Notice I said “was.”
Now, it’s a duty. An afterthought. An obligation. Something I dread.
It’s not because I started to hate exercise. It’s because my son hates the gym. And the stroller. And just about everything else that used to let me fit in a workout.
I was one of those people. One who couldn’t wait until my six-week postpartum checkup to jump back into things. One who chose a stroller that would fit a newborn infant without a carseat so I could get out and walking ASAP. One who used my baby as a barbell and as added weight doing sprints up and down the stairs. (Okay, you got me on that one – that was because it was the only way to get my colicky infant to stop crying.) One who lost the baby weight right away and still enjoyed fitting in fitness as a new mom.
And then my flexible, moldable, easily adaptable baby turned into a walking, talking, attitude-giving, strong-willed toddler. A toddler that refuses to go to the gym daycare. A toddler that screams bloody murder at pretty much any word that starts with “g,” just in case it’s followed by “y-m.” A toddler that would rather push the stroller than ride it, or better yet, walk himself without a stroller in sight. Now he’s too big to use as a weight and not content enough to entertain himself while I do a workout at home.
All the advice and secrets I used to be able to share about staying fit as a mom flew out the window at record speed.
Now I’m an exercise-lover who almost never exercises. Sure, I get my activity in. After all, I’m chasing a toddler around all day. I want him to be up and moving, so I’m up and moving. But even if I were to squeeze a couple of sit-ups or push-ups in here and there, it wouldn’t be the same.
See, now more than ever, exercise is a much-needed mental break. It’s my chance to zone out. To not worry. To not scold or encourage or keep a watchful eye out. To not think about a thing. But that’s not what I manage to get these days. On the rare occasion I can coerce my ornery toddler that going to the gym isn’t punishment and is in fact a fun thing to do, I don’t get to mentally check out. Instead, I’m waiting for the inevitable call on the loudspeaker to report to child care and pick up my son who just can’t handle it. The few days I’ve made it through an entire workout without having to rescue him from the horrors of child care, my workout has been weak and less than satisfactory. This is partly because I’m still anticipating the early end of my sweat session, even if it doesn’t come, and partly because exercise has become so low on my scale of desire of things to do that I’ve lost my love for it. Perhaps some of that love stemmed from exercise coming easy for me before. Now it’s anything but that. I’m in the worst shape of my life and even a brisk walk on the treadmill can leave me winded. Most of it comes from the fact that it’s not a routine part of my life anymore, which makes it hard to pick up and get going when I do get the chance to walk into the weight room doors or hit the pavement for a rare run.
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve both made it to and through a spin class in the last several months (if not longer). The number of times it’s been a good class – meaning invigorating mentally and physically – is an even smaller number. Slowly but surely, along with my fitness level, my mental sanity is going out the window. It’s gotten to the point where the whole process of trying to get him to the gym or in the stroller is more exhausting than actually working out. I’ve used up all my tricks and strategies, and I’ve lost the desire to attempt to “sneak” in alternative workouts. I’ve lost my exercise mojo. I try to be patient and not push, and ultimately hope for the day when my son looks forward to playing at the gym as much as I once liked going to the gym. I hope that one day it will be as routine for him as it might once again be for me. But until then, I just keep on trucking, trying to use the bursts of energy my son has on his own to capture a moment of endorphin-like release for myself. I know that one day he’ll be happy to get away from me and I’ll have all the time in the world to exercise or not exercise. That day is just not today.
Having a child with a mind of his own has taught me a lot of things about myself as a person and myself as a parent. I’ve learned that sometimes I need to respect this tiny person’s wishes and not make him succumb to my every want. I’ve also learned that sometimes I need to step up and be the boss, not giving in just because my child is adorable and what I do might upset him. But mostly, I’ve learned that parenting is just a delicate balance between the two of those hard-learned (and harder to accept) lessons.
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