REMEDIAL GYM ATTENDANCE

I am not a happy camper at 6:30 AM.

Sad, early morning selfie.

I went back to CrossFit for the first time a week after Alexander was born. Seriously… how awesome is that? I was absolutely ecstatic that my body had recovered so quickly — and was also pretty pleased with myself for managing to get out of the house alone :).

I continued to go to the gym while J was off work (for two weeks after the birth), and then again a couple of weeks later, when my parents came to visit us.

Then my parents left. And J was working all sorts of late nights and long weekends. And although Oliver was still going to daycare twice a week, there was the issue of what to do with the baby.

Hiring a babysitter was never an option, given that sitters in downtown Vancouver charge an average rate of $15 per hour. Evening workouts are impossible, as I can’t count on J’s work schedule allowing him to be home in time for me to make the (final) 7:00 PM class. And even if I could, it would be unfair to ask him to take care of supper and two children’s bedtime routines on his own after a long day of work.

So that leaves mornings.

Except I despise mornings. I am a night owl through and through, and I have been for as long as I can remember — even as a child. I have an overwhelming compulsion to stay up late doing something… anything; a compulsion that transcends all logic and all forethought. In other words, even if I know I have to wake up early, or that I have a busy day ahead, I can’t seem to get myself organized and/or wound down enough to go to sleep at a reasonable hour. A dear friend of mine once cleverly pointed out that it’s as if I have two distinct personalities — Night Carli and Morning Carli — and each is entirely incapable of empathizing with the other.

I am extremely fortunate that both boys will sleep until at least 8:15 AM, which allows me to attend either the 6:00 AM or 7:00 AM class and be home in time for Alexander’s first feed and J’s departure for work. But making the 7:00 AM class entails waking at 6:25, which is not a particularly easy feat when you’re in the habit of going to bed at 2:00 AM.

I had put my gym membership on hold back in December (when I injured my rib), and was paying for drop-ins until such time as I could commit to more regular attendance. I had six weeks remaining on my annual CrossFit membership, so I reactivated it on June 1st, with grand visions of working out three mornings per week.

I managed to make it to the gym precisely twice before my membership ran out. For the sake of self-reproach, I’m shamefully admitting publicly that this worked out to about $120 per class :/ .

Now I had a dilemma: my membership was up for renewal, but with such an abysmal attendance record, I simply could not justify spending the amount of money necessary to commit to another year. Alas, I signed myself up for one very expensive single month membership and got put on my gym’s remedial attendance program (it has some other catchy name, but let’s just call it what it is). I was required to commit to 12 classes (three per week) that I would attend over the course of the month. If I no-showed, I would get fined — $5 for the first transgression, $10 for the second, $15 for the third, and so on.

It kind of worked. The trouble was, I could cancel or reschedule my reservation online, without penalty, as long as it was more than an hour before the start of the class. This certainly prevented me from turning off my alarm and going back to sleep in the mornings, but if I stayed up too late or woke in the middle of the night, I could cancel. I made it to six classes in four weeks which I suppose is an improvement over two classes in six weeks. I only achieved my three class per week target on the final week, after having skipped the gym entirely on the third week. I’m now signed up for a second month, vowing to do better.

Truth be told, there is a small part of me that just wants to be relieved of this “burden” — to let my membership lapse and not pressure myself to get up early. I feel stressed on the nights before I’m supposed to go to the gym, because I know how badly Morning Carli is going to be cursing Night Carli; yet I still can’t seem to get myself into bed at a reasonable hour. I know that an early morning workout on an empty stomach and a few hours of sleep is really going to suck. And that I will feel exhausted and achy and short-tempered for the rest of the day. It also doesn’t help that after seven months of sporadic attendance, my performance has suffered greatly. I’ve lost all of the strength gains I made while I was pregnant. I feel like I am starting from scratch again.

When my alarm goes off in the morning, I try to find excuses not to go. I’m feeling kind of funny — maybe I’m coming down with something? Did I just hear the baby stir? What if he wakes up after I leave and he needs to be fed?

Then, I secretly hope that my car won’t start, or that I won’t be able to find parking near the gym (not highly likely at 7:00 AM 🙂 ) and will have to go back home and crawl back into bed.

