Home > Exercise > Private Exerciser Goes Public, Joins Gym

Private Exerciser Goes Public, Joins Gym

February 17, 2010

You read that right.  Mr. “I only exercise in the privacy of my own home” lost his mind bit the bullet and joined a gym.  In other news, a small army of gnomes went snowshoeing through hell.

I really have avoided public exercise for as long as I can remember, not even really enjoying going out for a neighborhood walk, as I’d inevitably pass some fitness nut decked out in running gear and jogging in place at crosswalks while I lumbered along in my old college bowl game t-shirt and dual purpose swim trunks/walking shorts.  Avoiding neighborhood walks is just the tip of the iceberg, as I avoided gyms at all costs.

Why did I avoid gyms?  Because the image I had built up through the years of a visit to the gym in my out of shape, inactive mind went something like this:  You walk in and swipe your membership card with some perky, beauty queen type receptionist who is in perfect physical condition, get your towel, and proceed to the locker room.  In the locker room, you disrobe and change into your exercise clothes, the lone porker in a locker room full of chiseled Greek gods with olive branch crowns.  Picking your pride up off the floor and proceeding into the gym, you huff and puff at a fast walk on the treadmill amidst these specimens of fitness who are training for their next marathon or triathlon by gliding along like cheetahs on the prowl.  As they “glow” and “feel the burn,” you break out in a sweat that could drown a small rodent, and you get a charlie horse that wrestles you to the ground howling like a hyena.  To add insult to injury, there are mirrors on at least three, if not all four, sides of the facility so you can further reinforce your physical inferiority to these real-life-no-airbrush-no-lipo needed versions of humanity.  Once you pick your fat @$$ up off the floor, with your yells calmed to mere whimpers from the charlie horse, you limp past the poseur body-builders spotting each other and laughing while they impress themselves with their sheer strength – flexing their muscles and pursing their lips into one of the mirrored walls.   Then you change back into your street clothes, drop off your soaked towel, and swipe out with the perky beauty queen, as you walk back toward the front door and pass more of the mannequins come to life sipping their wheat grass/alfalfa/protein smoothies at the juice bar while making plans with one another for their group swim across the English channel in the dead of winter.

Yep – that’s how I had pegged the gym experience in my minds’ eye, more or less, without having set foot in a gym since high school phys ed to get a dose of reality.  As I’ve mentioned before, there’s a lot of irrationality that goes into being obese.  Part of breaking the cycle of obesity, is breaking the irrationality.  I realized a week or so ago, that as I progress with my workouts, I’m needing a little more equipment than what I’ve got at home, and I also just want to relax when I walk through the door at night, meaning I have to psyche myself back up to get in a workout in the evening once I do get home.  I started to think that stopping by the gym just up the street from my office right after work would be a good way to branch out with equipment, and to get my workout in while I’m still in work mode, as opposed to relaxation mode.  It would also be a great way to wait out the traffic and have a slightly easier commute home.

So today, I ventured into the gym, I paid my dues, and I had my first workout there.  But to be honest, it almost didn’t happen.  I walked in, having brought my workout clothes thinking today would be the day, and before I paid, I asked to take a look around.  As I walked around, there were a few more people there than I was expecting.  I could feel my anxiety rising – thinking, aw hell no…  I’m not trying to exercise in front of all these people.  I turned around, left the gym, and got on the elevator back to the parking garage.  As I headed down, I wondered, what the hell am I afraid of???  Those weren’t the Greek gods I had expected that were filling the gym, they were people of all ages, shapes, and sizes, and they were engrossed in their own earbuds and what was on CNN much more than they were paying attention to who else was working out and what their comparative fitness levels were.   So as the elevator reached the parking deck, I decided that if I really were serious about Reconstructing 30 and changing my life, I couldn’t screw myself over before even giving this a shot.  I pushed the button to return to the gym, and I decided to take this thing by the gonads and do what I needed to do.

The receptionist was a nice, normal human being, and the locker room was far from being populated by modern-day Olympians.  I realized while I may not be quite as far along the road to fitness as most of these guys, I wasn’t fundamentally different from them either.  My competitive nature came out on the treadmill, and I stepped up the speed of my jogging intervals to the highest yet, so that I didn’t look like a complete amateur in those walls of mirrors (the one part of my imagined experience that turned out to be true).  There was one d-bag on the treadmill who did his little 10-15 minute full-on sprint, and then followed that by turning around to face the rest of us behind him and walk backwards for a few minutes, followed by walking sideways, too.  I’m sure this has some physical benefit, but I, ignorant of what the benefit may be, and not wanting to be stared at by this obviously superior runner, really was tempted to tell him to shut up and turn around (not that he was actually saying anything – but “shut up” just seemed like the apropos term if I were to open my mouth, which I didn’t).  Aside from that guy who I think may have fancied himself a future member of Ok Go (yes – click on that link if this sentence doesn’t make sense to you!), the experience was really good!  And I knocked out my cardio before I even began the commute home!

