Alison- When I was fat, I hated going to the gym. I always said I was too tired to go, or I had too many other things to do. The truth of the matter, though, was that I was completely intimidated.
Every few years I’d resolve to go to the gym. I’d show up, sign a contract locking me in for the rest of my natural life, and then go workout. Once. Maybe twice. I think there was actually even one gym where I went for about 2 weeks before stopping. I just couldn’t keep it up.
Everyone at the gym (no matter which gym it was) seemed so thin, so healthy. I’d walk in and they’d all stare at me, “Fat Girl”, wearing heavy sweatpants that I hoped covered my enormous butt, and brand spanking new sneakers that never got dirty because they rarely ever got worn. I was convinced they were talking about me in the locker rooms: “Did you see that short fat girl? Is she serious? Does she really think she can work out here?” I could feel their disdainful glares as I walked past them to the last piece of equipment – whatever it was – just so I could workout in the corner by myself. So, after a couple of workouts I’d just give up and sit at home with my true friends, Ben and Jerry.
I joined my current gym almost a year ago, because I wanted to train for triathlons and needed a pool. I was nervous walking in, knowing how judgemental people at gyms are, but unless I wanted to try to get my swim training done in my own bathtub, I didn’t have much of a choice. So, I went. I decided to ignore the stares and the comments about the “Fat Girl” and just went.
Last Tuesday, it snowed. So, instead of wearing my sneakers to the gym like I usually do, I packed them up and wore my winter boots for my trek to Manhattan. I got to the gym, ready to do my bands and then run 4 miles on the treadmill. I pulled my sneakers out of my bag – and realized I had two different shoes. One was my normal running shoe, and the other was my “retired” running shoe that had too many miles to run on and had now become my “all workouts other than running” sneaker (and lesson learned: don’t pack your gym gear in the dark; I won’t even get started with the odd bra/shirt combinations I’ve had to wear on occasion).
For a minute I was dumbfounded. What was I going to do? I knew I couldn’t run (the sneakers aren’t even the same brand, I would have been crippled 10 minutes into my run), but should I do something else? My first thought was to bag the whole thing and take myself out for breakfast to the diner on the corner. But, I knew I’d regret that later, so I decided that since they were at least one left and one right that I’d put them on and at figure out some kind of workout to do.
Now, here’s the amusing part (yes, more amusing that the image of me working out in one gray and blue sneaker, and one white and pink one). I left the locker room, went upstairs to the classroom studio and did my bands. Then, I went to another room and used a recumbent bike for 20 minutes, and then went to a third room and used an elliptical machine. Each room had several people in it. And guess what they said to me? Nothing. Guess what they said to each other about me and my mismatched sneakers? Nothing. At one point it even occurred to me that I could be working out completely naked except for my sneakers, and people still wouldn’t have noticed.
At that moment I realized two things. First, nobody at any of my gyms really cared what I looked like or what I did. They weren’t judging me; I was judging myself. I was using them to make me feel inferior so that I wouldn’t have to blame myself for my own failures. I don’t judge other people at the gym; why on Earth would they bother to judge me? The second thing I realized is that it took a pair of mismatched sneakers to finally fit in.
Yes, folks, there is a lesson to be learned here (other than the earlier one of not packing your clothes in the dark). Don’t be intimidated by people in the park, the gym, or in the race you want to run. Nobody is paying attention to you except you. Don’t make excuses to fail. Pack up a matching set of sneakers, and just go and do it. You’ve got this.