I almost cried in frustration in January when my dad suggested I use some of the time my kids are at nursery to go to the gym. We’re paying for that time in childcare! I can’t fritter it away on an activity for myself! I need to get some bloody work done! But with my partner working and living away from home 3-4 nights a week, and two kids to tend to, I would never find enough time during the week otherwise to make it worthwhile joining the gym, and I desperately wanted to rediscover that part of myself.
I never had myself down as a gym goer. If I recall correctly, I first properly started going to a gym when I started my job as soon as I graduated from my first degree. I’ve always hated running so I joined the gym with the intention of doing anything but. I’m at a pretty good level of fitness now, yet still running makes me feel like I’m about to collapse! I was always better at sprinting than long-distance at school sports days, maybe that has something to do with it.
The induction at the gym focused on building a programme and, fortuitously, the personal trainer I had was very keen on women understanding the benefits of lifting heavy weights. Some women are apparently put off lifting heavy weights as a false stereotype prevails that it will lead to a masculine physical body type. This is generally impossible without serious hormonal imbalances (artificial or otherwise). Lifting heavy weights makes you STRONG and lean (although any weight loss is a bonus incidental side-effect for me) and generally gets you feeling more in charge of your body. IT ROCKS! [In case you’re interested and don’t know where to start, I recommend Girls Gone Strong and Nia Shanks]
Lifting weights is my time out. It’s the only time I seem to be able to check out. When I’m at the gym, nothing else fills my headspace. For a chronic over-thinker with insomniac tendencies and a cerebral ‘job’, it is blissful. The visceral sense of focusing only on what my body is physically doing is very freeing. I can’t worry about babies and relationships and family and books and writing and money while I’m there. I can zone out and entirely decide on what I will challenge myself with today, whether I deadlift or squat, whether I can lift slightly heavier, how my muscles and energy levels feel.
I love the incremental improvements and achievements that I can’t find anywhere else in my life: for instance, right now, I am deadlifting more than I ever have before (that is, lifting a barbell loaded with weights from the floor to standing). That’s even after having had two kids! I’m not going to go full hippie and rave about the wonder of the human body, but it is such a satisfying hobby as it’s unlike anything else I do (I’m far from a manual labourer, even as a mother who tends to walk a minimum of 1.5 miles a day) and I’m only comparing myself to myself, so I get to fistbump me every time I have a great workout.
And strangely, I have made and found the time, and still get my work and parenting done. It’s worth it for the boost to my mental health.