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Every January as I hit the gym in my stretched out, over washed, faded sweats and t-shirt, I’m reminded that it’s fashion week at gyms all over the world. It’s also the time of year where competition for turns on the elliptical trainers and treadmills get fierce. That’s because getting in shape is on the top of almost everyone’s resolution list.
This week I watched the parade of new gym members wearing brand spanking new exercise duds and sparkling white sneakers all looking a little ill at ease as they tried out new cardio machines, dabbled in a few classes and figured out how to use the weight machines. They’re self-conscious but also excited, determined and brave. I only hope they’re still at the gym next month, when just like clockwork, the waiting time for cardio machines drops way off. By March, unfortunately, many of these new fitness devotees will have let their gym memberships slide.
There were three pregnant couples among the newbies. One was a 20-something Portland-cool, hipster couple sporting knee socks, shorty-shorts and double-gauge ear piercings. They had tattoos up and down every square inch of exposed skin. He had a full six-inch beard and stocking cap. She had straight, short bangs, a pierced lip and a telltale bulge under her t-shirt. I’m guessing she’s five months pregnant. As she climbed on and off the elliptical trainer, he was right there to spot her, as if she were about to walk a tight rope. For all their hardcore appearance, they had that fragile look that only first time, not quite parents have. The look that says, “what the heck is happening to us?” and “are we going to be OK?” You know the look, right? They were adorable and in case you’re reading this and it sounds like you, let me just reassure you that yes, you’re going to be fine. You’re on the right track already. Just keep going for it.
Another couple looked very much like professional athletes, with long, toned muscles and high-end workout clothes. I wouldn’t have known they were pregnant if I hadn’t heard them mention it about ten times to various bystanders during their one-hour workout. She’d say to one fitness instructor who happened to walk by, “Am I doing this right? I’m pregnant and usually I’m a runner, but I’m going to bring my workout inside for the winter. It’s my first trimester.” Later the guy said, “Excuse me, do you mind if I use the treadmill next to my wife. She’s pregnant.” Later still he asked someone, “where’s the filtered water? My wife is pregnant and I want to make sure she stays hydrated.”
OMG they were so darn cute and proud. I just loved them. I secretly hope that hipster-couple and athlete-couple hook up and become best friends. There’s nothing better in life than meeting other new parents and raising your babies together. They’ll bolster each other up through breastfeeding and sleepless nights, teething and tantrums, first days of kindergarten, middle-school anxst, and prom night. Years later, their babies will go off to college together and these parents will remember way back when, when they met at the gym.
The third couple isn’t exactly new to the gym, but this week they showed up looking entirely different. I’ve been watching them for several months. It’s a teenager and her middle-age mother. The girl must be about eighteen and the first time I noticed her at the gym she was wearing flannel pajama bottoms and an old pair of Keds. Her mother was wearing a dingy t-shirt and too-tight stretch pants. Both were very overweight and looked miserable. You couldn’t tell that the girl was pregnant, but it was quite clear she was being dragged to the gym by her mother and was none too happy about it.
I don’t see them often, but when I do, the difference in them is striking. At first, the girl was slouchy and whiny and would only begrudgingly step on the treadmill. One of the fitness instructors, however, seemed to take a shine to her and made it her personal mission to whip this girl into shape through gentle guidance and almost non-stop compliments and encouragement. Every time she saw this girl she’d say, “looking good, honey, now let me see you dial the speed up a notch. Look at you go. You’re a natural athlete. We’re going to run a half-marathon together next year.” The girl’s mother is looking good too. She’s gradually losing her exhausted, hangdog appearance and replacing it with slimmer arms, more toned legs and a much brighter expression on her face.
This week, I noticed them walking side by side on treadmills. Both were wearing brand new, nicely fitting exercise clothes. The mother looks like she’s dropped fifteen pounds and the girl, well, it looks like she’s maybe six months pregnant. But she’s no longer slouchy, sloppy, sulky or lethargic. Instead, she looks healthy, fit and happy. Yes, she’s going to be a very young mom, but it also looks like her own mother will be right by her side, helping her do the right thing step-by-step. That’s what fitness will do for you. It takes what you’ve got and makes it so much better. Every single time.
Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to email@example.com and it may be answered in a future blog post.
This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.