Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kids in the Gym

I hate to put up an empty-calorie post: one that's sated with gripe but lacking any informative value. Not normally what I do here. I like to slip in some Vitamin K (that's knowledge, to you) along with the tasty, gossipy morsels that are so satisfying in the short term but---let's face it---not all that useful to us in the long run.

But you know what? Sometimes you've just got to order the cheesecake.

My ACFC has a playroom directly adjacent to it, with only a pair of French doors separating the two spaces so that moms can keep an eye on their little ones. The typical age of children accompanying Mom to the fitness center is two or three years old. Considering how little they are, many of these kids are surprisingly content to entertain themselves, pushing toy trucks in circles or stacking giant Legos.

Occasionally, however, someone brings a kid that Needs Mom's Attention At All Times. So while she's trying to ride the bike or walk on the treadmill, her child will repeatedly try to enter the room. Now, I'm not trying to place the blame on anyone in particular. But when my workout's being interrupted in a way that could potentially cause injury to myself or a small child, you could say we have a problem.

Today, for instance, I was balancing on one foot while doing lateral shoulder raises with a ten-pound dumbbell in one hand. (I should mention that the playroom is closest to the free-weight area, so a child trying to reach his mother on the cardio equipment has to pass through this section of the room.) Meanwhile, a little boy I'll put somewhere between 18 and 24 months was trying to push a minature plastic shopping cart into the room not two feet away from my raised arm. Now, had I become distracted (I was), lost my balance, and tripped over that baby, or dropped that ten-pound dumbbell on him...well, I don't really want to entertain the thought. But I can sure imagine the consequences, even though no one in their right mind would say I was at fault.

As for the mother, she wasn't putting forth much effort to remove her child, other than shouting at him from across the room. It wasn't until I put an irritated look on my face (not, say, the fact that he was dangerously close to me) that she bothered to come over and shoo him back into the playroom.

Ultimately, I can say that it was probably unwise for the apartment community to set up the exercise room this way. But a lot of mothers with small children do use it, and perhaps the only way they can reasonably fit a workout into their day is to bring their children along. I understand this, and I empathize with them.

I only wish that more of these mothers would implement the strategy that two of the regular gym-goers have come up with: they pair up. One does cardio while the other entertains the children and maybe does a few strength exercises with lightweight dumbbells, and then they trade off. Not only is it time-efficient (each woman gets through her workout faster than I imagine she could alone, having her session constantly interrupted), but it's safer for everyone involved. Me included.

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