This may come as a surprise to you, considering the size of my ass, but I really do like going to the gym.
I like the big open space of it, the friendly, smiling girl who checks me in. I love the changing room, with it’s clean large lockers and tangy eucalyptus smell. I love the ladies in housekeeping, folding the piles of warm, bleached towels. By far, my favorite space in the gym is the cafe. I love the large menu on the back wall with all of it’s “healthy” options, the whir of the smoothie machine as cheerful employees whip up Almond Delight Power Shakes with Dynamic Greens Protein Powder. I don’t know what Dynamic Greens or Protein Powder are, but I know I love them. I love the refrigerated cooler full of prepackaged meals and the mysterious names affixed to their labels that make me believe I am being healthy and smart. “Chicken Calabrese, All Natural. You are worth it”. Yes, yes I am! And, thank you for noticing!
Yes, indeedy, I love everything about the gym. Except working out.
Oh, how I hate working out.
I hate the clothes. Obviously, yoga pants are designed for slouching around Target, for transitions from sleeping to the bus stop, for dates with my husband to places where I need my waistband to accomodate both my dining choices and my (6th year) postpartum fleshiness. (Before you judge, I’ll have you know, I always wear my best yoga pants to Chili’s with my husband.) Yoga pants are not for running on the treadmill. It feels somewhat sacreligious to besmirch them in this way. Like I am dishonoring the gods of relaxation and comfort.
I hate that it takes me 15 minutes to unravel my earbuds when I arrive on the gym floor. This is very taxing. I am literally exhausted once I have finished this process and to add 30 minutes on the treadmill on top of it is enough to drive a girl to drink. And I’m not talking about gatorade. But I just press start angrily and begin my walk on the hamster wheel of misery. I have chosen the machine in the farthest, most remote corner of the gym, clearly to avoid contact with any other person. Ostensibly, this is why the most attractive man-god will show up shortly and choose the machine directly beside me and begin running at a most unreasonable pace close enough so that his beads of sweat are visible drops on his muscled chest. He won’t need earbuds (or a shirt for that matter) because he is at one with his body, listening to the music of his health under the noise of his biceps (which are taunting me from 3 feet away.) How lame is that? (I am pretending to hate this because I love my husband, but truthfully, this is not at all lame and actually very nice to look at).
I hate all of those things equally, but most of all, I (love to) hate the classes. They have come to represent everything that now separates me from the “me” I am no longer close to resembling. I hate the classes so much I repeatedly question why I even go to them, but the problem, for me, is that I am a weak friend. This is not a problem for my friend Tiffany who can convince me, with very little effort to join her in these weekly workout torture sessions. My inability to refuse is a boon to her and has incited much fear in me upon seeing her name appear as a text message on my cellphone.
TIFFANY: There is a Kill Yourself Cardio class in an hour. Do you want to go?
NICOLE: wish I could but I’m not home right now
TIFFANY: Your van is in your driveway.
NICOLE: Damn it. I’ll meet you there.
She sounds pretty darn sure as she is shaming me into joining her in the class, but when we enter the room in our matching mom uniforms, she recoils a bit at the sight. ” We’re the only fat ones.” She whispers to me and then offers me a look of apology. “I’m not saying you’re fat…” She backtracks, helplessly.
But she’s right. Aside from one other girl trying to look inconspicuous in the back row, every other woman in the class is under 30, very tough looking, and a size 2. We take our rightful place in the back row with the other fat girl and Tiffany goes up to the instructor. Her name is Tracie L. and right away I realize that she’s exactly two things that Tiffany and I are not:
1) totally fit
2) happy to be here.
Tracie L.: Welcome to Kill Yourself Cardio, always glad to have new faces!
Tiffany: Ummm, yeah. Well, we aren’t sure…it’s just…this seems a little…out of our league…we have had 4 kids each…
Tracie L: Nonsense! Just grab about 8 of those risers, a bench, two or three sets of free weights, a resistance band and one of those long heavy bars over there and get ready for some FUN! F-U-N!
As Tiffany and I trudge dejectedly back to our spots and gather up the various implements of death, I watch the other women in the class engaging in complicated stretching rituals and I feel the first pangs of annoyance.
Luckily the annoyance quickly fades as Jennifer Lopez begins blaring over the speakers at approximately 4:32PM and I begin to attempt to keep up with the complicated step routine that is being modeled before me.
4:39 PM: The annoyance is now replaced by hatred for the women in this room, in their matching spandex suits, who cheer “We got this!” every time Tracie L. yells out “How ya doin?“.
4:42 PM: Hatred dies a long slow death during a painful and inappropriate segment of squats. Fear emerges. Fear that I have wandered into a parallel universe. Fear that I will not make it out alive.
5:16 PM: It takes 45 minutes before Tracie L. finally breaks us.
As we somehow have managed to keep up with the overly complicated patterns of step and skip and jump, with only the occasional bouts of wheezing and shame, she loses us during during a segment that, though apparently nameless, I will call for the purposes of this blog, “Time to Throw Up”. During “Time to Throw Up” we are asked to lay on our backs with only our rear end on the step bench and move our upper body and lower body together in a a sit up type fashion. It’s impossible. And awful. I leak pee with every freaking crunch. And, suddenly, in a sign of what may be dehydration or confusion (or both) I begin laughing manically as I lay there with my head gazing up at the ceiling.
But Tiffany is not laughing. I see her shoulders shaking from my awkward and lazy stance on my own bench and I know, immediately, she is crying.
As I hear Tiffany weeping brokenly nearby, I respond silently to Tracie L’s shouts of “encouragement”.
“You’re not here to make friends!” Don’t worry, I will never be your friend, you horrible, horrible woman.
“You owe this to yourself! You are worth it!” I owe myself a cheeseburger for this bullshit.
“Push it, ladies!” I want to push you off your step stool, Tracie L.
“How are my new ladies with the 8 kids doing?” This comment is directed right to Tiffany and I and seems particularly harsh considering one of us is crying and the other is temporarily insane. What I really think I hear her say is “Where my Fat Chicks at?“.
We simply don’t have enough energy to answer and just waggle our hands in the air as the universal sign of we are still alive, yes yes, we know, we’re worth it. The other fat chick seems to be sleeping or might be dead, her arms lay there motionless at her sides. I want to check on her, really, but I can barely lift my own head up. Only Tracie L. can save her now.
When the class is over and we’ve put away all of the torture devices and slunk out of the room, I ask Tiffany how she feels.
“Horrible.” She moans. “That was horrible!”
“I hated every minute.” I told her honestly as we walked into the locker room.
“Me too.” She replied, sitting down on the bench. “Yeah, me too. So….there’s a different class tomorrow…a little different anyway…” She said slowly, not looking in my direction. ” I was thinking if you weren’t busy…”
“I must be busy…is tomorrow Wednesday? I’m busy on all the Wednesdays.” I said helplessly.
“No, tomorrow is Tuesday. I’m sure you’re NOT busy Tuesday.” She said firmly. “We’ll go to the class.”
“Fine. We’ll go to the class. ” I told her, too weak from our time with Tracie the Torturer to argue. “If you’ll excuse me, I have to go to the cafe now. I need a power shake. And maybe some chicken in a plastic container with a pretty label ”
“Those shakes are like 400 calories, Nicole! You are eating back everything you just burned.”
“I know, I know. But I love them.” I stood up as tall as my exhausted body would allow and looked at my large buns in the mirror, my round face, my strong shoulders. “It’s my favorite thing about coming here! It’s why I come!” I sound slightly whiny and she looks at me dubiously.
“But really. It’s fine. After all..” I add with a smile.”Tracie told me I’m worth it.”