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Taking Your Workout Out of the Gym [Weird Places I Exercise]

Posted May 12 2011 11:53pm

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Embarrassing people seems to be a specialty of mine. It’s bad enough that I have publicly humiliated myself in 200 different ways doing my Experiments (and that might be low-balling it) but to take down my friends and loved ones with my antics? I can only offer them this: Dear Children who may read this 10 years down the road in a therapy session, I am sorry you have an unusual mother. It’s not your fault. Someday I hope you will be able to laugh about my quirks with each other. That’s why I had four of you. (Well that and so you’d always have even teams for board games. Keep it that way- always wear your seat belts!)  To everyone else: Consider yourself warned. Hugs&Punches! Charlotte

I start with my kids because as they are still young enough that they require constant supervision they get dragged everywhere with me which invariably makes them unwitting accomplices (or props!) in my crazy schemes. (And also, they get me back plenty with the public embarrassments.) Take, for instance, our trip to visit my sister in March. Due to plane difficulties we ended up with an unexpected two-hour layover on the trip home. Just me and four tiny tots in an airport terminal that boasted one working bathroom and a newsstand. So what did we do? Boot camp! I had them all lined up next to the moving sidewalk doing sit-ups, push-ups (you should have seen the 4-year-old’s interpretation of these – he laid on his back and literally “pushed up” the air), jumping jacks, and pretend double dutch (the baby’s favorite). I even showed them how to hang underneath the metal benches and use them to do reverse push-ups. After that we cooled down with a bit of yoga – airplane pose was the hit of the day although happy baby came in a close second – and some gentle stretching. So what was I doing during all this? Doing it right with them, of course. And to anyone who stared I just said, “At least they’re not crying and screaming – we’re saving that for the flight!”

Doing “fast feet” in the parking lot of the rental car place (except for the one looking for bugs).

That was not the first time I have exercised in odd places. On a cross-country road trip I insisted everyone get out of the car at every rest stop to run laps and do box jumps on the picnic table. At gas stations I got out my trusty kettlebell and impressed the truckers. And best of all, whenever we stopped at a McPlayland – say what you will about the evils of the Golden Arches, the person who invented the Playland is a saint in our household – I insisted on running up and sliding down… not necessarily with the kids.

Other venues include the playground (they don’t call it the Monkey Bar Gym for no reason!), my kids’ soccer games (lunging on the sidelines either makes you look like a crazed cheerleader or like you have to pee), church (my second son required non-stop deep knee bends to calm his colic) and the parking lot of a movie theater (I had an IBS attack during a movie and the fastest way to calm my gut is to bust out some sun salutations).

Airplane Pose! Although in real yoga you don’t get to run around while you do it. I like our way better.

So you will not be surprised when I tell you that tonight found me toting my kids to gymnastics lessons – they’re the only boys in their classes, bless ‘em – with my newly taped neon pink and purple hula hoop in tow. (Turns out that electrical tape is not very durable and so Gym Buddy Allison had the great idea to go over the hoops again with duct tape – it lasts longer, it adds a bit of needed weight to the hoops and it comes in 20 different shades of awesome!) I hooped while I chased the younger two around the gym and through the hallways. I hooped while I had a Deep Conversation with Gym Hubby. I hooped while reading an old copy of Reader’s Digest and walking up and down stairs and in the cafeteria and waiting in front of the men’s restroom for the little guy (no, that wasn’t awkward at all!). Did I mention my kids’ lessons are two hours? I’m at the school for a looong time.

Then when the kids wanted to play with the hoop, I did handstands, press-to-handstands, cartwheels, push-ups and stretched out my splits. I felt pretty awesome by the time the last kid had tuck-jumped his way down the tumble track for the 50th time. Right about here I expect some of you to start waving the compulsive exercise flag and saying (kindly, as you always do) “Charlotte, you’re allowed to just sit in the metal folding chair and check your e-mail on your phone like all the other parents. You don’t have to exercise everywhere you go.” And while I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always have the best insight into my own behavior, for me none of this felt compulsive. Everything I did was out of pure joy. I enjoyed playing with my kids – my 8-year-old can dive through a rolling hoop better than any acrobat! – and it was fun to just mess around. There wasn’t any counting of reps or forcing myself to keep going when I was exhausted. There wasn’t hardly even any sweat. Just fun.

So, here are my tips for having a good (fun!) workout anywhere:

1. Be okay with people staring at you. This is the toughest one for most people so I put it first. Consider: people will stare at you for all kinds of reasons – your haircut, your goth mani-pedi, your visible pantylines – so why not enjoy yourself. It’s up to you whether or not to acknowledge the starers but I prefer to give them a brief smile and a nod.

2. Get creative. Use what you’ve got. A big open space is ideal for running, cartwheeling, dancing, etc. Stairs are great for jumping. Railings work well for pulling up on. Chairs are good for Burlesque. (Kidding! I wouldn’t do that… in public.)

3. Invite others to join in. The level of your dorkitude is inversely proportionate to the number of people doing it with you. (Feel free to quote me on that.) One person doing Zumba moves to no music looks mentally ill but three people makes it a party!

4. Bring props. Gym Hubby and I, being the hyperactive types we are, usually have something in our car we can use. The frisbee is a family favorite. A plastic rainbow-colored jump rope has lived in our trunk for years. And you know my hula hoop goes everywhere with us these days! Just chuck a soccer ball in your backseat and you’re ready for everything from kickball to dodgeball to, I guess if you’re boring, soccer.

5. Don’t be afraid to try it. Trust me, once you do a couple push-ups on the picnic table at the park and realize that nobody’s really watching you anyhow, it gets a lot easier.

What’s the strangest place you’ve ever exercised? Do you like squeezing in mini-workouts at random times or do you prefer to have a dedicated time where you can change into your Nikes and go all out? Do you have any tips for exercising outside of the gym or with kids?

A huge THANK YOU to all of you who donated to yesterday’s Relay For Life! Your generosity brought me to tears several times – I am so touched by what a great and caring community you guys are. I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

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