Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Balancing Exercise with Motherhood Sometimes Means a Late Evening Workout

I was tempted not to "count" Sunday as a workout day since I didn't go to the gym and didn't do any strength training.  Then I realized I need to acknowledge the work my body did even if it was outside of my routine and allow my body the rest/recovery that it needs.  So I went to the gym on Monday and yesterday (Tuesday) and taking today (Wed) off.  Then I'll go Thursday and Friday and take Saturday off.  As much as I like going to the gym on the weekend, it fits my schedule (and time with the husband and kids) better to take Saturday off.  Fitting in the gym with kids and a husband, a house to maintain, a full time job, mother's club, friends, etc, etc is an ever-changing prospect.

I had to go to the gym in the evening yesterday because my day was too full to go earlier.  The kids weren't in bed when I left and both of them were not happy I was leaving.  Marek started crying/whining, "I want to read books with mommmmmyyy," and "take me with youuuuu." Myra was following me around with her arms in the air for me to pick her up.  Talk about guilt.  Miguel grabbed some books and got Marek excited about reading with him.  And I sat Myra down with some toys and whispered in her ear, "I'm doing this for you too."  Is that how we parents convince ourselves that it's ok?  In any case, I believe it.  I believe that going to the gym, getting/staying fit, having more energy and less stress - well, it's important enough to miss the occasional bedtime, right?

So I get to the gym right at 8pm and spent a bit of time chatting with the gym staff while I filled out my workout log.  By the time I started my workout I was pressed for time.  I did 25 minutes on the bike, level 6 random, which is still a good challenge.  After that I started into my legs/shoulders routine with some core work mixed in.  I wrapped up with 5 minutes on the stair climber and then some quick stretching before wrapping up. 

On my way out I was chatting with one of the owners of the gym.  I asked about the gym staying open until 9:30pm.  That half-hour difference would allow me to put the kids to bed and then go to the gym on those days when I have to do an evening workout.  The staff mentioned that they've also had other requests for a slightly later closing time.  The owner told me they don't stay open later, in part, because it's not good for your body to exercise later in the evening.  I had to research this.  Was I harming myself by working out until 9pm? 

I found and read several articles and they all said essentially the same thing.  Here's a good summary:
"Many fitness instructors give bad advice when they tell you not to exercise within three hours before going to sleep. Several studies show that exercising vigorously before going to bed does not interfere with sleep. One study from the University of California at San Diego showed that three hours of vigorous pedaling at 70 percent of maximum oxygen uptake in very bright lights did not stop fit men from falling or staying asleep.
The old argument was that vigorous exercise causes your body to produce large amounts of its own stimulants, adrenalin and nor-adrenalin, that make your heart beat rapidly, raise body temperature and prevent you from feeling tired. Newer studies show that doesn't happen. We also know that exercise helps to prevent disease, prolong life and make you feel good. So it is better to exercise whenever it’s convenient for you, even if it's just before you go to bed."  Gabe Mirkin, MD
I highlighted that last sentence because it was the most important to me.  If gym-goers are told it's not good for their body to exercise at night it can be just another unnecessary barrier to regular exercise.  I know for me going at 8pm is sometimes the only option and I'm relieved to find it's not bad for my body.  And by the way, I slept great last night.


  1. I hope you're going to share that info with the owner : ) Yay you for going no matter what!

  2. Good on you for getting there when you can, i tend to wind down in the evenings. I used to play a vigorous sport (squash) in the evenings and often found I had a lot of trouble getting to I'm one of those that can't exercise too late, regardless of what those paragraphs say. However if it was light cardio or weights I think I would be ok...keep up the good work!


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