But then there is the other part of me that knows how much better I feel when I am fit and active, and more importantly, when I am actually doing something that is just for me. And as vain as it sounds, having a “gym body” makes me feel good about myself. I know that if I can persist with these mornings and develop some sort of consistency, I will start to look, feel and perform better.

And then there are the nights before my rest days, when I know I don’t have to get up early. I feel relaxed and happy, with no stress or guilt about staying up late. And an evil little voice inside my head says, “I could feel like this every night if I just gave this whole gym thing up.”

It’s all a little bit ridiculous, isn’t it? I should just go to bed early and stop creating reasons to stay up late. I should just turn off my brain in the morning and go to the gym without looking for excuses not to. All I need to do is get into a consistent routine for a few weeks, and it should all become second nature.

In the meantime, something desperately needs to change, but given the time I’m publishing this post, that change obviously isn’t starting tonight :).

15 responses to “REMEDIAL GYM ATTENDANCE

  1. Carli, please forgive me for saying this, but I think it’s not awesome that you were back at the gym after 1 week! I am wary of our culture (particularly Crossfit culture) telling women that it’s bad-ass or awesome to be back at the gym too soon after having a baby. A postpartum body, particularly your core and pelvic floor, needs rest and time to heal after having a baby.

    Given, I have no idea what you were actually doing at the gym after 1 week – maybe you were just stretching or doing a gentle row – so maybe my rant is completely unnecessary, in which case I’ll say please forgive me. 😉 It’s not my place to tell anyone what is right for their body, but I don’t want any new mamas out there to feel pressure to get back at it too quickly when in reality the only thing they need to be doing is resting, walking and healing.

    Good luck changing your sleep routine to accommodate the AM workouts! I hope you’ll post a blog update on that if you succeed, I’m a night owl and night exerciser myself and feel very very lucky that my gym has an 8:30 class.

    • No, this is a very fair comment and a great point! I have to say that this birth was very different for me than Oliver’s, where I definitely needed to wait a few weeks before doing anything more than going for short walks. I honestly felt so good after Alexander’s birth that I joked with J about going to the gym the very next day. But when I did go back, I was still acutely aware that all of my internal organs were in very different places than they’d been a week prior, and so I took it really easy, knowing that my core muscles were completely unsupported and all of my ligaments still loose from relaxin. I also started by attending Open Gym, rather than classes. But thank you for bringing this up, because nobody should ever feel pressured to return to physical activity earlier than their body tells them is the right time to do so!

  2. I know what you mean! We had a membership to a gym and now the YMCA since it’s more kid friendly. Even though we can leave the kids at Child Watch (during their sporadic hours) we still don’t make it regularly and are debating getting rid of our membership. I take the kids for walks around the block several times a week and work in the yard, but that’s the only forms of exercise I can fit in. There is SO MUCH to do around the house, especially since I am working full time. Can you get in more walks during the day? You could even load up a backpack to help make it a more “real” workout. I also try to fit in push ups during the day (when I remember). I LOVE PUSH UPS!!! You can get back to CrossFit when the kids are older??? Good luck with what you decide!

    • I could (and should) probably incorporate some simple body weight exercises into my daily routine — push-ups, squats, sit-ups, burpees — stuff that I can easily do at home. I’ve also thought about getting a jogging stroller and just doing some running and outdoor exercise until such time as I can more easily get to the gym. It does rain an awful lot here, though, which makes outdoor workouts unappealing for about eight months of the year 🙂

  3. Yeah, getting back to the gym one week after having a baby sounds kind of insane! My midwife has a rule that new moms should stay in bed 7 days for the first, (8 days for the second, etc…) and let people take care of her so that she can focus entirely on the job of bonding with the baby and resting (as much as possible!). My family was awesome and they brought me breakfast, lunch and dinner for the entire week! I didn’t even go downstairs until the 6th night! I tore a lot, so I had to sit and heal a bit (it’s good to hear you didn’t have that problem the second time!!).

    I love exercise and it definitely helps to keep me sane and organized in parenting. I opt for the 6-6:45 a.m. classes, but I always go to bed with the kids between 8-8:30 p.m. Sleep and exercise are both important!

