I Love The Gym! Sort Of.

I joined a new gym last week and even worked out a little bit that day. It was okay. My goal is to try to work out at the gym twice a week. I have an appointment with a personal trainer the day after Thanksgiving, whom I’m going to try to forgive for not being my beloved and way too expensive Ross. It’s not her fault she’s not a pimp daddy. I mean, I haven’t even met her yet but I’m just going to guess she’s not a pimp daddy. I should give her the benefit of the doubt, though, shouldn’t I. She could surprise me. Maybe she will show up for our session in big gold Elton John sunglasses, at least. How much would that rule?

This working out thing, I tell you. It’s no fun at all. I totally wish I was someone who could get jazzed up about my reps and cardio and whatever it is you’re supposed to be jazzed about when you work out. Since it started to rain and I wasn’t walking and biking around as much, I tried going to the university gym, which I thought, mistakenly, would be convenient. It’s so not. It’s so filled with teeny-weeny girls in very tight shorts in full makeup, so filled with fratty boys in their gigantic shoes doing their increasingly Byzantine abs routines on the mats. What’s with the stick-one-leg-in-the-air-hoist-butt-in-air-while-grunting-in-a-not-very-appealing-manner thing? This gym had TVs near the cardio stuff but I never remembered to bring headphones, which would result in my lip-reading I Love The Eighties or whatever was on, occasionally being distracted by the abdominal-oriented antics of the aforementioned fratty boys. I think there were personal trainers there but I was a little shy to ask one of them to help me out with the weight machines…I didn’t want a nineteen-year old judging me and my workout clothes, you know? And then there was the lack of convenience factor. Despite the fact that the gym was fairly near my office, it turned out to be a HUGE hassle to go there. Get off work, walk to the gym, fine, no problem. Do forty or so minutes of whatever (recumbent bike, crunches, and whatever weight machines weren’t taken up by enormous sweating men in cut-away tank tops…yes, in 2003!…or weensy overly-highlighted girls in lycra who didn’t seem to sweat at all. Rush back to bus stop. Miss bus. Wait thirty minutes for bus, watching youth slip away before eyes. Bus to park and ride. Drive home. Workout: forty minutes. Everything else connected with workout: hour and a half.

So I decided to eat the last month’s fee, since I’d bought a quarter’s pass, and check out some of the gyms a little closer to my neck of the woods, at the north edge of Seattle. I don’t live in a ghetto, nothing remotely like it, but let’s just say that if you want to get a used car or a discount mattress, well, totally come visit me while you’re up there, okay? I’m just a few seconds away from all that. But that’s okay because we need to work out too and there are several gyms near me. I thought I’d try out the Curves ™ near me. I’d heard some positive things about it and was intrigued by the women-only thing. Nothing to lose, right? So I made an appointment and went in the other night…a night when it happened to be pouringrain, not drizzling all passive-aggressively as it usually does and I had to walk fifteen blocks from where I parked my car to the Curves ™. I was looking a little ratty at that time, as anyone might after having stepped in a knee-deep puddle. Maybe I wasn’t in the best mood, but I tried to listen while the nice lady told me all about Curves™. I’m going to stop with the ™, I promise. Right now.

Anyway. It was a pretty small place, with the circuit training stuff all in a circle. There was loud sort of techno-y music playing and every thirty seconds or so a disembodied voice would say “Change stations now.” When I first went in there wasn’t anyone working out, but as I sat and listened to the sales pitch folks started trickling in. There wasn’t a locker room, just a couple of dressing rooms and some shelves for your stuff. The woman showing me around pointed to a patch of concrete: “There’s the stretching area!” Hmm. It seemed fine to me, I guess, and the people working out there seemed to be enjoying it. It was the sales pitch thing that got me, really, as much as the slight dinginess of the place. The woman I spoke with was very nice and told me that, imagine that, they had a special going on and I could get some blah-blah amount off if I signed up right then for a whole year. I expressed some concern about signing up for a year, because I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. She looked me in the eye and said that you have to sign up for a year because otherwise you won’t be mostivated enough to keep going and how are you ever going to lose weight, you fatty, if you’re not motivated? Like, thanks, Curves! For doing me a favor like that! If not for you I would never go to the gym at all, regardless of my family history of diabetes and the desire for some big ol’ muscles! Whew!