I’m sure I’ll have more stories from the gym as time goes on, and I’ll certainly share them here, but for now, just know that if I, of all people, can overcome my fear of public exercise, anyone can.

  1. February 17, 2010 at 5:30 PM

    Sounds like you made the right choice! I actually work out at my workplace gym so I’m bound to bump into people I know instead of working out in front of total strangers. But I don’t mind one bit, everyone who’s there is there for a reason. And their own reason is usually way more important to them than mine which is the way it should be.
    Another good thing about going to a gym is the financial incentive. You plopped down that money and you want to get your money’s worth. So hopefully it will keep you motivated to keep going. What the gym is banking on is that’s not the case and you’ll quit soon. Don’t be a quitter, keep it up!

    • February 17, 2010 at 5:58 PM

      The financial incentive is definitely strong. I’ve decided to see a nutritionist and trainer throughout this process, and that investment has kept me on track plenty of times, so I’m sure the investment in the gym will do the same!

  2. February 18, 2010 at 2:09 PM

    Well, we’re all scared of something. I guess I was scared my first time at the gym because I didn’t know what I was doing a majority of the time. But then I got a personal trainer and he showed me how all the machines worked, what workouts I should be doing, etc and I wasn’t scared after that.

    To me the gym is a place for everyone. Whether you’re fit or a huge beast. I mean I’m not a small guy at all, but when I see other people bigger then I am, I applaud them for what they’re doing. I cheer them on in my head and hope they do better. I wish less people were afraid of the gym and wanting to workout to get fit. My mom and uncle who are pretty big are convinced that they have to be in great shape even before stepping in gym. I try to tell them no one is perfect and not to be afraid but they’re set in their ways I guess.

    Remember this if you ever feel anxious about going to the gym.

    “The people that mater don’t mind. The people that mind don’t mater.”

    Have fun at your new gym! 🙂

    • February 18, 2010 at 3:00 PM

      Good points, Jay!

  3. February 18, 2010 at 4:51 PM

    This was a very funny post – I laughed right out loud!
    I guess we were all newbies at the gym at one point or another! I think you are doing great.

    • February 19, 2010 at 8:49 PM

      Thanks, Carla! It’s definitely not as bad as I had imagined.

  4. February 19, 2010 at 2:29 PM

    Hi, just found your blog.

    Good for you that you rose to the challenge. It is intimidating to go to a gym for the first time. I have a feeling that most of us have a similar scenario in our heads about what a gym will be like. In all honesty, I barely notice anyone else at the gym unless they are making a scene. Most people are way too focused on themselves to notice anyone else.

    I hope you keep it up and enjoy your workouts at the gym.

    • February 19, 2010 at 8:49 PM

      Thanks, Karen! Hope you’ll stop by again.

  5. February 19, 2010 at 6:39 PM

    I LOVED THIS POST!!! I’m going tonight to look at the gym here. It’s $45 so I’m hesitant…I can’t wait to see what all they have to offer!
    Please keep these gym posts coming…really motivating me to join 🙂

    • February 19, 2010 at 7:14 PM

      I hope you like the gym you check out! It’s a personal thing whether you decide to join or not, but for me, isn’t hasn’t been nearly as bad as what I had built it up to be in my mind. Let me know what happens!

  6. February 27, 2010 at 11:57 PM

    This is an amazing post! Great story telling and hilarious in how close our views were about starting off at the gym! I posted on Twitter once that I would only go to the gym if the workout machines were set up inside of cubical walls so no one could see me. I am ultra self conscious and hate crowds. I sat in the back corner of the classroom all through school. I spent a couple months on the treadmills, but I really wanted to workout with the free weights — a super intimidating proposition. I broke thru that by getting a personal trainer whose sole mission I made to show me how to workout in the free weights area. Now I’m there in the weights in the mornings six days a week, without the trainer, jockying for benches and dumbbells with the monsters. I realize I’m nowhere near some of their progress levels, but some of those guys are worse off than me, or clearly even more self-conscious, which is encouraging. I’m clearly a beginner. I have no problem walking around there realizing that. I just try to respect everyone, do my thing, and let them do theirs. Sometimes you run into some really nice people; a few come to mind from the few weeks I’ve been doing it. The chances of interactivity is definitely higher in the weights area than in the cardio area. It’s all good. Maybe I’ll make some connections; seems various professionals are there in the mornings. At night when I do cardio it’s mostly college guys in the weights area. Once they see you busting your butt they respect you. Again, awesome post, man!

    • February 28, 2010 at 9:13 PM

      Thanks, David. I’m still getting used to the gym. But definitely progress to be there!

  7. Lauren
    March 1, 2010 at 6:55 PM

    Just stumbled onto your blog– love it! And congrats. I’m turning 30 in July and I am really enjoying reading about your journey. Thanks!

    • March 2, 2010 at 10:30 AM

      Thanks for dropping by, Lauren! Glad you’re enjoying the blog.

  1. February 19, 2010 at 8:46 PM
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