It was the most awkward 30 or so minutes of my life. I walked around aimlessly, trying not to make eye contact with the beautiful people around me. They belonged there, not me...and it showed.
Unable to shake the intimidation the actual equipment inspired, I finally got down on a mat. I did a few sit-ups. I stood back up and wandered around a bit more. Finally, realizing that no, this was definitely not my scene...and craving breadsticks from the dining hall, I left....thus ending my first ever trip to The Gym.
After that, I discovered yoga. The studio was my scene and I never thought to reenter the sweaty, bulky world of Exercise Equipment again. When the kids came along, I couldn't even find regular time and energy to go to a studio. I started doing yoga in my living room (with Yoga with Adriene on YouTube). I was content with my level of activity. My genetic-disposition to a thin build, a healthy metabolism, and very little family history of health issues, coupled with the fact that I am a busy mom of three, led me to believe that I was taking good care of my body.
And then, my littlest sister became a Personal Trainer.
She, very kindly, educated me on the facts of (a long, healthy, and active) life. It's not enough to be thin and, what I consider to be, "active." In order to protect my body and my bones and my joints and my organs, I need to incorporate core-strength development into my routine. I don't have to bench hundreds of pounds of weight, but resistance training is important for protecting the muscles I will depend on to remain as active as I want to be as I age. Yoga is great, she agrees, but she had a few ideas in mind (and a free personal training session) for me....if I could just meet her at The Gym.
I agreed. And not all that reluctantly, either! I agree with her that, even if the most active that I ever strive to be is to be able to hike with my family, to have the stamina to keep up with their busy lives, to work out in my garden, and to age well, I'll need to work to protect the body that, up until now, I've largely taken for granted.
There was just one problem...and I called my sister the night before our session to talk it over.
"Um, hi," I started.
"Uh-oh....what?" she asked, probably thinking I was about to bail on her.
"So...it turns out...don't laugh....I don't have any shoes."
[snicker] "Wait, what?"
"Yogis go barefoot! And I don't think my hiking shoes are gym-appropriate. So, can you bring an extra pair?"
[barely audible through the laughter] "Sure. Ohmygod." [laughter continues as we hang up]
So, with that one tiny little hurdle behind us, we met in the parking lot of the gym the next morning where we did a little shoe switcheroo.
"Are you nervous?" she asked, as we entered the gym.
"Not about the exercise. I know you'll go easy on me. But I'm just a little worried that I'll see people I know here. What if they look at me? What if they're all 'What are you doing here, Sarah?'"
She smiled, but I'm pretty sure there was a sisterly eye-roll thrown in there, too. "Okay, really? It's not like that. I promise. It's a safe space. Everyone's welcome."
She introduced me to the gym manager at the desk and, while we shook hands, I caught the eye of a friend of mine over her shoulder. We did a quick smile and wave and she went back to her machine.
"Ugh. SEE? I know people!" I whined.
"Ohmygod, stop worrying! It's totally fine."
We walked over to the lockers to stash our bags. I saw two more fit and confident women, whom I know from school and the neighborhood. Brief smiles were exchanged as I nervously wiggled my toes in my sister's shoes.
"Alright, let's start back here," my sister instructed, leading the way to a quiet corner of the gym. We sat down on a bench and she brought out her Personal Trainer paperwork to do an assessment of my fitness goals. She hadn't started with question one when a friend of mine on the stair stepper machine glanced over her shoulder and spotted me.
I waved and, rather than just ignoring me and going back to her machine, she REMOVED HER EARBUD.
"Sarah! I never thought I'd run into you here!" she said with a little laugh.
"Ugh, I know! She forced me!" I said, half-joking, as I introduced her to my sister.
"I think it's great!" my friend said, stepping the hell out of that machine, though you'd never know it by just talking to her. I would have been too winded to speak. "Hey, you're here for the first time...I'm trying yoga for the first time this year!"
I felt a bit better. She would probably feel just as fish-out-of-water walking into a yoga studio for the first time. I relaxed a bit...even though, my social fears confirmed, she was literally the fourth person, in as many minutes, that I knew there.
Annnnndddd...then another neighbor walked by and said hello.
So apparently the gym is a social scene.
Another one of my favorite things. Awesome.
We were there for an hour and I'm so proud of my littlest sister. She did a great job with a less-than-ideal client. With her help, I identified my fitness goals:
- to age healthily
- to maintain an energy-level that enables me to keep up with my kids
- to maintain heart health
- and yes...to keep my tummy flat(ish) and my arms toned (gotta keep that bicep tattoo from sagging!)
She showed me how to use several of the machines safely and effectively, then instructed me on a floor circuit for core strength and free-weights circuit for strength and balance. My favorite of all of the activities were the ones using the Bosu (the half-exercise ball) and the wobble board. It felt like playing, but I could feel my body working. Just like yoga.
Did my session with a Personal Trainer change me? Yes and no. I'm going to be honest: I'm still not joining a gym. I told my sister that my issue was mostly motivation. If I knew that she would meet me at the gym several times a week to walk me through an exercise routine like the one we just did, I'd consider signing up (as long as I was able to get over the working-out-in-public self-consciousness). I just don't see myself making the most of my time there without someone telling me what to do next. She suggested group classes....but then there's the whole "other people" issue. Ugh. I'm the worst.
My sister did inspire me, though. She left me with a list of activities that, with minimal or no equipment, I can do at home. Maybe...just maybe...once I become more comfortable and confident with my practice at home, I'll give the gym another go. Third time's a charm?
To my friends and neighbors, if you ever see me in the gym, let's just pretend we're strangers, 'kay? Thanks. Oh, and if you happen to be looking for a Personal Trainer, I happen to know a great one. Let me know if you want me to connect you!