1/12/2009

Overcoming the gym fear

It has been a month since Gold's Gym here in Charlottesville has become a new set upon which this life of mine plays out. As I enter this new stage of life, I'm learning new lines in an effort to become a better performer in this play we're all rehearsing.

My entire life I've had an amazing fear of exercising in public. Many of my social fears are wrapped up in my inadequate sense of image, and my sense of being inferior and small. My school years were not filled with positive examples of physical fitness. The Campbell County school system didn't really do a good job of introducing me to the importance of staying fit.

Last month, it became time to stop making excuses for everything. I had to step up and make something happen or else the show would have gotten very, very dark.

Since then, the benefits of exercising nearly every day have transformed the way I feel about myself. I'm down a number of pounds, and my clothes don't really fit anymore. I also have this absolute craving to be moving my body, to be improving it, sculpting it.

Of course, my body is not an it. My body is a me.

For years, I've treated myself like an it, like an inanimate object that was just moving across the chess board. For most of last year, I've been on autopilot. As a result, I got larger and larger. My mind grew slower at the very same time that it took me longer and longer to walk the dog.

Yet, a month ago I had a sudden emptiness to fill. I had a need to challenge myself to become better. To improve. To snap out of the malaise that was destroying everyone around me. The energy had to be harnessed somehow.

The fears were suddenly irrelevant. I needed to do something positive, and quick. The need was too overpowering to give in to phantom fears that didn't really hold up to any real scrutiny.

So, I signed up, committed to two years, and gave myself a break for not actually doing anything that first day. The next day I was going to go, but couldn't get up the courage. I drove up and that was it. I told myself that I'd just wait until my orientation, which was scheduled for the next day.

And so I showed up, and had all the measurements done. I talked with a trainer, learned a little about how things worked, and then was made to walk on a treadmill. Just walk. That's all. It seemed pretty silly, but I learned to put the incline on so that it actually began to feel like work.
When I got off, my legs kept moving and it was one of the coolest feelings I've ever felt. This dizzifying sensation of perpetual movement. I could get used to this, I thought to myself.

Of course, I didn't go the next day. The week had been pretty awful up to that point, and I just needed to relax. I went for a long around the Venable neighborhood instead.

Since then, though, I've been 23 out of the last 32 days. I've been learning different things, and my body is responding well. I've lost weight, I'm developing muscle tone, and I'm learning what I wish I had learned 20 years ago. I wish I hadn't felt so intimidated by the gym. I wish the instructors at school had been more interested in helping all the students rather than giving the athletes more practice time.

Of course, you can't do anything with wishes except try to shape the world you have in front of you. The past can't be changed. Yet, I am going to encourage my kids to become fit, and to develop confidence in their bodies as well as their minds. I've been laboring under the misunderstanding that the two were separate. How very wrong I was.

Will this just be a fad? That's not a question that can be answered today. All I know is, tomorrow will be 24 out of 33.

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