My son, my new workout buddy

When Jane Costello found out that her gym let children of 11 and over to exercise with a mother, she realised it was a chance to spend quality day with her eldest son, Otis

Exercise is usually a solitary activity for me. Although I like the idea of a workout buddy, since having children it has been impractical. As a running mother, opportunities to workout are snatched in between deadlines and school runnings and going to the trouble of coordinating diaries with one of my friends, just so we could put ourselves through a few squats and crunches felt like a waste of what could be a good night out.

Then a few months ago, I noticed that the gym where Im a member had a scheme where children aged 11 -plus could take part in workouts supervised by their parents. I wasnt sure whether this would be my eldest son Otiss cup of tea. Although naturally energetic and an enthusiastic member of the school rugby team, his experience of maintaining fit and active was like most childrens involving friends, spontaneous action and, judging by the nation of his PE kit, more dirt than Glastonbury.

Much as I enjoy the gym, exercising in the sanitised, air-conditioned environment Id grown used to felt slightly joyless by comparison. I wasnt sure it is unable to vie. More to the point, I wasnt sure I could vie. Unlike his rugby chums, I rarely discuss the intricacies of the new Xbox update.

Yet, with Otiss 11 th birthday loom, he wanted to have a run. I guess working out in a gym carried the same mystique as all those other things that adults do but children cant: driving a car, going to work, swearing without risk of being scolded. I was sure that it wouldnt be half as interesting once hed had a run. But I was wrong.

Before he was let loose on the gym floor, Otis had to have two sessions with a fitness teacher. Ive no doubt that putting an eager 11 -year-old at the helm of a Stairmaster without warning him not to start on level 20 has the potential to aim badly.

By the time Otis was issued with a special wristband and unleashed into the gym with me as his chaperone, he was raring to go. And so was I.

Now that he has two younger friends, aged seven and three, the two of us dont often have the opportunity to spend time on our own. These gym visits offered a glimmer of those days when Otis was really small, when we could chat or play without risk of being constantly diverted.

Jane
Jane and Otis try a boxing workout. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

We head to the gym on a Sunday now, for 40 minutes or so before lunch, so weve earned our apple disintegrate. While its not the toughest workout I do, its fulfilling for the simple reason that its about so much more than the exercise.

We jog side by side on the treadmill and discuss whats been going on in his week. Occasionally well drift on to what hes find on breakfast news about Tim Peake or the situation in Syria. More often, its which of his friends was devote detention for playing football with a jelly in the canteen. Our conversations usually arent big, important ones, but thats the beauty of them. They consist of the small and, on the face of it, insignificant trivia that is probably more important than Id ever really given credit to.

There are, of course, certain things you have to come to words with when you start working out in a gym with one of your children. Such as the fact that they are want to stay on any given machine for a maximum of three minutes, before get borne and wanting to try something else. They will tell you that you have been doing something be it squats, crunches or burpees all incorrect for the past 20 years because the instructor at his first conference did it differently. They will also get irritated if you manage to do more press-ups than they can. But possibly not as irritated as you will, if its the other way round.

Against all my predictions, our workout conferences have gone from strength to strength, so much so that my father, who is 70, joins us on the odd occasion too.

Collectively, we must definitely sounds like the stars of the worlds worst exercising video. But theres something I love about the idea of three generations of our household having a regular get-together like this, shooting the breeze as we dawdle along on the elliptical machines.

I couldnt claim that this experience has transformed our fitness levels theres a limit to what you can achieve in one short session a week. But the value of it has gone far beyond any cellulite Ive managed to shift or steps Ive added to my daily count. It has given me and my eldest son the opportunity to spend time together, doing something we both enjoy.

We could probably achieve that by doing any number of activities climbing mountains, cycling, indoor sky-diving for that are important( and weve done all those on occasion, along with his brothers ).

The difference is that this is easy, a regular decide time out that doesnt involve great expenditure or fuss and is merely 10 minutes from home.

I dont know if it will last for ever. But Im happy to continue with the press-ups for as long as it does.

Jane Costellos new fiction, Summer Nights at the Moonlight Hotel , is published by Simon& Schuster, 7.99

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