    I couldn’t do cross-fit like classes until my youngest was about 18-months-old though. Before that, I just did the random yoga class, walked, played and did squats or whatever I could think of while pushing the swings or waiting for someone to come down a slide. I feel *very* guilty when my gym membership goes unused for too long, especially now that I am paying extra for their version of cross-fit. My gym membership is usually $35/month and with the cross-fit-like program is $100/month. Ugg! That is really a whopper if I don’t go frequently enough. Nothing quite like the classes adding up to $50/session or something insane! It hasn’t been that bad, but it’s good to squeeze in as much as possible.

    You’ll get back to it! The little ones grow quickly! I have one going into first grade already!

    • I tore horribly the first time around, so even just walking was really uncomfortable :(. This time around, I got scolded a lot by the midwife for various transgressions, such as having the bed made when she came to visit, hahaha. Although I have to say I am so grateful for having had a fast recovery, as I was on my own with both kids very early on, since J had to go back to work and my parents weren’t able to visit (they live across the country) until a month after Alexander was born.

      Going to bed at 8:30 sounds positively dreamy. You must feel GREAT when you get out of bed in the morning!

      I held off on returning to CrossFit for 18 months after Oliver’s birth, but when I finally returned, I realized that all those months of not going to the gym had actually taken a toll on my mental health. I know now that I feel much better – much more myself – when I am doing some sort of challenging physical activity.

  4. Carli, you’re definitely not alone! Living in a foreign country, my work schedule and the location of the CrossFit gym just aren’t compatible for regular workouts. I’ve gotten so lazy during my pregnancy, and I feel terrible about it. I’ve experimented with different techniques, but I just can’t make myself feel motivated when I’m working out on my own. I have four weeks left until my due date, and I’m just trying to stay a little bit active. It’s going to be worse once I have to go back to work after the baby comes…I don’t have any great advice, but I just wanted you to know that we sympathize!

    I remember http://www.marksdailyapple.com doing some articles about how to deal with changing your sleep patterns to accommodate shift work, which is kind of what you’re doing. Maybe you could find some things worth trying on there? You’ve probably already tried the blue-light-blocking glasses and other techniques, but there may be some way to help you wind down and get an extra hour or two of sleep.

    • I hear you — I also have a really hard time being motivated when I work out alone. Before I started CrossFit, I always swore that I hated group fitness classes; that working out and socializing were incompatible. Now I have a hard time doing it any other way.

      Thanks for the suggestion to check out MDA. He always has such great information!

      Best of luck with the rest of your pregnancy, and of course with the birth. In some weird way, I’m kind of jealous you get to do that soon 😉

  5. Hi onefitmum … I followed your blog through my first pregnancy and now 3 months into my second, love,your words thankyou 🙂 1 Our Crossfit runs a Mums and Bubs class where you can bring your babies / toddlers & they hang out and okay while we do the workout. If you a know a group of mums that would be into this at a time that suits them all, it could work , that’s how ours started. 2 there is also a group of women that do a mums and bubs outdoors circuit training for free once a week and set challenges for home training during the week. These groups usually start from like minded women, maybe there’s a few around ? 3 That said Neither of these have had me hooked and regularly training with other life and hubby commitments, but have discovered something that does work for me, have you tried training at home ? I have a few entry level pieces of equipment – for me dumbells, a TRX, an 8kg and a 12kg Kettlebell, fit Matt – that I’ve collected over years & I run my own home workouts. Amazingly I do them quite a few times a week if not daily and my 10 month old watches me and plays in the yard and with her stuff. I dropped my normal gym membership and use the same allocation of funds to buy bits and,pieces every couple of months. I enjoy the challenge of making the workouts diverse and targeting different muscle groups – I think we (fit mums) pick up a lot of info over years of “gym-ing”. I even tied a watering can up with some rope and made a pulley system over a beam to get my shoulder blades and upper back properly. It’s not a perfect workout but it keeps me regular & ready for an intense workout. I’ve booked three sessions with a personal trainer while my parents are visiting in a few weeks as I also have no babysitter or help when Dads at work long hours so am working towards annihilating myself at those. With your sleep, I remember this from when your first one was born with the sleep training, just do whatever works for you mama!! If your boys are happy and your happy, maybe Nightime Carli should get her way! Good luck 😉 Kristy in Byron bay Australia.

