Sunday, February 8, 2015

Six Years in the Making

The only time in my life that I regularly went to the gym was during my 18 month stint as an attorney at Skadden in New York.  Say what you want about Skadden, but it has a great gym, that happens to be onsite, complete with uniforms, classes, and trainers.  I would go almost every day, not so much to lose weight or get in shape, but to regain my sanity.  The gym served as my refuge whenever I needed a mental break.  I generally went in the early afternoon, and would then return to my desk to continue work and order dinner.

Then I left New York and moved to DC and started having babies.  And I hadn't entered another gym since.  

Until two weeks ago.  

On my first day back at the gym, I had a session with a personal trainer (complimentary for all new members).  Before we started our workout, she had me fill out a cheesy survey that asked about my eating habits, fitness level, and goals.  I told her my number one goal was to get some tone and build muscle.  

And how long have you had this goal?  

Six years.  I replied.  

I didn't think there was anything wrong with this response, but she looked visibly shocked.  She seemed to realize her response wasn't appropriate, so she gave me a nervous laugh and set the clipboard aside.  

I got defensive.  I have three kids!  Six and under!  I was pregnant for 27 months!  I was breastfeeding for 27 more!  I've been tired!  Really tired!  

She didn't care.  She was pushing 21 and probably thought I was a complete weirdo.  Okay, lady, that hasn't been able to tone a muscle in 6 years.  Just shut up and do a plank.  We did a 30 minute session and I couldn't walk for three days.  

One of my best friends from college has a theory that you can never trust someone who claims to "love" going to the gym.  I mean, what's there to love about it?  Love the results.  Love the feeling of being healthy.  Love the pride.  But love the actual act of going to the gym?  Bullshit, she would say. I always agreed.  

Granted, I've only been four more times since that initial personal training session last week.  But... I think I might love going to the gym.  

Don't get me wrong - it's not that I love sweating.  Or gasping for breath.  Or tripping over my own feet in the back of zumba class, surrounded by 60+ year old women who are way better at it than me. No, I love it for one reason - it's all just for me.  

In the past 6 years, there is really very little I do that is solely for me.  I say this without seeking sympathy, but as an acknowledgement of the reality that any mother with small children faces. Aside from the odd night out out or quarterly hair appointment or daily weekly  occasional shower, there just isn't any time.  And even when one does get some solitary time, perhaps to go shopping or meet a friend for lunch, or have a girls night out, there's always the guilt - I shouldn't be spending so much money.  I need to get home for the babysitter.  The kids are probably asking for me.  But how can you feel guilty about going to the gym?  Generally one goes to the gym to prevent guilt.

I do NOT feel guilty for going to the gym.  And that is an amazing, awesome thing.  

Solitude, without the guilt?  How did I not discover this before?  I don't have to talk to anyone.  I don't have to take care of anyone.  I don't have to wipe any asses or noses or tears.  I can be alone in my thoughts and listen to music and watch Bravo TV as I run.  And at the same time, I can feel good about myself for, after six years, trying to get my body back in shape.  

These three kids have done a number on my body.  And though I don't generally stand in front a mirror lamenting it, it does bother me.  For six years, as my body expanded and then contracted three times over, I have watched from the sidelines with a sense of helplessness.  This is just how it goes, I would tell myself, and I was right.  I mean, what can what do but sit back and watch? Pregnancy and breastfeeding does some crazy shit to your body.  CRAZY SHIT.  But it's just as it should be.  So one gets naked in front of a mirror, sighs, and moves on.

For 6 years, I never really stressed about doing anything about it.  I had other things to worry about. But now I am entering a new phase of my life.  A phase where I am reclaiming my life, my body, and (in many ways), my sanity.  Who am I and what is it I want to do?  With my body and myself and my time?

I don't have all the answers.  It's too existential.  But a simple first step is to take control of my body again.  I mean, for the first time in 6 years, it's all mine.

I went to a "Power Dance" class on Saturday morning.  I have no idea what the difference is between Power Dance and Zumba, but all I know is that I nearly died by the end.  But I did it.  And I wasn't that bad at it either.  I mean, I didn't look all that pretty.  But I got the steps and I broke a sweat (and then some), and at the end, the instructor came over and told me I did "really good runs."

This is ridiculous, but I'm going to just say it.  The pride I felt in that comment was IMMENSE. I mean, way more than I ever felt from any professional review or evaluation.  This crazy in shape fitness lady instructor came up to me after class and told me that I WAS DOING REALLY GOOD RUNS.

I seriously smiled the entire way home.

So, once again, the gym has become my mental refuge.  In an ironic way, I've come full circle.  

My muscles ache and I love it.  Let's do this!


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  1. Congrats on getting back into the gym. Routine is the key. It's important to have something just for yourself once in a while.

  2. Awesome post. Thanks for that. I have three kids as well and pregnancy and breastfeeding have done a number on my body, too! With my youngest turning 1 soon, I feel that it's time and I have no excuses. Maybe I, too, will enjoy going to the gym for "me" time!

  3. Great post! I love going to classes and it sounds cheesy to say it, but it makes me feel really strong and healthy and just clears my mind. Keep doing classes that are fun for you and you'll keep at it!

  4. Thanks for sharing this! I completely understand, I ran on a regular base in college and hated it. After my first son two years ago, I started running again and I found it as my refuge. I remember running, dripping in sweat and thinking I was going to die with a goofy grin on my face. It was me time. Thirty minutes that I didn't need to think but just keep chanting in my head "I will not die, I will not die". Good for you for taking time for you, I hope it continues to be a great place for you. :)


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