguments with my husband when one of the kids gets sick or there’s a meeting/practice/activity right after school. Everything I do easily can be rescheduled or rearranged to accommodate everyone else. When emergencies occur, I call in favors and the small village convenes to help out.

So this is what I do when my kids are at school: I pay bills, cook meals, read books or the Internet, watch television and go to the gym.

I resisted the gym for a long time because the machines–with the exception of the treadmill–intimidate me. Most women go to group classes but I have the thrilling combination of perfectionism and mild social anxiety that leaves me in a quivering puddle when considering exercising (and possibly sweating and most definitely farting) in tandem with others.

I can’t exercise with my husband because he’s insane.

So a good option for me was signing up for a personal trainer. The trainer could show me how to use the machines correctly, advise me on my diet and come up with workout plans tailored just for me.

My first trainer was just okay. He knew what he was talking about and I saw results but he was an Eeyore who started complaining about his compensation. (I was contributing toward his compensation.)

I joined a Biggest Loser-esque contest a few years later at the gym and signed up with a new trainer, and he’s great. Even though he is a 23-year-old country boy who has never been on an airplane and who’s had to ask me what the words “millennial” and “evangelical” mean, where Topeka is and how to use a credit card, he knows what he is talking about when it comes to fitness. He’s always positive and upbeat and will ask me, “You think you can handle a little more weight this time?” and when I respond “OK sure,” he wanders over and adds 50 more pounds to the machine. And I always finish my reps (I still have to do the same amount of reps because I think he is secretly a sadist) even though I know I will cry when I go to sit down and urinate the following day. He knew what I was capable of more than I did, and he’d just grin when I told him how I felt about planking and pull-ups and burpees. “That’s great. You still have to do them.”

So not only did I see results, but I also got strong. I became confident enough to go to the gym to work out by myself because now I knew how to work the machines, and all the gym rats knew who I was because they knew my trainer. I eventually started going to body pump and yoga classes. (Where I sweated and farted and no one said anything because everyone was doing the same thing.)

I’m winding down my time with this trainer because I’m transitioning to a new gym closer to my house. I will sorely miss the trainer, but from what he tells me, he’s looking to get out of personal training and into something more steady like shift work at a local plant. It’s a shame, because he is great at what he does.

As new members at the gym closer to our house, we get to try out group fitness training called THRIVE. I’m nearing the end of my trial run and deciding whether to go further. I have friends who swear by it. I don’t work out on the machines in this program. It’s more focused on balanced movement and flexibility. For example, during my evaluation, I learned that nearly every movement I make compensates for a weak left hip. So during my workouts (with four other people at varying levels of fitness) I do traditional exercises like push-ups and planks (I WILL NEVER EVER BE RID OF THEM I HATE THEM WITH THE RAGE OF A THOUSAND SUNS) but then other activities like pushing a weighted sled back and forth and doing weighted hip bridges. I haven’t worked with the new trainer enough to form an opinion about her yet, although she thinks it’s humorous every time she gives me a core exercise to do and I call it a “sneaky plank.” Which it is. But it’s the one surefire thing to do to strengthen my flipping hip. The trainer constantly has to tell me that my problem isn’t power, it’s mobility. It’s strange because I don’t know what results I’m supposed to be seeing yet. But I go twice a week and I’m tempted to give it another three months, just for curiosity’s sake.


My Life at the Gym

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