You guys! I am SO honored to have been asked to share a post or two over on my friend Dai's website. He's the guru of gurus. The chief of chiefs. I have nothing but utmost respect for him, his purpose, and his very upbeat message. When he asked me to write a post for him, I was a little nervous, I can't even lie. He's like the COOLEST man-heifer in all the kingdom. No pressure, eh?
I thought and thought about what I wanted to say, and came up with this. I hope you enjoy:
How Going to the Gym Scared the Death OUT of me
I remember my first stint at the gym like I remember my first kiss: My heart was racing. Okay, that was the only similarity.
My first visit to a gym was far more traumatic than my first kiss
I was humiliated to even walk through the door. I felt the eyes of 32,230 judgmental, gorgeous women on me. I felt like everyone was staring at me and I could practically hear their thoughts: “Go home, fatty! Go home!” It was horrifying, and it almost made me cry. Anyone who knows me well knows I do NOT cry. That day, with every fiber of my being, I wanted to run out of that gym—which, ironically enough, would have pushed me in the direction of my goals. But I digress.
I was on a mission: I was pushing 260 pounds and I needed to commit. I had already joined Jenny Craig, and I was off to a great start. But I knew I was missing a key component. You know, exercise.
When you’re tipping the scale at twice the weight of your 7th grade son, fitness isn’t a topic you casually throw around. It’s something you hear “other” people talk about. You know the type: fit, toned women with perfectly coiffed hair and their mascara on fleek. Or men who sit in the sauna, flaunting their sizzling six-pack and perfect pecs. (Not that I’ve been in a sauna with men—promise!)
Anyway, it was always “other” people who were interested in fitness. Not for nothing, but I had interests, too—like challenging myself to eat three rows of Oreos and rearranging the remaining cookies in the carton so nobody would notice. Or like, digesting an entire Domino’s pizza during one or two episodes of MTV’s The Real World.
The First Step was Overcoming My Fears of the Gym
It was all new to me but still intriguing. It was like a foreign language I knew nothing about, but I figured: I could learn to do it—and maybe even master it. The first step, though, was to get myself into a gym.
The first day I showed up, I was already feeling judged. Most gym veterans have a name for people like me: I was a “resolutioner”—someone who came to the gym for a few weeks at the start of the New Year. Or maybe they figured I was someone who had been sent by their doctor after being told they were on the verge of suffering from diabetes and heart disease. I could imagine the trainers sizing me up as I waddled in, wearing an XXL tee shirt from Costco and a pair of my husband’s baggy shorts. At the very least, I’m sure they were thinking: “Someone get this heifer some proper workout clothes!”
I bit the inside of my cheeks to keep from crying as I walked into the cycling classroom for my first spin class—my first any kind of exercise class—ever. I saw the “others” busily setting up their bikes, and I sensed them giving me the side-eye while I desperately tried to remain unnoticed. I was sure I had a sticker that read, “Loser!” on my forehead, and I was mortified. Thankfully, the instructor recognized that I was a newbie and was kind enough to come over, introduce himself, and help me set up my bike. This was an absolute lifesaver for me. Getting proper guidance before your first spin class is worth its weight (!) in gold; getting it from a friendly instructor who goes out of his way to make you feel welcome—priceless.
My biggest fear at the start of the class was that I would fall victim to a sudden heart attack, and when that didn’t happen, it was replaced by another fear: that I must have done it all wrong because I was certain that heifers like me didn’t make it out of this kind of class alive. I was also fearful that maybe the instructor had decided to play his music particularly loud that day in light of my tremendous huffing and puffing. Nevertheless, I was grateful—both that I hadn’t keeled over dead and that I hadn’t scared anyone else off. I considered it a huge bonus that the lights were dim so nobody had to see me dying on a bike seat that was practically swallowed by my arse, which was about 10 times bigger.
Why Quitting Wasn’t an Option and What it Taught Me About Myself
When class ended, I remember a moment where I was proud of myself. I had followed directions to the best of my ability—and I didn’t quit. I didn’t even consider quitting, in fact, in spite of my extreme discomfort.
My pride passed quickly as I stepped off the bike to see a small pond of my own sweat circling the floor around me. I wasn’t the only one sweating, for sure. But I think I was the only one who had dropped a good 23 pounds of water weight in 45 minutes. I saw my classmates wiping down their bikes, so I took a cue and took care of my own. I don’t know if anyone tried to make eye contact with me. I was staring at the floor the whole time, embarrassed of how pathetic I thought I looked in comparison to the demi-gods all around. I was intimidated. I was humiliated. And yet, I was oddly exhilarated. I was ready to do it all again two days later. And I knew I would have to keep doing it, over and over again, if I wanted it to be fluent in the “body language” of fitness.
Throughout my journey in this class—and subsequent others—I kept asking the question: How badly did I want it? Did I want it more than being fat? Did I want to be healthy? I thought of my children, my husband, and my own future.
But how badly did I want it?
Turns out I wanted it so badly that not only did I go back the next day, but I kept going back—day after day—until days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. I am happy to report that I continued my quest to conquer cycling, and even made a few gym friends in the process. As time went on, I discovered that “other” people—the beautifully coiffed and perfectly stacked specimens—were much friendlier than I would have guessed.
My own insecurities had been holding me back for far too long. I was as prejudiced toward “healthy” people as I assumed they were toward me. I perceived cyclists as hoity-toity, stuck-up perfectionists, when, in reality, they were kindhearted people, many of whom I am proud to call friends.
The end result and my new lifestyle…
I lost about a third of my body weight with the help of that class and have an entirely different perspective now. I’m no longer the newbie, and my confidence is through the roof. But I’ll never forget how it felt to be the “other” woman—the one who feels like an outcast in a gym full of pros—and I am happy to remind my fellow gym goers to believe in the “other” men and women who have made the decision to walk through the door. It doesn’t take much to send positive energy to someone who appears to be a novice:
All you have to do is smile and nod and show up as one kind soul—one person who is not judging them for their beer belly, post-baby body, or fat-suit that they developed as the result of emotional eating or otherwise.
Consider making a NEW Resolution this Year
Set a goal to reach out and try to help if someone is looking confused and out of place. You may be the one smile they needed to see to keep going. You may be the one ray of light in a day that needs some sunshine.
It’s not just good etiquette; it’s the right thing to do.