I can tell I’m running on fumes with I start snapping at my son for doing things that are annoying but not surprising for a three-year-old, or losing it over a mess that can’t be helped. Before we left Austin, I joined the local YMCA and that really seemed to help with the stress of an uncertain future while waiting to hear if we were headed to El Paso. A place with child care and a pool where I could splash around and pretend to swim laps, walk on a treadmill and listen to offensive music with my headphones, or even just go to the bathroom without a toddler running cars on my legs or a baby crying because I broke eye contact.
After a month in El Paso, I started looking for a similar setup to keep me sane. Unfortunately, the only places with child care were the YMCA, which looks like it’s in an abandoned auto shop, and Gold’s Gym twenty-five minutes away. I joined Gold’s because I didn’t really have a choice. I wouldn’t be comfortable with my kids in a rundown place and it wouldn’t be relaxing for me, certainly not when I’m on edge already over trivial messes ramping up my anxiety. It’s a nice gym and very clean, and I’ve been promised they will eventually expand and open a new location closer to my house. There is a Planet Fitness in every strip mall, but when I called to ask about childcare the lady said “no, we don’t do that, but we are open at 4am!” “Haha. Wait, I can’t tell if you’re kidding…”
As with most gyms, you get a free personal training consult when you sign up. Sure, why not. The beefcake who did the consult had arms so big I don’t think he could reach into his pants pockets. He took out some paper and asked me my goals. “To have someone watch my kids for an hour.” *blank stare* “I mean, to get ripped?” His questions seemed ridiculous to me. Is there a specific event you want to get in shape for? A goal weight? Goal size?
No. No. No. I want a place to blow off steam, maybe take a class where I can punch things. I don’t want anyone to talk to me or push me to lift more, run faster, eat less. There was an underlying suggestion that I couldn’t possibly be happy with myself looking like I do, and though I could stand to lose weight, setting goals is tricky for me. My health is unpredictable, and so are my kids. If they are sick, I can’t take them to childcare to infect the other kids and staff. And even if things are going OK, the staff doesn’t change diapers so if one of them poops they come find me sitting on the stationary bike forgetting to peddle and drag me to the Kid’s Club to change whichever one pooped, and then the other child inevitably sees me and cries when I try to leave again. And that’s just the kids.
I have an incurable disease, and while my gut symptoms are relatively quiet for the time being, I’m having joint problems that move around my body. I am so sick of hearing my own excuses, but there isn’t much I can do. I have taken a lot of Prednisone in the last three years to recover from flares and a low dose to help with severe morning sickness, and one of the side effects of prolonged exposure is weakened bones. Crohn’s causes arthritis, and having one autoimmune disease makes it more likely you have more than one, and it seems they all mess with your joints. I have taken biologics (the type of medication I’m on for Crohn’s) three times previously, and all three times I suffered from arthritis as a result (sometimes called drug-induced Lupus by my doctors). And lastly, I am not in great shape, so I have aches and pains associated with a change in regime.
So when I’m in pain I don’t know why and my doctors pass me back and forth unsure what the cause could be. At the moment, with neither child in school, I don’t have time to be sent to the wrong type of doctor for whatever is bothering me.
After two hours of stairmasters and jump squats the consult proved I was indeed in poor shape (shocking), and I was so tired and confused that I signed up for some sessions after being promised they would be conducted by someone else. I didn’t care for the judgey meathead and his pushy sales tactics.
My trainer is very nice, friendly, and supportive, but I’m so tired of hearing myself make excuses to him for this sack of skin I call a body. It has let me down so many times, and every day it’s something new. I have to tell my trainer “I can’t do anything that uses my ankles today. It should get better soon because I just had my injection a couple days ago and the meds should kick in and help the inflammation. Or it’s from the meds, and it’ll get worse. Also my left shoulder has permanent scar tissue from a prolonged course of Remicade. And I can’t do those sit ups where I fling a kettle bell between my legs because my uterus is definitely going to fall out since whatever is supposed to hold it in was blown out by my second son. My blood pressure is extremely low, especially for a person of substantial pudge, so I might fall down if we do a lot of jumping, or even squats that are too deep too fast. I drank a pot of coffee in order to stay awake on the drive over here, so I can’t be upside down or it’ll burn a hole in my esophagus. I have a pinched nerve in my neck from falling asleep while nursing, and I can’t lay on my stomach because my milk jugs will leak. Otherwise, I’m good to go!”
Bodies are personal, and their journeys are unique. It’s weird for me to explain to my 25 year old male trainer that I need to switch up an exercise because my uterus is threatening to shoot out of my body and splat onto the floor. But, as he is being paid to improve my body, he will inevitably become all too familiar with its limitations. I don’t expect to lose any weight through the training, which is fine, but I think I’ll get a bit stronger which is good for carrying children and diaper bags and strollers. I don’t want to set myself up for failure and setting a goal to wear a size 4 when I know at any time my health could spiral and I’ll be put back on steroids which cause serious weight gain? I can’t imagine working five days a week for the perfect body and then ballooning up on Prednisone, with the round face and the hump on my back (sexy!) and being able to handle the failure my body has delivered me.
On the other hand, my body has given me three pregnancies, two healthy and successful, and two beautiful boys. The extra padding I carry around makes it easier to give myself injections in the belly, and keeps me from wasting away during a flare or hyperemesis gravidarum. My unwieldy breasts require a complicated apparatus to contain them for even mild exercise, but they fed two babies and helped them go from tiny preemies to delicious thigh rolls. My arms have always been thick, but they are stronger now than they have ever been, carrying kids and lugging enough supplies to survive an apocalypse.
My goals weren’t sufficient for the meathead in charge of showing me how inadequate I am, but they are good enough for me. I want to take care of my sanity, which means a couple times a week I will have someone else watch my children while I workout. Sometimes I’ll work hard, and sometimes I’ll rest my mind and people-watch. I want to check in with my body occasionally, making sure I’m at least taking moderate care of the parts of my health I can control. I want a stronger back so I can carry my kids longer. Faster feet so I can chase them. But mostly, I just want to pee while someone else watches them.