Skinny people will never know how hard it is for a fat chick to walk into a gym for the first time. It’s like being dropped at a train station in a foreign country- you don’t speak the language or have any friends.
Just so I couldn’t change my mind, I even put it on my calendar. Between 9:30 and 11:oo, I was going to the gym. Other than taking the kids swimming, I haven’t set foot in a gym in 10 years. That’s a travesty of it’s own- but it stops today.
All the planning in the world won’t get you over the hump of walking in that door. And even with all that planning, by the time I got to the door, I was dragging two little kids and had my cell-phone wedged between one shoulder, and my bag on the other, as the nurse at Jeffrey’s school told me he was on the cot in her office complaining of a sore throat. Bean ran one way, Abby the other, and I dropped my phone as the door slammed me in my ample butt. Excellent.
The school-nurse suggested a Jolly Rancher might help Jeff’s throat, and that she would call me if anything changed. We made our way through the line of all the January hopefuls and scanned our little plastic cards as I signed them both into the kids’ zone. They ran off happily, and I went to find the locker room.
Oh. Wow. Lot’s of naked people in here. Not that I mind, I just hadn’t thought of it, and as a totally out of shape mama, getting naked in front of a bunch of people isn’t high on my bucket list. I am glad I wore my yoga pants (what are yoga pants? and why do they sound more glamorous than spandex?) and my new white t-shirt, and only had to throw my bag in a locker and fasten the little clip to my shirt naming me the claimant of two smallish children downstairs.
Okay, deep breath, and I am ready.
I’m going to check the place out and get my bearings. In the large gym area next to the giant rock-climbing wall there are women bouncing all over the place with half-balls stuck to the floor, and some crazy chick yelling with headset mic. Not for me. Not today. There are some lonely stationary bikes, mats and climbing equipment outside the basketball courts. I like the idea of rock climbing. But I know I’m not stuffing my butt in a harness today. That’s a goal to shoot for… in a long time.
Making my way upstairs, I come to a large circular room with windows overlooking the pool on one side and the gym on the other. It looks like a medieval torture room I once saw visiting the Tower of London, and I know I’m not the first one to make that comparison. I have no idea what any of them do, and am frankly self-conscious and a little embarassed, which does not help me want to jump on and get going. I find an information desk and stand waiting for someone to notice me.
This is a lonely place to stand. I am unsure of myself. The doubts and voices in my head get louder the longer I stand there. As a fat girl, I am already invisible most of the time, and here, in my new exercise clothes, in a land where I neither speak nor understand the language, I stand waiting, and the humiliation crawls up my back and starts to burn my shoulders. Someone please notice me.
A woman finally asks what I need. I don’t know. I’m new. I think I need someone to show me what to do. But I don’t know. There is a certain expectation when offering help that the helpee will know what they need. I don’t. I am awkward and mask my fear with wisecracks and bravado. Help me. I am here, and that is more than half the battle, you don’t even know. Tell me what to do, how to start those wicked devices upstairs that will carry me from here to a longer life.
“I’m new and I need a consultation- I am unsure how to use the equipment or where I should even be.” I hope my smile hides the glazing of tears in my eyes.
She sees me. “Come with me. Didn’t anyone give you a tour when you signed up? No? I’m sorry- with all the new people in January it gets hectic. Let me introduce you to Heather, and she can help.” Oh thank you Lord. I like Heathers.
Heather is older than me, dressed in a track suit and invites me into her office, and I feel the color come back to my face. I am so afraid. I am so out of my comfort zone. She tells me how to sign up for a personal session- I get two free with my membership- and shows me a list of classes. She offers to walk me around the site and show me how the machines work, how to turn them on and off, and what I might expect from my personal training session. Yes, yes please… if someone would just tell me what to do, show me where to put my feet, give me a plan, I will conquer my demons and just do it…
She left me on a machine I think is usually for the geriatric crowd, but I needed a success, so I got on that contraption and kept going until my legs were weak and my shoulders were screaming not from humiliation but from fatigue. Take that, voices. Shut up. I don’t have to listen to you anymore. Go away. I’m the boss now.
Making my way downstairs to the locker room, it felt like when I was little and would take off my skates after a day at the rink. Wobbly and numb. Tomorrow I will hurt, I know. But nothing will hurt as much as being invisible. I can do this. I can do hard things. And tomorrow I will be back.