Do you struggle with a fear of facing the gym the way I do? No matter how much I might want to go, there is always that dread, at least in the beginning, of imagining people being mean to me. And even if they aren’t directly MEAN to me, I can imagine them looking at me with amusement or judgement. I can imagine them laughing . . . even if they are just laughing to themselves. Can you relate to this?
The Fear of Facing the Gym
I have never been, as they say, “athletically inclined”. It would be much more accurate to say that I have the grace and skill of a baby ostrich. For one thing, I have some gnarly knees. I have this odd bone under my knee caps. Apparently it is hereditary, according to more than one doctor. Who knows, really? What I DO know is that I’ve always been a bit “knock-kneed”, even as a kid. And…that if I was going to injure myself, it would most likely involve one of my knees.
My knees, and other challenges of the “clumsy and awkward” variety, really held me back with many physical activities. From an early age, I dreamed of being a gymnast or a ballerina. But when I basically got kicked out of ballet class because I couldn’t yet do a somersault at the age of four or five, it became pretty clear that neither of those occupations were likely to be successful career choices for me.
The Picked On Kid
Growing up, PE class was a nightmare for me. In school, there are often at least a couple of kids that are the “picked on” kids . . . the ones that everyone else just hates on general principle. To be friends with one of those kids is basically the kiss of death. Usually, there is at least one boy and one girl that bears the brunt of everyone else’s bullshit.
I was the girl.
I’m not sure how it all started. I moved to New Mexico in 2nd grade and I don’t think I had been there very long before it became the “in” thing to do to hate on me. Honestly, I bet that if you were to ask most of those former kids why they hated me, most of them couldn’t actually give you a reason. It was just understood, in the mysterious world of children, that I was one of those people you just weren’t friends with. And bonus points were given if you could figure out some way to be shitty toward me.
Fortunately for me, it was a pretty isolated thing. It was really only some of the kids from Red Rock Elementary who were such snobby, mean-spirited dicks. (Okay, most of them. But NOT all. In fact, at least two of those former kids are friends of mine that I love very much.) So, I did manage to find some pretty amazing friends in Mid School and High School. But I was never popular . . . not even a little bit. I’ve always been the oddball . . . the misfit . . . the non-conformist . . . the weirdo.
The Challenge of Physical Activity
I sort of digress. But not. This is one of those things where certain emotional experiences are all tangled up with certain physical experiences until it is just one big messed up Gordian knot sort of thing. After all this time, it has become nearly impossible to separate one from the other. All I know is that whenever I contemplate doing anything that involves physical activity, it triggers this part of me that is deeply insecure and wounded.
Fortunately, I also have good memories of physical activity that I have built through the years. I may not have been great at team sports or dodgeball in school, but I kicked ass at hiking all over the Navajo reservation that practically surrounded my house until I was 16. And while I could never figure out how to do a cartwheel, I DID learn that I had a real instinct for finding my way when I was lost, and that I could walk for miles and miles when push came to shove.
I also loved riding horses.
Sadly, it was easy to take for granted things like riding horses or hiking. I mean, seriously, unless you personally DO either of those things, it’s easy to blow it off.
“What can be so hard about hiking? It’s WALKING. We all do it. Each and every day. Big Deal.”
“Oohhh horseback riding! Yeah, big physical activity there. It’s basically SITTING. The horse is the one doing all the work.”
It Has All Caught Up With Me
Sadly, at the ripe old age of 53, my lifetime insecurity with physical activity has caught up with me. And even as I type those words, I have to also make it clear that I know this issue is MUCH more complicated than that. But still, my insecurity regarding “all-things-physical” is a big part of it.
I can still hear the laughter and the ridicule whenever I “ran funny.” I remember the snickers when I would try to cross the monkey bars like the rest of them could (right down the middle like it was no big deal). I was THRILLED that I finally learned that if I stayed on the fatter bar on the side and just slid my hands along from one end to the other, I could cross, too. But…that was the “baby” way, don’t you know?
I Have Good Physical Memories, Too
The older I got, and the farther away from the dweebs from “drunk city”, NM I got, the more I developed good memories involving physical activity. I hiked through beautiful caverns. I crawled through lava tubes. I walked for miles through wilderness areas of Colorado. I felt strong and I felt healthy and wasn’t that really what mattered most?
But over time, time took its toll. I had a vehicle, so it was easier to drive rather than to walk. I couldn’t tell you the last time I rode a bicycle for transportation but I can pretty much promise you that it was while I was still in my 20’s.
And that was a long damned time ago. It just seems that over time, I did less and less. I sat more and more. Add to that, a couple of injuries that really discouraged me from walking any more than I absolutely had to and there you have the Me Of Today – an incredibly overweight-incredibly weak person who doesn’t even feel comfortable walking around a small grocery store most days. It’s depressing . . . and embarrassing.
Time to Get Strong Again
I know that the biggest problem (aside from my weight, which is considerable) is my weakness. So, my first course of business when I begin going to the gym, is strength training. I will build my core and I will Work my way up from there. I’m ready. I have my “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Weight Training” on my side and I am ready.
It’s just scary. Even though Planet Fitness is supposed to be a “judgment free zone”, I know how people can be. People look and they see and sometimes . . . they judge. That doesn’t mean that every person does it (hence, the “sometimes”). But it happens. And sometimes it seems to happen often. Hell, when you’re my size, even going to a restaurant or store is a great chance to experience the thrill of people staring at you. Or snickering to each other as they look at you. Or saying rude things within hearing distance, just to let you know that they are completely aware of what a joke you are . . . at least, in their opinion.
There is always Hope
I am hopeful. I have good memories of a gym I used to be a member of, many years ago. I’m hoping that I will have that experience again. I really want that.
I want to be strong again. I want to be fit enough to walk as much as I want . . . again. I am ready for this next step in my overall health. I am ready.
I am scared. But I am ready. And I know that Planet Fitness, with their Judgement-Free Zone, is going to help me to change my life. I am ready!