Welcome to the New Gym, Where Puppies + Babies Run Free
March 1, 2022 @ 10:00am
“Just make it to at least a minute,” I tell myself as I hold a plank.
And then from my periphery, I can see my 15-month-old daughter Lily army crawling her way through the obstacle course of dumbbells and resistance bands scattered across the carpeted basement floor. She takes mere seconds to position her little body under my face and presses her giggling smile up against mine. My husband is in the midst of a chest press on our workout bench when our rambunctious black lab puppy George bolts down the stairs and jumps on top of him.
Welcome to the chaos of working out in the Thompson home, where personal time is rare but pandemonium is abundant.
Working out has certainly taken on a whole new look and meaning compared to two years ago. Granted, along with a global health pandemic we decided to add two living beings to the mix. I still remember the look on my parents’ faces when we told them via Facetime a few weeks before our daughter was born, “Guess what we did? We got a puppy!” Insert looks of shock and awe, followed by “Are you serious?” And then add in a few expletives to the mix.
When gyms shut down and wrangling any semblance of free weights or gym equipment was bleak, we had to get creative. (This is not where I say go get pregnant and/or buy a dog. Rather, the lesson here is to adapt — and adapt we did.)
My once grueling hill workouts on a StairMaster became sprinting, squatting and lunge-jumping up the four flights of stairs behind our housing complex. Dive weights were cleverly used by my husband as added resistance for circuits of bodyweight exercises. We both began to take advantage of the outdoor fitness equipment — bars and platforms — that stretched along Four Mile Run Trail near our Shirlington neighborhood. A guy who I used to see at my gym lugging massive dumbbells in a farmer’s walk was now doing the same along the trail with massive slabs of rock under his arms.
And then finally, after what seemed like endless searches for dumbbells not priced in the $300 and up range, we actually started to buy gym equipment. The first purchase was a solid set of resistance bands that turned out to be one of my smartest pandemic purchases to date — unlike the 10-pound bag of flour, one pound bag of yeast or 20 pack of yarn in a variety of colors, all of which are still in their packaging. Clearly, when it came to some things, I was a bit overly ambitious, you could say.
From there, we started to build up a small but solid range of dumbbell sets ranging from 15 to 70 pounds, along with a weight bench that conveniently folds when not in use. But then, the greatest resistance training of all arrived within a mere few weeks of each other: our daughter Lily and our puppy George.
Remember when I said workouts look a lot different now? Well, that’s because outside of the now-evolving home workouts were the hundreds of mini-workouts. The daily morning sumo squat while holding a growing baby to turn off the noise machine. The tens of hundreds of squats to follow to pick up a bottle, a toy, a spoon — all again while holding a growing baby.
The craziest thing of it all: It’s the mini-workouts and the steadily growing baby and puppy that got me back into fighting shape.
Pushing a weighted sled across a gym floor was now pushing a lively baby in a jogging stroller up a steep incline. Lugging a weighted medicine ball up a gym wall was replaced by the many times a day I squatted, pressed and carefully threw Lily up into the air. Granted, the medicine ball was not nearly as cute or squealing in delight when thrown.
Before I could blink, Lily was 15 months old and George was no longer the tiny little puppy we took home in a sloth blanket. My family had survived the craziness of work/exercise/eat/live from home. But something else also happened. My husband and I realized we didn’t need to go back to a gym.
We didn’t need the squat bar we once missed dearly (I realize how that sounds but it’s a great piece of workout equipment if you have one), or the massive variety of free weights or the cable and resistance machines the gym offered.
And another thing we realized: We enjoyed family runs much more than the solo ones we used to take. Yes, it was easier not to push a jogging stroller or lug a dog who still has to figure out how to run and not jump in between, but it’s all a heck of a lot more entertaining.
And in the end, it’s all about adapting, right?
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