It was a casual Saturday afternoon. I was contemplating a nap when my cousin Cory called with the invite. “It will be fun” he said, “come and at least try it.”
With shoes laced and nervous sweat already bubbling on my neck, I made the drive over and found a parking spot next to a car with a bumper sticker that said “MEGA BEAST.” I pondered returning home for a few moments, I could practically feel the fabric of the couch inviting me in for a few more chapters of my book.
“Pop the trunk,” my sister said, breaking me out of my daze.
The ground was hot and so was everyone that walked by me, and I knew that it would only get worse once I stepped through the double doors.
My expectations: butts, abs, biceps, quads, dripping in sweat, comprised solely of steel. There would probably be yelling and the occasional fist pumps. Egos and tight pants, protein shakes and unidentified pools of saliva.
This was my first trip to the gym and I was terrified.
My cousin said he’d meet us on the second floor, so as my sister and I made our way up the steps, I took advantage of the view, feeling myself shrivel amongst the mass of Herculean humans pumping iron below me. As we further ascended, I suddenly found myself surrounded by a plethora of miscellaneous motion. Bikes and treadmills and stair masters and elliptical machines; all moving faster than I wanted to, all offering their own form of torture.
My sister spotted Cory on a stationary bike in the back corner, pedaling like I was wielding a knife rather than a high five, and we took a spot on either side of him.
“Quick cardio warm up sound good?” he said, only slightly winded.
We nodded and began to pedal, my pace a polar opposite of his, more reminiscent of a leisurely ride to the park with a picnic basket.
When our 15 minute warm up was over, we made our way back down the first floor, where Cory revealed the focus of our workout for the day: arms.
Now, I like to consider myself an active person with a relatively good amount of strength. However, at no point have I ever spent an extended period of time lifting weights, doing pushups or exposing my arms to any sort of strenuous exercise. (Unless you count that time my dad and I moved a 200 pound TV up the stairs, but that’s another story, one that I’ll never have an explanation for in regards to its success and lack of injuries.)
“Oh…okay great” I said with an undeniably conspicuous amount of anxiety.
Over the next hour or so, we did 10 different exercises that worked different parts of both the arms and shoulders. And while I don’t remember them all by name, a general summary can be found in the following haiku:
I can’t do this dude
Muscles burning, ouch, MOMMY
Arms dead forever
For the next 3 days, my arms ached like I’d let someone continuously punch me for approximately 4800 years.
My keys were heavy, my phone was heavy, and don’t even get me started on spoons.
But even though signing my name at the bottom of check the next day felt like trying to draw a hopscotch course with a telephone pole, I didn’t regret going to the gym. In fact, just a few days later I found myself there again and then again the week after. No, I’m not a herculean human now, I still shake and breathe hard and look like an idiot every now and again, but I’ve come to embrace it, because for me, the gym is just another challenge. Sure, this one involves a lot of machines that want to swallow me whole and will continuously feature that one girl standing next to me, accidentally looking perfect, while I sweat and pant like I’m giving birth to a baby made of knives. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep working at it.
For a long time the gym was just another thing I couldn’t do. It was a place I didn’t want to go until I was strong enough or skinny enough or fit enough. But I’ve come to realize that the gym is not a place you go to once you’ve reached your peak level of fitness, but rather a starting block to help you reach it. Plus, everyone is a beginner at some point, everyone accidentally gets their headphones stuck in the stair master (no, just me?). So, I will continue my quest as a gym goer. I will continue to challenge myself and discover new strengths that I never knew I had. Why? BIFC.