And so what did I do, in my outrage at their selling techniques? Why, I signed up for a year, of course! I got my little keychain thing and some other stuff and got measured and weighed (which they did with all my clothes and shoes on, and I was wearing jeans and boots) and got my body mass index or whatever measured somehow, and then promptly went home and got really mad at myself for falling for it. It felt wrong and weird and unhappy-making and I was disgusted with myself for not just walking away. I went in the next day and asked for, and got my money back. I still felt stupid though.

I thought I’d try out another gym also pretty near me that a former co-worker used to go to, and so I made another appointment and went over there after I gave Curves the hand (it was, temporarily, 1994, so I could still give people and things the hand somehow)…having not only missed bellydance class that week because my lovely teacher was sick but also, of course, a gym workout. I met with a very nice girl who must have been, of course, about nineteen named Alicia. She was about five inches shorter than me and very perky. Ostensibly we were there to show me around the gym and maybe sign me up (month-to-month, thanks so much!) but what ended up happening was that I did a little free college counseling for Alicia and also gave her some information about the dangers of diabetes (her roommate has it) as well as a bellydance website for her perusal (she’s thinking of starting in the new year). This happens to me occasionally…I will be talking to someone random about what kind of fish is freshest or how many stitches are in an inch of a certain type of yarn and all of a sudden I will find myself, like, making referrals. Is this the caseworker manqu頩n me? It was even worse when I worked in college admissions (“Okay, what you want to do is have your son fill out the FAFSA and make sure he gets a recommendation from a teacher that actually knows him. Can I have my pap smear results now?”).

So Alicia set me up for what I’m sure was too much money but was less than Curves and the people there were pretty nice and I can have a free personal training session with non-pimp, non-Ross personal trainer, and there’s a sauna and I can even watch a little TV while I’m doing the bike. I think it will be fine. It’s nice. It’s a locally owned family business that is a pick-up point for the food bank. It has big exercise balls, which I totally love. It’s going to be fine.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, this whole gym/fitness thing, because I’ve been feeling quite fat lately. Well. I don’t know. Maybe that’s not even true. Since JournalCon, for some reason, I’ve been getting compliments on my appearance, which is sort of a novel thing for me. I like it. It’s nice. Still, though, it’s hard not to feel fat and ugly when you’re above a certain culturally-imposed ideal and you sort of have been since you hit puberty and boy, you really like to eat, and no, you’re not so enamored, really, with the whole exercise thing, being more the type to sit on the couch with a book or possibly your knitting. But really, in the last month or so I’ve been easing up on myself a little. I am trying consciously wear better-fitting clothes and hold my head a little higher, and you know what, if I have a big old ass, well, all right then. That can be worked on to some extent. (Leg presses?) To some extent it can’t be(thank you, genetic slot machine!) and that’s the extent to which I shouldn’t care and shouldn’t beat myself up. Right? I think this is the right way to think about this.

Over the weekend, in fact, when I wasn’t being all violently sick (which is another story) I re-read a book I’d picked up several years ago, when I still lived in Claremont and had excess cash to spend on books. It deals with the history of the American diet industry, basically, and it was pretty illuminating to me in terms of cultural norms and changes in body image over the years, blah blah was almost a sociology major blah blah. The book did make a point that although there is a lot of weird stuff going on in the field of nutrition and weight loss research, one thing that everyone agrees on is that exercise is where it’s at. No matter how much you hate it or how embarrassed you are about the way you look in yoga pants or how tired you are after your commute. You have to. I have type II diabetes on both sides of my family and it’s not an option for me anymore. People, I work with amputees all the time…people who didn’t take care of themselves and lost their feet for fully unnecessary and in many cases reversible reasons. As I told Alicia, “It sort of makes you think.” It does. It makes me think about the gift of good health, and differences between being morbidly obese and being different from a cultural ideal. It makes me think that even though I’m not immune to wanting to lose weight for, pretty much, cosmetic reasons (inspired as I am by a couple of fabulous women I happen to have met), I’m trying to sort of…reshape the way I think about the whole thing. I want going to the gym (and hiking and walking and swimming and riding my excellent red bike) to be something I enjoy, something I look forward to. I don’t want it to be a chore. I think the first “lifestyle change” I have to make is mental.

I Love The Gym! Working Out Rules!

See? Getting jazzed up already.

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