Last month I sweet-talked my husband into purchasing a gym membership for the family. I wanted real equipment, childcare, and classes. Did I mention the childcare? It was not beneficial for me to do a downward dog in my living room while the children decided I was a climbing structure.

It was mortifying to push the jogging stroller through the peaceful neighborhood while the minions screamed at the top of their lungs, “Mommy, STOP!” My patience was gone after trying to sneak in squats while picking up the five millionth toy left in the middle of the kitchen floor. This mom was saying “No more!” and heading to the gym.

Despite my best effort (okay, my half-hearted effort. Turning on the workout video does count for points. As does adding air to the tires of the jogging stroller), I hadn’t met any of my fitness goals. I wanted – no, I needed – the motivating atmosphere of a real gym. I hadn’t contemplated too much about how it would all work, but I have learned a few grains of wisdom to pass along.

Nothing says “I work out” like the tightest leggings

After agonizing over what to wear to my workouts because nothing fit (thank-you, offspring), I waltzed into the gym wearing my loose-fitting, completely comfortable, boot-cut style yoga pants that scream MOM from across the room. I surveyed the place and despairingly noticed all the other women wearing skin-tight leggings.

No matter the shape or size or degree of fitness, all rolls, curves, and muffin tops were on display. To save yourself from modest embarrassment, embrace yourself as you are, and pour yourself into a pair. It’s the secret uniform nobody told me about.

Some people are helpful

I ambitiously tried a cycling class my first week at the gym because, I’m a crazy person, and apparently have something to prove. Well, I proved that I cannot climb those hills and have to hang on for dear life so I don’t fall off the stationary bike. Not to mention that sitting on a regular chair was painful for a week after the class. I know they warn you about that, but it honestly was that bad… but I digress.

When I walked in early to the class one woman was already blissfully spinning away and sipping on her water bottle that I swear was full of a secret potion to make her happy to be there. She must have seen my deer-in-the-headlights stare and taken pity on me. She gently explained how to adjust the seat, the handlebars, the gear shift. Bless her heart, she was my cycling savior. After class, she told me she hoped she would see me again. I told her, “Of course.”

It’s been weeks and I’ve avoided that cycling class like that salesperson you tiptoe around at the department store who’s trying to sell you something you probably should try, but just don’t wanna. I just don’t wanna and you can’t make me.

Some people are not helpful

Yogalates was up next. I know, yoga-what? It’s a class that mixes yoga and Pilates. Here’s where I loftily educate you about how they complement each other beautifully, like sipping an exotic drink while watching a glorious sunrise over the Mediterranean. Honestly, I have no clue. What I do know is that I was barefoot, a giant exercise ball was involved, and I came out of there drenched in sweat with sore muscles shaking. You know, like birth but without the baby.

Going in, I had completed some research. By research, I mean I reasoned that a yoga mat would be needed because the name of the class had the word “yoga” in it. I stepped into the room, hoping one of the ladies looking my direction would give me some guidance on where to find the mats. Nope, they had their Zen faces on (Zen is a yoga word, right?), watching to see what I would do next.

When I think of storing a yoga mat, I think of a thin mat rolled up into a nice cinnamon bun roll with a swirling spiral on the outside. During meditation, I planned to visualize an ooey, gooey, flaky goodness dripping with icing and smell the overpowering scent of sickly sweet cinnamon and sugar. Well, I wasn’t going to be able to do that if I couldn’t find the actual yoga roll. I mean, mat.

The class was about to start and I still had not found a stack of rolls. I mustered up the courage to walk to the nearest person and inquired about the mats. She glared at me like I was crazy and pointed behind her to the mats noticeably hanging on a rack. Not rolled up in the least. I unhooked one and placed it on the floor as far off to the side as I could get. Needless to say, I was unable to focus on my cinnamon roll due to all the weight-lifting and stretching and falling off the exercise ball.

Disinfecting is a religion

The gym is a dirty, dirty place and I am a clean, clean person. People are sweating and dripping and grunting and coughing and sneezing and sharing all kinds of germs. Who knows what kinds of bacteria they come in with, or what rare, silent diseases they might be transmitting.

This isn’t my living room where I know the last time I mopped the floor (umm, maybe two weeks ago?), or what that liquid spill is over there, (best guess: water from the toilet that my toddler spilled after dipping his sock). This is a public place where people from all walks of life come and secrete liquid bits of themselves through their pores. I know, it grosses me out too.

To combat this problem, the gym stocks spray bottles of a mystical substance they call disinfectant. These bottles, complete with rags to use, are placed next to the doorways, the machines, and hung along the walls of the rooms.

My best words of advice: use it. Spray those machines down before and after you use them. Feel free to spray yourself down while you’re at it. Take a bath in it if you want. But whatever you do, read the signs on the machines first. The ones that say, “DO NOT SPRAY MACHINES.”

Instead, you’re supposed to spray the rag, then wipe the machine down. If you spray the machine itself, you’ll ruin it for the rest of the gym-goers. You do not want to make a healthy, fit person mad. Just keep yourself safe, and be kind to the person after you. They’ll thank you for not sharing your rare case of bacteria-itis. I know I do.

It’s worth it

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m not quite a professional gym person. Gym-Goer? Gym-Nut? Healthy person? Whatever, you get the point. One day soon you’ll see me on the cover of Gym Magazine (or whatever the healthy gym magazines are called. I wouldn’t know). I’ve been at this thing for a little over a month, but already I feel so much better about myself. I can walk around this earth and tell people I go to the gym and see their faces look me up and down in amazement. Yep, I’m that impressive.

I’m still the mom in outdated boot cut yoga pants, but I’m stronger and more confident. I know how to find the yoga mats and the disinfectant. I am ready to help anyone I see with the “deer-in-the-headlights” look.

Just don’t ask me about the weights, or the contraptions with the ropes, or anything to do with swimming, or the difference between the sauna and the steam room. Other than that, I’m an expert… promise. I will be a helpful person and smile and wave and show you around if I see you walk in looking a little timid.

What’s that? My name is being called? Better go get the children from the magical land of happy adults who make the world a better place. Also known as: childcare.