I go to a great parenting class several times a week.

The class is motivating, inspiring. I learn to work hard, and it shows. It can be invigorating and it can be exhausting. And, nope, it’s not sitting on someone’s couch listening to a lecture.

I go spinning.

For those not in the know, spinning is a relatively high-intensity exercise where you sit on a bike and pedal for anywhere up to an hour. And while you are pedaling, you have an instructor motivating you (in other words, yelling various commands to maximize your workout). There are times when the class is harder and times when it is easier. Sometimes we increase the bike tension and sometimes we decrease it. Sometimes we pedal faster and sometimes we pedal slower.

It’s kinda like being a mom.

Sometimes we pedal faster, and sometimes we pedal slower

When I first joined the gym many years ago, my fitness goals were modest. I figured if I could walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes without stopping, I’d be pretty happy. If I came off the machine and was a little hot, I felt accomplished. Using these feelings of accomplishment as a springboard, I decided to try other classes. So, I slowly dipped my toes into the waters of the toning class and the various weight machines that were scattered across the workout room.

But tucked over in the corner was the spinning room. I was intimidated by that place; it was always dark, the music was loud, and I could hear ominous instructions from the teacher, such as “Tension up! Shoulders down! Stomach in! Back straight! Faster!” (Which left me wondering, All at the same time?) When the women came out, they looked exhausted, sweaty, and surprisingly happy, which I reasoned must be related to depleted oxygen levels in the room. It was a combination that was surely not for the faint of heart.

So, for the first several months I stayed away. I would watch the ladies rush to the door when it came time for a class to start. I would stare amazingly at these same women who would emerge a mere 45 minutes later looking like they had really accomplished something during their workout. As opposed to me, who merely found a fab recipe for chicken during my treadmill workouts.

It got me thinking; it got me curious. I started asking questions, and then I decided to take the plunge. I went for a class. And, for anyone out there who has never taken spinning, let’s just say that it can be a Positioning is importantbit, um, uncomfortable to get on the bike that first time. Positioning one’s body in novel ways, along with trying to pedal very fast (or at all), can be challenging.

As with any exercise, positioning is important. Whether someone is weight training or doing aerobics, Pilates or Zumba, it’s not enough to move—you have to be mindful of how you are moving. Poor posture, or incorrect foot positioning, can lead to muscle strain or some other injury.

With parenting our children, positioning is all the more important. Making time and space for our kids is important, but it’s just the warmup. As mothers, we need to be not only physically available, but emotionally there as well. Even if we are having a bad day and the tension is high. For our kids, a warm smile and healthy snack (preferably one that the kids actually want to eat) when they come home can be an important warmup for the afternoon.

And, just as an exercise class gets more intense as it goes on, our kids’ needs intensify as the days and years go by. Yes, it can be uncomfortable for us to be patient and kind when we ourselves are not having such a great day. But when we flex our parenting muscles and push ourselves to be better parents, everyone wins. There are times when the afternoons feel like a long uphill climb on the highest tension, while at other times, when everyone is in a good mood, we feel like are spinning on low tension. But either way, we have a job to do, and we have to get ourselves together!

In class, our teacher, Jo, will often remind us that our time there is for our benefit: the harder we work, the more our bodies and our minds will improve. The same holds true for our kids. When the tension’s high, we can’t We need to be not only physically available, but emotionally there as welllet them down, no matter how much we want to. Sometimes we have to work the tension and stand up on the bike (metaphorically) to overcome the situations that life throws our way.

It’s our job to help our kids develop into good, honest, well-behaved people. There are times when we can ride the positive wave of our kids getting along with each other or being extra helpful just when we need it. But there are also those times when the tantrums are wearing down our patience, or that other child is demanding emotional energy we need to dig deep for.

This is our parenting workout. So, let’s grab our water bottles and get going!