I’ve had “body issues” for as far back as I can remember (DAMN YOU, COSMO!), which often resulted in overworking myself to the point of starvation and then, rewarding myself by eating only chocolate and butter.
Needless to say, I hadn’t been to a gym since my sophomore year of college – when I had athletic friends who pushed me to get on a treadmill. I guess you could call these people my “thinspirations,” though I hate the heavy context that word carries on Xanga and LiveJournal (for real, check it out, it’s an epidemic, and it’s sad).
There were a few reasons I hadn’t worked out: I was too busy doing other shit during school, then I was too broke to afford other shit than the bare necessities. But mostly, I had a bad case of gymtimidation.
For those of you unfamiliar with puns, Gymtimidation is the immense phobia of stepping foot in the gym, for fear that skinny bitches and beefy meat-heads will fall to the floor in horror, pointing and laughing at the way your arms jiggle on their way down.
Well, around Christmas, I mentioned to my dude that I wanted a gym membership. I don’t know why, because I really didn’t think I would get one, nor did I think I would actually make the initiative to go. He got me a Groupon (I just heard all of my Chicago friends groan in unison) good for 45 days and three free training sessions.
For two months, I told myself I was going to take advantage of this Groupon – “tomorrow.” I kept making bullshit excuses, like, “I’m on my period,” “I have to watch (insert TV show that is OnDemand and I don’t really care about anyway)” and even, “I thawed chicken and don’t want it to go to waste.”
Finally, it was March 16th and my Groupon expired… oh, the next day. Fuck.
I walked in, ready to vomit all over the place, and was greeted by a man named Chris with a big smile. I was surprised how well he and I hit it off, even after I told him that I hadn’t worked out in fourish years.
At the risk of this turning into a Yelp review, I’m going to skip ahead to the email.
About a week into my membership, I received an email from a personal trainer. Again, fuck. I had fully intended on slipping through the cracks on this one – I was no where near ready for personal training sessions, and surely didn’t want to look like a fool, having been an athlete in another life (high school seems so far away now). To my misfortune, my trainer would have none of that. She was ready to go, NOW.
Being that I fancy myself an internet sleuth, I noticed that she had a Google Plus profile, and decided to check it out. Again, to my misfortune, I found out that she was EXACTLY the person I didn’t want her to be: a competitive body builder. Not only that, but she loved fitness so much that she had written a poem called, “Physically Phyt Woman.”
WOAH, THERE, SALLY, DID SHE REALLY JUST SAY THAT TO ME? I looked around, stunned, as if the Juicehead Police would come by and give her a ticket for unnecessary roughness. So I got back at her- by pressing 110lbs and making her jaw drop so low that she let the words “You should really compete” fall out of her mouth. Don’t worry guys, I know she was merely drunk off of the strength of my incredibly knotted, fucked up thighs.
As time went on, though, I began to warm up to her. Time, in this sense, moved very quickly because she and I only saw each other three times. She began opening up, telling me about how she dreamed of her “cheat meals” – Wendy’s Baconators and Dark Velvet cupcakes from Crumbs. She divulged her favorite shows to me, and we bonded over having little to no interaction with other people, unless they appeared on our television screens.
“She’s not so bad,” I decided after my second session. She had earned my respect, and I had decided that I would gain hers in our last session.
Being the genius that I am, I scheduled my last training session on a Friday night. In my mind, this was great because I never have plans on Friday nights and the gym is absolutely empty, leading to minimal embarrassment.
The subway ended up running late, as the 6 is apt to do (seriously, Jenny from the Block must have written her entire first album WAITING on the 6). I got to the gym, feeling hungry (for food), but determined. Then my trainer spoke those fatal words: “Today we’re going to do circuits.”
To be honest, I don’t even know what I was doing. If you asked me to reenact the choreography of a circuit, I would probably just throw my head into a wall repeatedly until I passed out. Because that is precisely what I did.
On my final rep of “circuits,” my left ear began to pop, leaving me disoriented. I could tell my trainer was getting frustrated with my constant plea for water, so I tried to hide the fact that she was slowly killing me. But then it happened: everything went black and I woke up in my sweet, sweet trainer’s arms.
I felt horrible about this. I have this condition that leads me to blame myself, in any situation, for inconveniencing another creature. I felt I had wasted my trainer’s time, let her down, and embarrassed myself in front of the girl next to me, who was doing thousands of push ups.
After a night of self deprecation and Spice World (THIS IS MY LIFE, AREN’T YOU JEALOUS?!), I decided she was right: I hadn’t let her down. I had tried, and that effort was more than I could have asked for. I hadn’t even expected to set foot in the gym, let alone, schedule a training session (or three) and show up. I had succeeded.
The point is, the debilitating nightmare that I’ve avoided for so long – the fear of failing – is futile. It’s a myth that’s been holding me back in every aspect of my life – in writing, in music, and in this case, gym membership. Yes, there are obstacles when trying anything new. And yes, you will fall along the way. But when you’re putting all of your efforts into something, someone will notice. And then, when you fall, humanity will kick in, and someone – maybe even a stranger – will catch you.
A.J. Scott is a contributing editor. She is also a Cleveland native and a Chicagoan at heart. A.J. is currently exploring New York City and trying not to get lost every time she steps onto the subway. She enjoys making her cats dance and eating anything made out of chocolate. Tweet her @abbienamestnik.