Gym provides atmosphere for family bonding time

Columnist Cary Carr finds the perfect workout companion in her mom. She grunts when she lifts weights, runs laps inside the nearby Home Depot and practices meditation on the mats while everyone else is stretching.

Columnist Cary Carr finds the perfect workout companion in her mom.

She grunts when she lifts weights, runs laps inside the nearby Home Depot and practices meditation on the mats while everyone else is stretching. But that’s why I love her.

My mom was my first workout buddy. When I was in my early years of high school, she introduced me to the gym and showed me the ins and outs of the elliptical machines, weights and aerobic classes.

I was 14 years old at the time, so you can imagine how horrified I was when she would do her shoulder presses while grunting louder than the surrounding men. In an all out “I am woman, hear me roar” mode, she would do just as many reps as the guys and sweat more than most of them.

At first I would stare in embarrassment and try to separate myself as much as possible. But when I started getting older, I realized she has the perfect workout attitude. She doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.

It wasn’t about looking pretty, like it must have been for many of the dolled-up women who frequent the gym. It was about keeping in shape and staying strong and healthy, and that’s the attitude I took with me to college.

Her constructive approach to working out wasn’t the only thing that influenced me. Without my mom, I probably would have never ended up utilizing the treadmill.

Since an early age, her healthy lifestyle has played a huge role in my family’s dynamic. Instead of burgers and fries, my mom made whole-grain pasta and broccoli. And rather than a double-chocolate cake for dessert, we had fat-free cheesecake and strawberries. I was encouraged to eat a side of fruit or veggies with each meal, and fast food was discouraged.

But that’s not to say I was a deprived child. My mom would never reprimand me for having pizza with my girlfriends, and if I wanted to pig out on candy after a bad day, she didn’t judge me. In fact, she stressed the importance of occasionally treating yourself rather than denying cravings.

Even at my heaviest weight, my mom never made a negative remark. She reminded me that the celebrities I saw in magazines weren’t the ideal, and that being a size zero wasn’t everything.

Because of my mom’s encouragement when it came to being healthy, I learned to appreciate her more as I got older. And seeing some of my friends’ negative relationships with their parents only made me realize how important positivity is when it comes to working out and body image.

For example, consider a girl I went to high school with. She never felt good about her weight and was constantly complaining about her body shape.

But it wasn’t just because she was a teenage girl. Her mom played a huge role in shaping her negativity by constantly telling her she needed to go on a diet or reminding her that she could lose a few pounds. Rather than work out with her or cook her healthier meals, she brought her down with relentless insults.

That form of motivation evidently didn’t work, as the girl’s self-esteem continued to drop. Without a sense of optimism, the gym can appear intimidating and getting healthy can seem impossible.

But not every parent-child relationship is so extreme when it comes to working out. Sometimes, a parent’s influence can form from something as simple as his or her own failure to exercise or their tendency to frequent fast-food establishments.

One of my best friends never had a positive role model when it came to getting healthy. Her parents rarely visited the supermarket, and when they did, they came home with sugary-cereals and frozen pizza. She now relies on fast food or skips out on meals because no one taught her how to eat right.

I see my friend’s situation fairly often. In fact, my mom’s influence on my life when it comes to exercise and eating is pretty rare, which makes me appreciate her grunting at the gym and love for nonfat ice cream.

Now, at 22 years old, I’d rather go to the gym with my mom than some of my friends. I find it adorable that the workers at Home Depot know her by name as she does laps through the paint section.

And when she’s practicing meditation on the mats, I sit directly next to her instead of hiding out.

A parent-child relationship pretty much influences every aspect of life, and staying healthy is one of the most important ones. I credit my ambition to hit the gym every day and eat healthy to my mom. I can only hope I’ll maintain a physically strong lifestyle like she has.

Cary Carr can be reached at

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