I was never a particularly co-ordinated child and therefore my sporting and exercise involvement was limited. But I remained slender, having inherited my father’s insanely speedy metabolism. Throughout university I was truly skinny, subsisting on a diet mostly proffered by the vending machine and the cafeteria. I took it as a source of personal pride that I could make a $3 potato scallop into a meal by the addition of salt and a free lemon wedge. But my lack of any exercise meant I was “skinny fat” – slender with no tone. As the years progressed I learnt, like many of us do, that I could no longer eat a whole pizza and expect none of it to stick. A few years before Isaac was born, I discovered Pilates. It was my kind of exercise – a focus on stretching and flexibility without any of that annoying sweating. Whilst I was pregnant with Isaac, I did Pilates every second day and credited his easy birth to it. I delivered Xavier just as easily, without the benefit of Pilates, and had to concede something to good genes and dumb luck. After we lost Xavier, I decided to get fit. Properly fit. I had to channel my restless energy and there were a million reasons why fitness was the best option. I invested in a personal trainer. I learned how to do a proper squat, lunge, sit-up, push-up. I did weights. I did cardio. I did not give up. I pushed past a barrier I didn’t know existed. As the repetitions got harder, I would dedicate the next one to Xavier, the next to Teddy, the next to Charlie, the next to Harry. Sadly, there were no shortage of angelic motivators.
I started to feel strong. In body and in mind. I would often visit Xavier’s grave after a PT session – it was when I was emotionally the strongest. I look back at photos of me in December of last year, I can see the difference fitness made – I see a tough kind of sadness in those photos. A determined look of “I won’t let this beat me”. When I fell pregnant I continued to exercise for a while, but it got too hard and my true end goal had been reached. I never set a weight target. My goal was to be healthy and pregnant.
Now, my mind turns to exercise again. Elijah is nearly 11 weeks old and I have no more excuses. My friends with babies are going through similar motivation – perhaps the spaces in our minds are freeing themselves up to allow the possibility of exercise. Something for ourselves. Most likely the abrupt advent of bikini season has spurned us on.
I live in a city that values the outdoors and exercise. Our council has provided free exercise programs through their active parks program – Active Parks. I have attended two of the baby boot camp programs now.
Yesterday I attended one at a nearby park with Isaac and Elijah. As my first foray into exercise after Elijah’s birth, I was hoping for some gentle stretches, some yoga perhaps. I was instead treated to burpees, squats, lunges, sprints, push-ups, planks, mountain climbs and sprints. Isaac adored the sprinting, making each one a race that he graciously allowed me a head start (and I needed it). Elijah was also a stellar exercise partner, waking only once at a point that I may have intentionally woken him in any case. “More lunges? I’d love to but, oh dear, baby’s awake and needs me”. That was before one show-off started lunging whilst holding her baby. The class culminated in a final jog, some stretches and the promise of being sore the next day. I certainly felt the steps in our house last night.
Today I headed off for another session, just with Elijah this time. It was a little easier – perhaps the content, perhaps my body had suffered it’s shock yesterday, perhaps I had a less intense work-out partner than Isaac. With the sun at my back, my baby sleeping in his pram, I could feel both Elijah and Xavier present. As I jogged past trees, dappled with sunlight, I thought of Xavier dancing beside me. I could still dedicate this work out to him, but not in the grim determined way I did last year. Instead, I can feel him near, whispering in the breeze, and feel a happiness that I thought had long escaped my life. Because at the end of the day exercise does that – it makes you happy.