I used to think that fit people were kind of like members in an exclusive club to which I would certainly NOT be admitted. I’m happy to say that I’ve now crashed their little party, and they don’t seem to mind after all. I suspect that anyone who was chubby as a child had experiences similar to my own. They were pretty typical. If other kids didn’t point out my failures with merciless teasing, they were obvious to me when I came in last or couldn’t do certain things at all. I find it ironic that a kid who could have benefitted so much by being encouraged to exercise had the opposite experience. Dread of teasing usually resulted in me looking for the smartest way to avoid participating or doing my best to steer clear of the things with the greatest potential for embarrassment. One of the things I hated most was the annual track and field day. Participation was mandatory if you were concerned about your P.E. grade, which I was, and I always had to do one of the shortest dashes– 30 yards, because that was all I could muster. Even worse, the dash took place in front of the entire elementary school. I’m not sure. I might have come in last several times. I think I’ve blocked it out.
My undergrad degree is in vocal music education. I spent much of my childhood singing and practicing the piano. Neither of those things really work up a sweat aside from the occasional case of stage fright. I also spent a lot of time reading, which has served me well in my life, but is also not an aerobic activity. I worked very hard at all things musical and academic. That’s where I had my focus, and I did pretty well for myself. Those were clearly the places where I shined. No one ever expected me to do sit-ups while reading my book, to do jumping jacks while singing an aria or to run laps while toting my piano. I saw exercise as a place where I was going to fail, and, like most people, I like to succeed. So, I avoided it like the plague. If I did try to exercise, I tried to do it in secret. I didn’t want anyone to see me failing.
When I started changing my lifestyle, I started with one of the most obvious exercises: walking. I didn’t need special equipment, I was familiar with the moves, and I had access to a somewhat secluded walking track. It was great! At 340 pounds, I wasn’t able to walk for very long without becoming exhausted, but I started out doing 20 minutes and worked my way up to an hour a day. I was pretty slow, but I was consistent. One day when I was walking around the neighborhood instead of on the track, some guys rolled by in their pickup truck. They yelled “Yeah! You need to walk!” at me out the window. No. Really? Could that explain why I was, in fact, walking? I guess some people never outgrow the teasing thing. Luckily, I was older and wiser at 27 than I had been at 7, so, after I had a good cry, I decided not to listen to the bullies anymore. While I did keep an eye out for that truck with plans to jump into the nearest ditch, I kept walking.
When I joined Weight Watchers, I spent several months on the plan without adding the exercise element, but I knew I would have to do it eventually. When I did decide to start moving, I started walking again, but I soon realized that I was going to get bored pretty quickly. I walked a few 5Ks with some friends, which gave my walking a purpose and gave me some goals, but I was starting to have an itch to try some new things. The first time around, I had been living in a rural area, and there weren’t that many options. Walking was my best choice. This time I lived in an urban area with classes and gyms and trails galore. Surely I would find something new!
I live in a building that has a gym up on the roof. I think I’d seen it once or twice when I had gone up to check out the view, but I’d never considered exercising there. The people all looked fit. They looked like they belonged there. Once again, the old fear of being seen where I wasn’t welcome crept up. Eventually, I decided that I should get the most for my ridiculously high rent, and I started heading up to the roof. I tried an elliptical machine for the first time. I checked out the Stairmaster. I used the treadmills. I started spending 45 minutes several days a week in the gym. My weight loss got a boost from the new activities, but then things slowed down again. I didn’t know how to push myself with my cardio, and I’d read enough articles to know that I needed to start strength training.
About that time, I met my trainer. She does very affordable group training sessions in the gym on my roof. Wow. What could be more convenient? There was only one problem: The thought of exercising in a group gave me P.E. class flashbacks. I decided to just get over it, and give it a try. My trainer was very encouraging, and my classmates, much to my surprise, didn’t stand around pointing and laughing and discussing how large my arse was. Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do, the focus seemed to be on what I was capable of doing. Hallelujah! This was what I’d needed all along. Even though I wasn’t the thinnest or the fittest or the best, I knew that I was welcome. I had crashed the fitness party, but discovered that they actually did admit people who weren’t perfect.
I’ve been working out twice a week now with my trainer for over a year, and I’ve seen amazing results. She also provides excellent guidance on cardio, and I’ve learned to structure my cardio work-outs in the gym in a way that burns more calories and keeps my body challenged. I’ve found plenty of other things to do too. I started running a little over a year ago, and now I’ve run a couple of 5Ks and one 10K. I bought a bicycle this summer, and I like going on long rides on local trails. I started attending kickboxing classes at a martial arts studio on Sundays, and I look forward to putting on my pink boxing gloves every week. I like this club. I don’t ever want my membership to lapse, and if you suspect that you are unwelcome as I did, please know that the door is always open.