Exercise in Futility

I gave up my gym membership when we moved in January. Instead we’ve set up a small but adequate workout space on one side of the basement. On the other side is a rec room of sorts, complete with the boys’ train table, Kostyn’s drum set, an electronic keyboard, some large push toys and a cabinet full of puzzles and toys.

One recent morning I decided to exercise while the boys played with the instruments and toys. To ensure success with this endeavor, I set up their indoor Thomas the Tank Engine fort with two detachable tunnels. Pleased with myself for having this kind of foresight, I imagined they’d spend the entire time conspiring in the fort and racing through the tunnels, practically oblivious to my very existence.

This did not happen.

10:30: I got Kostyn settled on his drum set and Evan playing with a truck before hopping on my elliptical and punching in a 30-minute cardio program.

10:32: Evan wandered over to the drums and tried to edge his brother off the seat. “My turn! My turn!” Kostyn countered by screaming “NOOOOOOOO” Fearing he’d eventually use his brother’s head as a drum, I hopped off and refereed the fight.

10:35: Evan couldn’t get a push toy over a rolled-up carpet and needed help. Paused the iPod, hopped off the elliptical, mom to the rescue.

10:36: Kostyn grew bored with the drums and managed to get down by himself. Score one for mom’s warmup.

10:36:05: Evan wanted a turn on the drums and needed to be helped onto the stool. Off the elliptical I went.

10:38:50: “All done! Mommy? All done. Get down?” Fourth stop to my cardio in under nine minutes.

10:40: Paused the iPod but stayed on the elliptical as I talked Kostyn through how to turn on a remote control car. Instantly regretted that decision.

10:43: Broke up a fight over the car.

10:44: “The car’s stuck.”

10:44:20: “The car’s stuck.”

10:45: “The car’s stuck.”

10:45:02: The car got put on a high shelf.

10:50: “Mommy can you get this?” “No, Kostyn, find something else to do. Why don’t you play with your train. Or that awesome fort sitting right there in the middle of the room?!

Turns out nobody wanted to play in the fort, or build a train track. What they wanted to do was take a turn on the elliptical machine. Barring that, they wanted to keep me from staying on it. Nas and Damian Marley were piping through my earbuds telling me “the strong will continue....,” but I was starting to doubt I had it in me. As if sensing their victory was close at hand, they began an onslaught of questions:

“Mommy can you reach this?”

“Can I do this?”

“What are you doing?”

“Where are the people that go in this camper?”

“Can you go get them?”

“Can I go get them?”

“Mommy, I need to be pushed out. The stool is too close to the drums.”

“Help me, Mommy. How does this go?”

After a few minutes of this needy nonsense I realized, perhaps more clearly than ever before, that my workout time is as much about peace and focus for me as it is about cardio and strength training. And I was not really getting any of those things.

At 10:53 a.m., I gave up. I turned off the iPod, rounded up the kids, and felt the defeat and frustration wash over me as we climbed the stairs. I silently vowed to move the VCR/DVD player combo from the main floor to the basement, and try again the next day with the help of an old Disney movie.

I was wallowing in self pity, feeling like the morning was a total waste, when we reached the top of the stairs and Kostyn exclaimed, “We had SO MUCH FUN playing downstairs!” The laugh I got out of that statement did more for my abs — and my attitude — than all the effort put forth in the previous 23 minutes.

(This post first appeared on my other blog, Training Wheels.)


Heather said...

I can relate! I have been attempting the 30 day shred dvd and have resorted to have Dylan "exercise with me" now while that sounds like a perfect solution, she has the attention span of a gnat and after about 30 seconds of makeshift jumping jacks she is done, and would rather get under my feet, chase the dog, anything and everything that makes me accomplishing this 20 min dvd absolutely impossible.

I still try.... every day and sometimes can even manage a half ass 20 min workout.

Anonymous said...

Can totally relate. I have my treadmill set up in our basement play room. The kids have pretty much any toy you can imagine. But my attempts at running while Charlie naps/the older's play usually ends up in me yelling at them that we are SO GOING BACK TO THE GYM. And, DON'T TALK TO ME. JUST PLAY!

For me, it is about a focused workout, without kids (even if for only 30 min). The 30 min. in the car is worth it. We've been home for about 10 days b/c Charlie's been sick (yes, the gym child care is also a petrie dish for illness) and my kids actually miss it.

Good luck!