To the Gym

Here and on Instagram, people have asked that I talk about our resolve as a family to get to the gym. First let me give you a little bit of the backstory so you understand how I came to be standing in the gym in the first week of January when I'd promised msyelf all of December that I'd do nothing but sleep that week.

Last year, Christian struggled with depression all through the winter. Well, he always struggles with depression, but last year was particularly bad. And then, he joined a gym. Things began to improve. It wasn't a panacea, but they improved. He paid for his own membership and he went faithfully. Then, he ran out of money. His summer earnings split nearly evenly between Chipotle and the gym, he was running dry around mid-October. We supplemented. 

Before long, he suggested that a gym membership would be a good idea as a Christmas gift for the three boys remaining at home. Mike and I heartily agreed. We'd seen the benefit for Christian and even though both Stephen and Nick play highly competitive soccer year 'round, we could see how they'd benefit from the facilities, too. That was all before we visited. We didn't actually get the membership before Christmas. I wrapped some Muscle Mend and a note that promised the gym.

So, there we were, with everyone and their brothers, the first week of January. The gym was amazing, with so much to offer. Mike saw potential for all of us. I sat there numb while he registered us all. And suddenly, my lazy January disappeared and I now had to figure out what the gym offered for seven different kids and how to make sure we all got there. And I had to commit to something for myself, too.

So, I did. Because by golly if we were paying for it, we were doing it. Ours is a beautiful gym--truly amazing, really. And there is something for everyone. Someone commented on "gym culture." I'm not sure what she meant by the reference. I think our gym is multi-cultural. Swimmers, bike riders, rock climbers, weight lifters, yogis, marathon runners--they each seem to have their own culture. And we've all found our niche within those cultures--often being very cross-cultural.

Once I got started, it was very evident that this place was part of God's plan for my renewal. I'm ever so grateful

So, how do we get there? What are the logistics? I sit down with gym class schedules at the beginning of my week (there's an app for that) and see what's what for who. I look at other schedules (like soccer and ballet) and I just see where we can fit things. Sometimes, we hold dinner until late. Sometimes, we eat something light at home before the gym and eat again when we get home.

Last week, I discovered that there are some classes taught in the morning by a homeschooling mother of seven. And her kids are doing school in the "kids club" while she teaches moms upstairs. I think they're is some real potential there for me. I tried it once last week, then spent the rest of the week battling a stomach bug, so I have yet to see how that works with the rest of our schedule, but maybe a couple days a week...

As soccer season heads into full swing, our evenings aren't going to be as workable, so I've tentatively adapted my personal practice schedule to one that includes early morning time. While I've really benefited from group fitness classes that require quiet and concentration and the guidance of a teacher, that won't be available in the mornings. But I can use that quiet space in the gym (no classes there in the very early morning) and bring a podcast or even a video on my computer, if I want. And then I can go from there to the cardio machines (at least theoretically). I'll still hit the group classes when I can. I'm glad to have my every day habit well established before I have to go it alone a bit. I know it's trickier to do it on my own. I've logged years of off and on seasons with T-Tapp and P90X. The reality is that I always worked out until I was interrupted. By leaving the house when everyone is asleep and practicing in a separate space, I'm more likely to stay focused and get it done. 

I much prefer the times when we can all be there together and I can hardly wait until the summer! 

I remember when my big guys were babies. Someone offered some sage advice regarding getting out of the house. She told me to always keep a diaper bag packed. That way, you could get up and go much more readily. Great advice that I followed for 20-plus years. The same advice applies to gym bags.

Since Pinterest informs me that the absolute favorite post from this blog for pinners is one on packing for a Disney road trip, followed closely by packing for soccer, I'm guessing it's worth sharing my bag strategy. 


First off, everyone has a water bottle. And they know that they are not to leave home without it and they are to keep it with them and use it the whole time they're there. The first time we went to the gym, Mary Beth passed out. Dehydration played a role in this unfortunate beginning. Nothing like EMTs and ambulance lights to drive home the lesson for all of us. We're very serious about water.

I go to the gym wearing workout clothes, eliminating the need to change before class because we are often cutting it close, timewise. I pack my big gym bag according to the way items will be used. So, I think backwards. My blow dryer is last, so it goes in first, with my street shoes (socks tucked in) on top. Then, my clothes, a bag for the shower, and on and on until I'm totally packed.






On the very top: shower shoes ( really need to get my own pair of cute flip-flops instead of teenage boy castoffs). Then, a ziploc bag holds earbuds, a bandana, and a little pot of coconut oil. Eucalyptus steam room. After the workout and before the shower, ten minutes in the steam room is why I even do any of this at all very beneficial. I slip my phone into the bag, plug in the earbuds, and listen to a book. The coconut oil is for rubbing all over so it seeps into my skin. All good. Then to the shower.


I pack shower items in a TOMs bag all together and apart from every thing else. That way, I can grab the bag with the shampoo and the conditioner and the razor and those things are all together and they stay together. I hang that bag outside the shower and put everything back in when I'm finished. This might all sound a little obsessive, but it all adds up when I'm trying to shave the time the whole excursion takes and espeically to shave the time the little ones are away from me.

After the shower, all that's left in the bag is what I need to get ready to leave.

Taking a few moments to think this all through saves several moments of standing in front of a locker, trying to keep my towel from slipping off, while digging through the bag. Also, making my shower routine efficient cuts down on the time I'm away from the little ones.



My mat and my gym card are in a separate bag. That way, on days I'm running super late, I can just take that bag, skip the whole locker routine, and dash into class on time. The card, a headband and my phone fit in the little pocket. So, if time is really short, I can still do the essential thing and work out.

What are the little ones doing? There's a space in the gym especially for them. They play on a kid-sized basketball course, and climb through a huge indoor play structure. There are classes for them in rock climbing and zumba and gym games and other interests. The space is for everyone under 12. The over 12 crowd has full run of thegym. Anything I can do, they do (better). After my workout, I go get the little ones and they can go to the rock climbing wall or the pool with me.





The bigger kids pack their own gym bags and we've walked through what to put in them. This is really a great exercise in organization and personal responsibility. We have long had a rule that holds here: if you're old enough to play, your'e old enough to be in charge of your stuff. That goes for ballet bags, soccer bags, and gym bags. Even the little ones have bags.They need to change after their classes or for swimming. After swimming, they spin wet bathing suits in a spinner to get them nearly dry and put them in the plastic bags provided at the gym. They know that those suits come out of the bags and hang to dry as soon as we get home. If we are going to the gym late, after dinner, their pajamas go in their bags and I shower them and do pjs in the locker room. They get  home and roll into bed for stories.

At the end of the day, I sort through the bag, pull out the clothes to be laundered and re-pack right away. That way, if I'm waffling about whether or not to go the next day, I know that I'm ready to walk out that door.

If I'm ready already, I'm more likely to just do it.