I joined a gym.
Even over the months that I typed nothing here, I often composed posts in my head, pondering how I'd start that opening paragraph - capture attention, initiate a story. I can think of nothing more shocking than the statement above though. I've been in exactly one gym - as a reluctant visitor when I weighed perhaps 80 lbs less than I do now, upwards of 15 years ago.
"Why," I remember asking Carrie, a friend from grad school, "would people pay to come here?" The rows of machines, brightly-lit free weights, people pulling and pushing and bouncing around. I shook my head - even if I liked working out (I don't), there are options at home! Videos, games on X-Box, walks through nature!
So it was with no small amount of trepidation (read intense anxiety) that I drove to the building with the neon-orange sign, walked to the door, opened it then another door and hovered just inside the lobby that smelled strongly of rubber. Like brand-new shoes or those mats that sort of give under your feet when you step on them?
I stuttered when the manager, wearing a bright orange bandanna around hair that emerged vertically from the top of his head, asked if he could help me. I finally managed to explain that I wanted to look around, consider joining? Or I could just escape - scamper back to my car, I thought when he called for a young man from the pack of them huddled around desks stacked with those giant tubs of protein powder.
"I don't belong here," I told Cam, staring at his elaborate hair style briefly before shaking my head and wondering if I were old enough to be his mother. (Answer: probably.) "But I'm not doing well - I'm sick all the time and I'm getting older. And maybe if I take better care of myself, I'll feel better."
He nodded encouragingly, showing off the features of the building over the the thumping pop music that urged people to move. I only relaxed for the moments we were in the pool area - the chlorine scent soothing me as did the quiet splashes and slow movements of the elderly folks drifting through the water.
"OK," I agreed when he asked me to join, returning his happy grin almost involuntarily and handing over my credit card. It's like money, I told myself as I watched him painstakingly enter my information - once I was in the habit of saving, the dollars just accumulated. And now I have more than enough, even when I splurge on things.
"You'll hit a positive spiral here," the guy I saw the next day promised, echoing my thoughts. I laughed when he wrote down "help" over the spot where I was supposed to list my strength and cardio routines.
"I can't even think of a plausible lie," I told him. "I have no idea what a routine would even be."
Then - after 3 days of going to this gym that stresses me out and sitting at a desk talking about my goals (My goal, by the way? To show up there and try to exercise without hating every second. That's it - that's my goal.), I finally met my trainer, hired to coach me twice a week for the next two months.
His name's Pete. He wears a little topknot. He's unphased by my distinct lack of enthusiasm.
"Slower through the resistance," he coached after teaching me how to adjust the leg machine. I winced when my knees crackled. "No, pull from your back," he corrected, touching the right muscles while I frowned and tried to get them to pull accordingly. "Ass out," he noted when I was doing squats (Good gracious but I hate squats). "Knees can't go over your toes."
I see him again tomorrow. This trainer I hired. At the gym I joined.
Because I'm taking afternoons off on FMLA to try to get better. And while I wait for a new medicine to work, taking care of this body that carries around my mind and soul seems like a reasonable plan.
"Track your food," Pete requested after having me download an app on my phone.
"I'm never going to do that," I told him. "My plan was cardio. I'll do strength training since you feel so strongly about it. But food? That's mine still."
"Just track it," he said. "Some of it - baby steps."
Never, I thought - or at least not soon.
I've tracked every single morsel since I left the gym last Thursday. And when I wondered who in the world I am, I remind myself that I'm trying to get better and wonder if I might be wrong when I think this will never work.