For the first time in ... maybe ever? I feel that I've developed a healthy relationship with the gym.
I've been hesitant to say this aloud for some time because I have a history of self sabotage in the department of health and fitness. But if my friend Dan was reading this, he would point out that I'm not technically saying anything, but typing it. So perhaps it's okay.
I've never been much of a gym bunny. Is that what they're even called? That sounds wrong. Maybe it's ski bunny? Gym monkey? Whatever. I've never been a fan. I grew up dancing, I was a "bun head" - a ballet dancer. Aside from my ability to do a (mediocre) grand jete, I lacked all other athletic ability. So much so that my parents actually helped me get out of high school gym class. My middle school PE teacher Mrs. Romjue was so terrifying that I couldn't bear the thought of four more years running laps in sweat suits from Fred Meyer with my name written in puffy paint on the back (true story). And my parents sympathized. Actually, it was one of those rare moments in my teen years where my Mother and I truly bonded. In 8th grade she even wrote a note saying that I'd hurt my ankle and couldn't run the mile that week. In my eyes, golden rays of sunshine practically burst from every angle of her head while a chorus of young boys sang one, pure note when she handed me that piece of paper addressed to Mrs. Romjue. I had to favor my right leg for 3 days at school but it was totally worth it.
In college, all students received free university gym passes. This was when I was introduced to the world of step aerobics. I'd followed along with the occasional Jane Fonda cassette tape in the spare bedroom with my Mother in the 80's, but had never taken an organized gym aerobics type class. I skipped as many classes as I attended and usually rewarded myself afterwards with a pan of brownies. Then I would complain bitterly that I wasn't losing any weight.
For years after college I essentially gave up on the idea of the gym. I don't think of myself as a lazy person but, actually, I kind of am. I love wearing elastic waist pants and reading blogs while eating chocolate covered pretzels. In the past, I've always found a gym routine incredibly difficult to maintain. I would get these bursts of frantic motivation to "get in shape" and "lose a few pounds", but they never lasted long enough to actually see me reach my goal. But partly I think that's because if I was being honest, what I actually wanted was to immediately see dramatic results after two weeks of going to the gym irregularly. And when that didn't happen, I would lose interest.
One time, about 7 years ago I joined a gym across the street from my downtown office. I even splurged for a personal trainer. I had gained like 3 pounds in the previous year or so and was appalled at what I would now consider an enviable weight that is likely never to be achieved again. I think I had reached a whopping 117 pounds. My brain just exploded typing that. What was wrong with me that I thought I was in need of a personal trainer??!! Anyways. My personal trainer was 21, incredibly fit, upbeat and sporty. Her name was Jill. She was like a younger, fitter, more optimistic me. I hated her. I quit.
When I was pregnant I thought I'd be one of those sporty moms that went to prenatal yoga and walked regularly. But the truth was I was too busy feeling sick and then sorry for myself when my hip went out. I went to yoga 3 times. I rarely walked further than the distance from car to office.
I joined my current gym about 4 months ago. I'm wondering if the reason it's working this time is because I actually joined for Edie, not for me. I decided it was time for Edie to have more social exposure and realized a gym with daycare would be a good fit. The gym is relatively close to home, it has a very nice, brand new daycare inside, and the cardio equipment offers large plasma screens that show Oprah. It's also full of regular people and almost completely void of tiny blonds in Lulu Lemon suits that make me feel bad about myself. And it's only $30 per month! And $10 extra for daycare!
When I joined the gym, a nice sales boy gave me a spiel about "exercise science". There were a lot of words coming out of his mouth about weight training and heart rates and, I don't know. I tried to pay attention. But in the end, I just slipped back into my decades old gym habit of stepping onto a cardio machine for a while and then doing some random ab and arm moves on the mat. Not very inventive and perhaps not very exercise science savvy. But it's what I like and oh well.
I was just starting to really get into the gym when Edie got a cold, then an ear infection, then a heinous rash from her MMR shot. Essentially, we were banned from the gym daycare. But then she recovered! And despite my terrible past track record on these types of things, I returned to the gym. This is really nothing short of earth shattering given my history.
The daycare has limited hours, so I go when they open for the afternoon session at 4pm. And for whatever reason, I don't feel even a little bit guilty or selfish about going the gym. Edie loves the daycare so much that I actually think of it as an developmental activity for her as much as an opportunity for me. I like to be the first there so Edie gets some QT with the daycare leader before the other kids start to arrive. It's so weird to be a gym convert, but I really look forward to 3:40 when I get to put my gym clothes on, pour Edie a full sippy cup, and head to the car. Yesterday I dropped her off at the Kids Club and practically strutted to the cardio area upstairs, a bounce in my step and a weird, over large smile on my face while the gym speakers blasted Alicia Keyes singing New York State of Mind. Who is this me? This me that's pumped to work out??
I'm not sure, but she is definitely different from the previous model. I suppose one major difference is that I don't have any expectations of losing weight this time. I'm not in love with every inch of my body, but I'm finally learning to be okay with that. It sounds like such a post partum cliche, but I love how strong I've learned I am since having Edie. My arms are stronger than ever from carrying around my chunky monkey and my legs do squats all day to grab dropped snacks, shoes and sippy cups. I'm finally leading the "active lifestyle" that I pretended to be leading for years when really I was coming home from a sedentary job and putting on my sweats to watch TV every day. I'm not going to the gym for the same reasons I used to and maybe that's why the whole thing feels different. And also? I love having just 45 minutes a day where I'm not inanely verbalizing every thing I'm doing to my child, I'm not worrying over developmental milestones and scheduling playdates. It's really the only time, every day where my time is exclusively mine.
Well, mine and Oprah's.