A gym-goer’s worst fear | And how to overcome it

Gym goer's fear pin

There are a lot of things that give me anxiety in the gym. Does that gal over there hacking up a lung have bird flu? Does this bench have ringworm all over it? Is that guy going to snap in half as he quarter-squats 350 pounds?

But there’s one fear that surpasses all of these: being called over the loudspeaker by the gym daycare center.

It happened to me. Twice. In one week.

The new gym

Let’s back up. I recently joined a new gym after working out in my basement for several months. It just wasn’t working out at home. If I tried to work out during nap time, one of my girls inevitably woke up screaming for me.

Even on weekends when my husband could watch my girls, I inevitably heard the basement door open and my husband call down that my toddler wanted to be with me. Awesome. Now I have to focus on keeping her safe in our unfinished basement while I’m trying to get in my heavy sets.

I even tried getting my workouts in before everyone woke up. But somehow my youngest knew and decided to start her day earlier and earlier. And waking up at 5 a.m. got old. Really fast.

So I joined the gym. And I joined because they offered childcare. Two hours of childcare. Every day.

Sign. Me. Up.

No, I don’t plan to leave my kiddos for the full two hours. And certainly not everyday. They’re still very young. At most I’m hoping to get just over an hour workout. Three or four lifts and a warm-down. But the thought of having a couple of hours to myself is liberating. I mean, how great would it be to sneak into a sauna after a tough lifting session?

And it’s worth packing up the kids and making arrangements for them to be in the daycare just for the hope of getting that workout in. But getting them fed, changed, cleaned up, into carseats, out of carseats, into strollers, and into the gym in frigid temps can be a workout in itself.

Well, we’ve been at the gym for two weeks. And two out of three workouts I’ve heard that dreaded voice come over the loudspeaker and announce my name, urging me to return to the childcare center.

The culprit: this stinker.

Just a few weeks shy of her first birthday, my little Lucy has a set of pipes on her that would make a howling wolf jealous. And when she gets worked up, there’s not a whole lot to curtail those cries.

But you know what, kiddo? Mama needs to lift. And she needs to lift heavy. And she needs those sacred hours in the gym to get back, retain, and keep her sanity.

Fortunately, Lucy isn’t the first child to go ballistic on the daycare staff. And they have a solution.

Separation anxiety

When the daycare worker saw the disappointment on my face as I came to collect my screamer, she pulled me aside and offered a solution.

They call it the anxiety program. I’m calling it salvation. Here is the program broken down into five categories.

Short separations

In an effort to get Lucy on board with gym time, we will be dropping her off in 15-minute increments and return. By doing this, she will not only begin familiarizing herself with the center, but also with the staff. She’ll also learn that mama always comes back.

So for a week, I’ll bring in my girls and drop them off at the center. The first day, I’ll drop them off for 15 minutes and return. Hopefully before any tears begin.

The next day, 15-30 minutes. Then 45 minutes. And so on, until we are sure those feelings of anxiety are gone.

Building a relationship with the staff

It’s normal for babies and toddlers to experience stranger anxiety. I can’t blame Lucy for feeling a bit uneasy in a new setting surrounded not only by new adults, but dozens of new children running around.

By coming in every day, hopefully she will start to bond with those caregivers and trust that they are looking out for her.

It’s also important that I develop a relationship with the staff. If I come in anxious to dump my kiddos on them, they are going to know this. And, whether consciously or not, they’ll probably feel dumped on and react accordingly. I’m not saying they would ignore my kid or anything. But not feeling appreciated builds up and if parent after parent acts this way, patience wears thin.


This has probably been my biggest mistake in joining this gym. We’ve been all over the map in attending. The first week, we went three times. Then I traveled to Chicago and we didn’t go for five days. Then I tried to go two days in a row.

Lucy isn’t having it. Now that we are back home and can settle into a routine, I can figure out the times that work best for all of us and she will accept that this is what we’re doing that day.

Quiet hours

I’ve always been a morning gym person. But so are most other moms. I didn’t even realize my gym offered daycare into the evening hours. From 4-7 p.m., I can bring in my girls and they can get more one-on-one attention from staff without the chaos of the morning kiddos.

Creating a parting routine

This is another area where I definitely failed Lucy. Even though she isn’t talking yet, she knows what’s going on. Me handing her off to a stranger and then dashing out as quickly as possible to get a taste of freedom doesn’t do her any favors.

So from now on I’ll ease her into the goodbye. First, before we even leave home, I’m going to make sure her tummy is full, her diaper is clean, and she has a sippy cup of milk to enjoy on the ride over to the gym.

In the daycare, I’ll keep things brief, but attentive. A hug and kiss. A reminder that I’ll be back. Maybe a toy from home to keep her feeling at ease. And then I’m off to enjoy a kid-free workout.

Wish us luck!

11 Replies to “A gym-goer’s worst fear | And how to overcome it”

  1. I don’t have children yet but I love that the gym offer daycare. This daycare really seems to care about their clients and the children – it’s awesome that they are giving you so many options to make the daycare work for you. Good luck!!

  2. The separation anxiety training sounds great! We had a few such issues with our youngest when she was about 18 months. It didn’t matter where…at my moms’ group, at church, with an at-home sitter, or even dropping her off for a play date. Oh the joys!

  3. The separation suggestion is a great idea! It does get easier! Mine are 18 and 21 now so luckily they only cry occasionally!!! It does get better! Good luck and hang in there!

  4. We went through a lot of crying when I first started using the gym childcare – my kiddo was 6 months old at that point. We did exactly what you mentioned, starting with a few days of just 15 minutes and working our way up. He was fine within two weeks! We’ve been going now the last 2 years and he’s good for the 1.5 hour max 🙂

  5. I just wrote a post on local gyms with childcare in my area for another publication. There are literally three. I never used a gym when little man was a baby, but that’s got to be so difficult for new moms who are trying to get back into their fitness groove.

    It sounds like you got some really great tips from that caregiver. I think it’s awesome that she cared enough to take you aside and offer some suggestions to make the transition easier. Good luck!

  6. Awww–come on man! Mama needs her workout. I remember my oldest son, when he was about that age, crying for me while I was on the treadmill and he was in the bouncy seat next to me. Me, pleading with him to let me do just one more mile!

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