*****ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON XOJANE.COM******
I’m the biggest girl at my gym.
I first got the idea to join a couple of months ago when I saw all of the classes that the gym closest to me offered. Apparently I need some variety in my workouts and I loved the idea of having a whole bunch of different classes available to me. I liked the idea of being able to try one out and if I didn’t enjoy it, oh well, move along. And if I couldn’t find one I liked, there were still treadmills and elliptical machines I could use instead of trying to run around Humboldt Park all winter, decreasing (hopefully) my chances of falling on my ass on black ice.
I was hesitant though; what if the whole gym was filled with little tiny girls in spandex? What if they were all 22? What if everyone in the class I wanted to try was awesome at it and I would look like a hippopotamus trying to roller skate? What if I got to a machine, sat down, and then couldn’t press the weight I picked because I apparently have the arm strength of a weak six year old? What if I was the biggest girl there?
Telling myself I was being ridiculous, I got on my bike a few weeks ago and headed up there, determined to join and not even look at anyone before signing up. Though I was slightly thrown off by the stunning membership advisor named Myles, (female) I persevered. I was joining the gym!
You know that feeling you have when you go into a new situation and realize that all of your fears of the unknown were completely unwarranted and you’re totally fine and feel silly for even worrying?
This was the exact opposite of that.
I was the oldest person there. I was the biggest person there. I didn’t know how to turn on the TV or where to put my water bottle. I almost face planted on the treadmill because treadmills have gotten fancy in the fifteen years since I’ve been in a gym.
But I ran on the treadmill for my thirty minutes, feeling great until I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realized that I looked like I was only pretending to run.
But still. Workout complete!
The following day was the day of my first class. The class is called Body Combat – a mix of different martial arts combined with cardio. It started at 6:30. Between 6:15 and 6:25, I went to the bathroom three times. There’s something uniquely weird about being an adult in a brand new situation. I don’t know what I was afraid of – I didn’t really think anyone was going to laugh and point – but still, I was nervous as hell. The class was an hour long; what if I literally couldn’t keep up?? Seeing all of the people lining up outside the door, with their gloves – what? No one told me I needed gloves!! – and their overall…. Fitness, I suppose, I second guessed myself. And I almost didn’t go in.
But I had been so excited about it. And everyone has to start somewhere, right? So I went in.
Terror. The only spot left – because OF COURSE I had been in the bathroom when the doors opened – was right in the front to the left of the instructor. Floor to ceiling mirrors and now there were people behind me to witness? Ugh. I had to pee again and we hadn’t started.
Then the music started and the first song was a remix of “Wrecking Ball.” I love me some Miley and got all into it, punching and kicking with all I had.
We went through a whole series and I was so proud – I was keeping up!
Two things happened simultaneously here that were hurtful to my feelings. 1) I caught a glimpse of myself in one of the many, many mirrors and realized that I looked less like the warrior I felt like and more like an octopus that had lost control of itself and 2) the instructor yelled, “Okay! Warmup is almost done!”
It had been ten minutes. I was sweating and already sore. 50 more minutes??
But I kept on. I couldn’t always keep up, but I was close. I concentrated on the girl in front of me who seemed to know all of the routine. I was concentrating so hard on not looking like an idiot that I forgot to look at myself in the mirrors.
During a set of particularly awkward – for me – kicks in which I was sure everyone was laughing at me because I looked like I was trying to pee on a fire hydrant whilst jumping, I glanced up to look around the room.
Not one person was looking at me.
They were all looking at themselves in the mirror or at the instructor, and that’s when it hit me. These people are just like me!
The only one concerned with how I looked was me. Everyone was here for the same reason. Guess what? It wasn’t to laugh at newbies.
After the class, everyone was smiling and congratulating each other. Everyone was sweating. It wasn’t just me. And every single one of them came up and welcomed me to the class, telling me to keep it up and keep coming back.
Maybe they noticed my shape in comparison to theirs. In fact, I’m sure they did. But how is that really different from me noticing their body in comparison to me? You are smaller than me, I am larger than you. Both of us look stupid trying to do that back kick thing, right?