What Might Have Been

11.05.07: My pregnant neighbor is a mom on the move


My neighbor, Kally, is an inspiration. She's a mother of two (Spencer, 2, and Rylan, 4, are among Truman's favorite playmates) who finds a way to get to the gym nearly nearly every day, logging 45 minutes to an hour—sometimes more—on the elliptical machine.

She doesn't just phone it in like I sometimes do, either. No, she really goes after it—the sweatier the better. Everyone at the YMCA knows her, and both trainers and fellow exercisers tend to speak of her in reverent tones. There, "Kally" has become synonymous with giving your all, going for the burn, and reaping your just rewards.

It's no surprise then, that Kally is leaner than I am, looks better in jeans than I do, and carries off her little high-fashion outfits with much more pizzazz. What truly sucks for me, though, is that Kally is upward of 30 weeks pregnant! (I, as you might recall, am not.)

Kally—a Presbyterian USA minister who works for the campus ministry at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville—has always been athletic, she says. "I ran cross country and swam competitively from the age of six," she explains. "You get used to two or three hour workouts, and exercise becomes a part of your life."

She needs to exercise every day—and if she can't, there are consequences. "I think I'm addicted to the endorphins, because I definitely get grouchy if I can't get a workout in," she says. But she's also addicted to the personal space that comes with getting away to the gym. "As a mother, wife, and minister most of my time is about other people....which I love about my life," she says. "BUT in order to be able to be about other people, I need some time for me."

To date, she hasn't slowed much with her pregnancy—much to the chagrin of certain concerned types at the gym who wonder if all the exercise is good for the impending tot. (It's fine.) But Kally says, as she's entering her third trimester, she's starting to naturally slow things down. "I definitely can't push myself right now—that extra ten minutes could make or break my day," she says. "I have to be careful to listen to my body. But my goal is to keep exercising to the end of my pregnancy, not to gain endurance of anything, but just to maintain a good weight so I can come back faster."

Hm. What a concept. I look at her, and listen to her, and think about how different my own experience might have been had I taken this approach. Instead, I reached a certain, let's say, CRITICAL MASS and pretty much threw in the towel. I was huge, hard to move around, and so I didn't much try. I stuck to walking, and even then, at the end, just made circles around my backyard (so I was never too far from my own bathroom and a quick pee break).

I more or less beached myself like a whale on the shores of my couch, and had Coury repeatedly spear me with harpoons of chocolate and nachos. I gloried in my own inertia, figured my body was busy on the inside, and so I didn't need to worry so much about what the outside was doing. I bought into the "rest is best" notion with glee (to be fair, I did have lots of premature contractions, so there was lots of putting the feet up and drinking water).

One thing Kally says about herself is that she has no sprint in her—"I can't bother with a 3K race, it has to be 10K or I'm no good. Everything is about the long-term." This has become a joke in her family, she says—her husband, Bryce, often teases her about it.

But I can't help thinking that ability to go the distance looks like a good thing, even if it does come at a cost. I'm more of a bad sprinter, myself—I'll do something in spurts and fits, then tire out quickly and look for the first opportunity to sit down on the sidelines and rest. Then do it again. Haven't you read all about that here? It's hard to be productive that way in the long-term, especially when there's a kid involved—parenting looks to be an endurance sport if ever there was one. Hopefully Truman will prove to be a motivating long-distance coach—or I can pick up a few more notes from Kally, one or the other.

Hillari Dowdle, inspired by Kally, is off to the gym!