A blog by runners. For runners.

Braving the gym daycare


My daughter is almost two years old already. Someone pinch me! Would you believe that we only recently (as in the last month recently) started leaving her in gym child care? It isn’t for lack of trying, though. Between stages of my own beliefs that she was too young and others of intense separation anxiety, we’ve had many ups and downs. Eventually we felt completely defeated and gave up trying.

Fast forward six months. Something clicked with me as we neared the end of my husband’s summer vacation (he’s a teacher). I’ve missed too many workouts in my couple years as a mom, citing “not enough time” as one of the primary culprits. Thing is, I have these fantastic resource at my disposal — the jogging stroller and the gym membership.

I knew it was time to be persistent and leave the excuses behind. A lot of what was holding us up was, well, me. So, by employing a few tricky techniques (and some clever ones, too), we got in our groove. Now our daughter doesn’t want to leave her “friend” Kelsey (the attendant) in the child care room and I can brave lap swim time without fear of being dragged out dripping to console my toddler.

Here’s how we go to this point:

  • Like I said, consistency is key. I think we were confusing Ada by taking her to childcare one day, having a bad experience, and waiting another two weeks to return. Though we do most of our running in the outdoors, my husband and I committed for the first week to take her every other day (or more frequently) to get into a routine.
  • We took time to get acquainted with the room and the caregiver. In the past, we tried just leaving Ada off and swiftly slipping out the door before the waterworks started. This all or nothing approach just wasn’t working — so the first few times, we stayed inside and played with her. Heck, the first time we did just that and didn’t leave until the very end of when we planned to stay. Baby steps, quite literally.
  • We also lowered our expectations. While I’d love to always get in a quality workout if I make the effort to pack and drive to the gym, in the beginning I decided to just do some light weights and kettlebells. And the first few times, Ada was usually crying after 10 minutes, so not missing out on some major sweat session lessened my frustration.
  • We eased into longer periods of time by communicating with the caregiver. Since I work from home, Ada isn’t used to regular daycare or being away from me much at all. The attendant, Kelsey, at the center is great and worked with us (in quiet periods when only our daughter was in the room) to build up Ada’s tolerance. This meant some crying, but a lot of love and bonding between the two of them. They are truly buds now.
  • I pack a bag or backpack now, filled with some of Ada’s comforts like her favorite stuffed animal, a juice box or other small snack, stickers, and other familiar items. This way, if a meltdown is on the horizon, the caregiver has a “bag of tricks” at her disposal. One time Ada clung to her doll the entire time. The next, she could have cared less. Who knows!
  • I try and understand that there will still be bad days. Just like when we’re at home, toddlers have grumpy, clingy days when this sort of thing just won’t work. I try and accept that and keep the relationship positive versus getting angry or resentful. Again, a lot of this is on my end because if I got too upset, I might stop trying again.
  • I talk about childcare a lot when we’re not actually there. At random points during the day, I’ll ask Ada if she wants to go play with her “friend at the gym” — and she often says yes. I try to make this situation a new reality through our everyday life to keep the experience fresh in her mind.
  • When all else fails, I relied on a reward system. There’s also a pool at our gym. So, for a while — I’d tell Ada I’d take her swimming if she let mommy have some time to run (or swim, bike, lift weights, etc.). She loves going in the pool with mommy — and I think it really helped with cementing the gym as something fun in her mind.

There are a lot of tips and tricks. Any parents out there have any to add to this list?

Written by  Ashley Marcin.