I bought a new gym membership. There are parts of going to the gym that I love - the time to myself, the movement, the music, the classes, even the community. I secretly love really loud Step classes, and hot tubs are nice. But then there are the parts I don't like. I don't like the assumption that we all want Jillian Michaels screaming in our face, and that we all want to be "motivated" (read abused) into changing the shape and size of our bodies. I don't really like the meat market factor. I don't like being sold things that make me feel anxious and obsessed. Body Bugs, diet plans, personal training, junk for the gym bag. I especially don't like the assumption that I am out of shape, or that this is my first time ever in a gym. It's insulting.
For a long time the negatives outweighed the positives for me, so I tried other avenues. I wanted to be somewhere that wasn't all about how many calories I burned, or how people think I look in spandex, or whether I fit the stereotype of health. In the past year I have had a yoga membership, a rock climbing membership, and even a dance studio membership. I tried the do-it-yourself method, which involved promising myself I would exercise at home, or outside, or with my kids. I have really enjoyed most of these things, but the "on my own plan," I have to admit, has been only marginally successful. I get bored easily, I guess. Let's take exercise videos, for example. While useful when starting something, exercise videos get really old, really fast. A funny quip just isn't funny the 37th time you hear it.
The least successful thing I have tried is getting up early before everyone else in the house is up. This has to be some cruel method I have for unconsciously ensuring my own failure. I plan amazing workouts, including yoga and maybe a run or walk, or whatever. When 5:30 rolls around, though, I am hitting snooze. That is just too damn early. There must be a better way.
Which brings me back to my new gym membership. I needed more of the stuff I like about gyms - structure, community, options. While I do love yoga, I also really miss a good solid heart thumping Step class. I need a swimming pool and a hot tub for my new bathing suit. Plus, on a really practical level, having memberships to yoga, dance, and rock climbing is freaken' expensive. I realized I actually need a gym, so that I can get lots of different options under one roof. Crap, that means I have to face my demons.
Once I picked a gym (mostly, it had to have lots of yoga classes), I had to actually go into it to sign up. That meant talking to a beefy guy. As you may recall, I have a newfound lack of fear of beefy guys from being around them so much while rock climbing. This fearlessness turned out to be really helpful - I am proud to say that I was able to hold my head high and act like a deserving human being.
Actually, the whole experience felt remarkably fearless. I was struck by how different I felt in the gym. I wasn't cowering and self-critical. I was surprised that I actually felt confident. I knew I would protect myself from negative assumptions and insulting sales pitches, and even from my own inner critic. I was ready with "no, thank you" and "I don't think so." I was armed. The beefy guy I met with must have sensed it, too, because he didn't even offer! He didn't insult me, or judge me, or make me feel bad at all! Do you think maybe some of this stuff is in my head? I'm starting to wonder...
So, now I have a gym membership, and I really like it. I like that I have an excuse to leave my house at a reasonably scheduled time because that's when my class is. See you later, kids! I like the pool, and the beefy guys, and the loud music. I like that I like me now, even in spandex, and I like that I have given myself permission to fully enjoy moving my body again. I still come up against the stuff I don't like, and have to actively ignore obnoxious posters advertising false promises and other bullshit. I sometimes have to wrestle with my own negative voices. But, for the most part, the gym actually feels like a positive part of nurturing and caring for myself. Isn't that how it's supposed to be?