Gather ’round, kiddos, and let me tell you a little story about what happens when mama goes to the gym. As a matter of fact, the act of getting to the gym is, for a mom, a killer workout in and of itself. Behold a typical day in the life...
“What are we doing today, Mama?” your children ask.
You dread this question but have armed yourself well in advance with your prepared response. “We’re going to the Kids’ Club at the gym today,” you reply with completely unnecessary levels of enthusiasm. You widen your eyes to the point that they look dangerously close to falling out of their sockets, smile so big your cheeks quiver, and to really drive your point home, wildly clap your hands like that wind-up monkey toy popular back in the good ol’ days that hobbles around and claps cymbals together. In short, you look like a damn fool. And naturally, your kids aren’t buying it.
Soon your kids are screaming that they don’t want to go to the gym. You are screaming that you don’t want to go to the gym. It is abundantly clear that there is no one in your house who actually WANTS to go to the gym.
And yet you must.
It was your mission, you chose to accept it, and now that you’ve stated your intent, you must follow through. To do otherwise would be to show weakness, and we all know what happens to those who show weakness. (They get eaten by the tribe, that’s what.) So feel the burn as you corral every protesting person into the car, mama. Feel that burn.**
But wait—the fun is just beginning. More pleasures await you at the gym and beyond. Here are some of my favorite workout-related beauties:
Squats. We all know that big booties are in, so don’t even pretend like you’re going to go to the gym and not try to work in a few deep squats along the way. You know what happens when you do squats? Three things: (1) you wonder if your leggings are actually see-through; (2) you wonder if your leggings are going to split at the seams, thus exposing your last-ditch, bottom-of-the-undie-drawer, geometric-patterned Fruit of the Loom holdovers from your postpartum days that are a clear indication your laundry pile is now occupying enough space to require its own zip code; and (3) you wonder if you are going to inadvertently let one rip. These are the facts, ladies, and they’re not pretty.
Floor Exercises. You may get all ambitious on us and move from run-of-the-mill cardio exercise into truly grueling floor and weight work. If you go this route, you will likely find yourself contorting your body into poses that are not only unnatural but also highly unflattering. Don’t want to be reminded you have a quintuple chin? Better skip those crunches. Hoping no one will notice the deep ravine your constricting waistband is cutting into your doughy belly? No such luck when you’re doing those lifts, mama. You might want to rethink weight work entirely, unless you want a glimpse of the faces you ordinarily would make under the deep cover of the darkness in those “special bedroom moments” (and the occasional matching soundtrack). I recommend avoiding eye contact with the taunting mirror in front of you at all costs. Floor exercises are not pretty. This is a fact, ladies.
The Locker Room. You will be hurriedly changing in the locker room—because when is a mom not rushing?—and you will look up one day and realize that the world is not the place you thought it was. In mommy world, women wear yoga pants and running shoes. In mommy world, boobs are flat and tummies are big. In locker room world, our reality is flipped on its rear. Women actually change out of their yoga pants and running shoes to put on cute, form-fitting clothes and shoes with heels. In locker room world, boobs are big and tummies are flat. It’s a confusing place.
But let’s get back to the mechanics of making it through any given gym day. If you had zero energy when you dropped off your kids at the Kids’ Club to embark upon your workout, you have negative one million energy when you return to pick them up (and this is assuming you weren’t stopped in mid-stride by the alarming sound of your name being summoned to return to the Kids’ Club over the booming speakers of the fitness center’s paging system). Your shaky arms ache as you carry a one million-pound child and the 50,000 coloring pages they “colored” in your absence, and your legs cry out for mercy as you chase after the other, who is zipping through the busy hallway, wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting patrons, and delighting in your inability to catch up to her for once.
She makes a beeline for the Cafe and, as if by dead reckoning, runs straight for the Kids’ Zone section of offerings propped up at her eye level. Here she finds much to beg for. Three-dollar microscopic bags of Pirate’s Booty, $2 fruit chews, and my personal favorite, a $4 moon-sized cookie. Why is the world so against us moms? Why? It takes every ounce of your remaining energy to convince your kiddos that you have all of that stuff AT HOME. That they can help themselves to all of it when they’re AT HOME. To drag them through the parking lot screaming so that you can finally return to all the housework that’s waiting for you AT HOME.
You finally arrive home feeling tired and weary but accomplished! You made it a priority to go to the gym, and despite all the obstacles and little humiliations along the way, you made it happen. You overcame objections, carried on when you wanted to quit, reminisced about the good ol’ days while jamming out to your ’90s hip-hop tunes via the privacy of your headphones, and worked up a sweat your teenage self would’ve been proud of. And believe it or not, you still somehow have it in you to drag your crew to after-school activities, make dinner, oversee baths, and get those munchkins off to bed. You, my dear, are a gladiator.
As a reward at the end of a very long day, you treat yourself and your aching muscles to a Tylenol PM. You want to fall asleep fast, hard, and with zero pain. And you do. But the pain isn’t gone—it’s just delayed until the next morning, when you realize you slept so soundly you didn’t even hear your alarm clock. Turned off the blasted thing in your sleep, apparently. Good thing you’re in top form, mama. You’re gonna need it today. Get your sprint on!
**Now, by contrast, here’s a little story about how daddy goes to the gym. Daddy wakes up and decides he wants to go to the gym. He throws on a pair of totally opaque black athletic shorts and walks out the door to go to the gym. End of story. Feel the burn, mama. Feel the burn.