  6. Ps you are totally awesome for getting back into gym in a week. It completely blows me away how fitness & strength training during pregnancy and post pregnancy helps the mind body soul, great stuff 🙂 I completely understand the connection between training & motivation & the mind & motherhood. Xx

  7. Lol! I am def not a morning person either and I’m pretty sure I will never sign up for a 5:15 or 6:15 AM class (which is what my gym offers). It was my goal to keep crossfitting up until my baby was born, unfortunately I had to “quit” week 34 due to my constant swollen feet. Then I ended up with a c-section after 29 hours of labor which precluded me for another 8 weeks! While I do miss it, maybe it’s a good thing that I’m forced to rest and recover. So I say, take it easy, let morning carli off the hook! 😉

  8. Hi! Awesome job for getting back in there so soon and for sticking with it. That takes a lot of dedication!
    Might I make a suggestion? It does not sound like you are liking your workouts…I know – a little part of you LOVES your workouts – but, it sounds like they are making the rest of your life a little miserable…Why not try something else for a bit? Home workouts, walks or runs actually sound like they would fit your lifestyle the best right now…you could even hire a personal trainer who specializes in post natal exercise to give you the motivation and drive that you get from crossfit..And – I’m sure you would still be paying less than you do for crossfit. Theres also a lot of outdoor bootcamps – even some that specialize in baby and mommy classes. .I know how addictive it is and understand fully your resistance to change – but, in the end – when you think about it…isn’t exercise supposed to make our lives better? Happier?

  9. Just discovered your blog as I was trying to get to the bottom of the “no lying on back exercises” in second trimester! I’m a mom of five who discovered CrossFit when my 5th was 3 months old. He is now 2. CrossFit might have literally saved my life! I live in Alaska and struggle every winter with SAD. Add to that a baby with food intolerences that couldn’t sleep or breastfeed, and I was 40 pounds overweight. It was a hard winter. CrossFit gave me new life! I was never super fit before, just doing various videos at home, but losing motivation. I found I really needed the group, the social, the coach, the push, the barbell, all of it. Now I think of myself as an athlete! Fast forward two years and I find myself accidentally pregnant with my sixth! I am 36 and due to my new found CrossFit passion, a very difficult toddler, and the fact that my pregnancies are all awful, I had decided five was good for me. Oops! I’m now 14 weeks and my sickness is finally subsiding, but a lot of damage has been done. My ability to eat mostly grains often to be able to function has added a lot of fat to my frame quickly, plus the baby made it’s appearance quickly! (I guess that comes with being number 6.) I have struggled with stamina from the beginning and, mentally, it’s all been very hard for me. Discouraging. I have continued to go, but my morale is low because every time it seems like I perform worse. The hardest part is seeing all I’ve worked so hard for over the last two years slip away and knowing how hard it will be to get it back. I have already been fretting about how soon I will be able to get back after the baby is born, because it’s not just for my physical health, it is more for my mental health! I was glad to see that it may be possible to return sooner than 6 weeks out! I just wish I could fast forward through this pregnancy and get it over with! That’s my story. Thanks for sharing your journey here, glad to have found you!

  10. Oh my gosh, Carli, I can so relate you your Night Owl tendencies! I was just telling someone that about myself tonight! I’d probably have a more effective workout at 2am than 6am, even though they are technically both morning, one is because I am still up and one is because I’m up too early! I struggled after I had my son to find the time to workout. I was a gym rat before I got pregnant and then after I went back to work when he was 3 1/2 months, I felt awful going home and leaving him again. Didn’t seem fair. At all. Tried the kiddie gym and that was an epic fail. So, I started doing ChaLEAN Extreme (a Beachbody Program) at home and I was finally able to start feeling like me again and not feel guilty about it. I tell you, it’s pretty freaking amazing that there are such effective workouts that you can do at home in 30 minutes or less! My current favorite is the 21 Day Fix, which also incorporates a super simple color-coded portion-control eating system. Just teaches you to eat clean and not eat too much! What helped me was that I was part of a support & accountability group on Facebook when I started and now I run a monthly group too. Feel free to reach out to me if you think you could see yourself working out at home and being virtually supported!!! Turn that frown upside down! You can do whatever you set your mind to!! 🙂

  11. Oh my goodness! That’s amazing! This is the stuff that you read about in those trashy celeb mags and think that it’s only women who have a ‘live-in’ personal trainer that can go back and work out A WEEK after their baby is born. I truly think this is amazing. How did you find doing anything overhead or squatting like wall balls?

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