Sweat, spandex, and anxiety

Beads of sweat began to form at the edge of my hairline, my heart was beating a mile a minute, my knees were wobbly, and I couldn’t stop playing every possible thing that could go wrong over and over again in my head. What if people laughed at me? What if there was a cute guy in there? Does this shirt show the four doughnuts that I had for lunch?

No, this was not my first day of high school nor was it the time I started a new job. This was a much scarier moment. This was the day I decided to go to the gym.

A room filled with heavy things to pick up, machines with too many buttons, and so much spandex. I think I can safely say that I am not the only person intimidated by the gym. In my younger days of organized sports, I found it much easier to stay in shape. The fact that I had my nutritionally balanced meals prepared for me also helped. Now on my own, expected to motivate myself to squeeze in a workout more frequently than every six months, I find staying in shape a task too difficult to tackle.  

I recently moved to a new building, and lucky me, this building boasts a free gym! After a three-year hiatus this week I put on my leggings, leggings that have been reserved strictly for Saturday morning trips to the grocery store to trick all the weekend yoga goers that I too just came from my weekly class, and hesitantly made it down to the second floor where the gym entrance awaited me.

As I stood outside pretending to pick the perfect workout playlist I gave myself a little pep talk. “Get your untoned ass in there and get on that treadmill. Find a spot near the back in case you have a heart attack maybe no one will notice you. You’re going to look like one of those Instagram models in no time!” With these motivational words I made my way inside. To my surprise the people huffing and puffing on the various machines were not chiselled male models and Victoria’s Secret angels. Instead there was one man in his mid 60’s whose hair piece was slowly slipping down the back of his head to expose a shiny bald spot and was wearing a silk pyjama set on that stepping machine thing, there was a lanky teenage boy in the back making grunting noises while using the Bowflex, and a very pregnant woman walking on the treadmill. I figured this was a good group; the pregnant woman would probably go into labour before I had a heart attack so that nightmare took a back seat.

I was lucky enough to find myself in the company of a fairly unintimidating group for my first session back at the gym; however, this still didn’t solve the fact that I had no idea what I was doing. The only treadmill was taken and you could bet your ass I wasn’t about to pull out the exercise ball and pretend to do some Pilate type shit. I found a bike with a full seat, back and all. Now this was the kind of fitness I am into. Kicking back, relaxing, being able to scroll through Instagram all while getting a light sweat on. Oh how I couldn’t have been more wrong…. After 2 minutes on level four, sweat was pooling on my upper lip, my thighs began to burn, my heart rate back up to a mile a minute, and I thought I was going to need the pregnant woman next to me to call 911 because I was going into cardiac arrest.

I began to go over my options, I could get up and walk out feeling like a failure, I could fake my own death and vow to never step foot in that gym or my apartment building again, or I could push through the pain and continue on pedalling. After a quick 30 second break I played around with the beeping buttons on the machines screen, turned the level down to two, adjusted my seat and began to pedal. At a much easier pace I started to relax, I was actually doing it. I was at the gym actually working out.

I may not have gone in there and killed it, but I did more at the gym that day than I had done in 3 years. After 15 minutes of pedalling my little heart out I got off the bike feeling accomplished and proud of myself. I walked out of the gym that day feeling a little better than when I came in. Since that day I have been back to the gym twice, and every morning after I wake up thinking I broke my ribs and both legs in 18 places, but that is just my body reaping the benefits of my decision to cut back on the Big Macs and increase the cardio.

I can’t see myself posting any progress pictures anytime soon or using the hashtag #gymismychurch, but I can say I conquered my fear of that sweaty smelly room and did something that I was dreading for years. The gym may not yet be my safe haven, but it is a place you can catch me on the odd day in the back of the room on that bike looking machine praying to God I don’t die.