Thursday, April 5, 2012

Meeting New People Is Not My Superpower.

So I've been wanting to try a new exercise class. I either work out by myself or with a personal trainer. I'm fine in a one-on-one situation. I know what I'm expected to do. I know where to go. I know how I will be treated. I can function this way with a bare minimum of neuroses at play.

A group glass triggers all sorts of red flags. First of all, a new class means new logistics, new location, new routines. What if I go to the wrong place? What if I'm early? What if I'm late? And a group class is filled with new people. In the form of a ... group. In my head, they become a group of fitness Superheroes. They will all hate me on sight. They will be forged in iron and they will leave me in a fat puddle in the middle of the gym while they scoff at what a Flabby McWeakerson I am. I will never be fit enough to work out with the Greek gods that are the fitness SuperFriends.

My brain is a scary place to live, I know.

I finally emailed the instructor and told him I was going to come to class. I thought if he expected me I would feel pressured to show up. But no. I skipped on Monday because my husband gave me an out when he said he had to leave early for work.

Wednesday morning I had no such excuse. I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m. I put on my gym clothes and contemplated getting back into bed in my gym clothes. I went downstairs and put on my shoes in the dark. I decided I would walk on the treadmill and see if I hated life any less. If I was still miserable and suicidal over joining a group fitness class, I would just stay on the treadmill.


Once there, I decided to stay on the treadmill. Sure I was feeling better about life after ten minutes of cardio, but I wasn't feeling any better about how much I was going to suck at CrossFit. Maybe I would try it on Friday?

Or never.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the instructor enter the cardio room. I decided to zero in on the treadmill monitor and stare myself into invisibility. "Do not see me," I said, just like Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

I even said it with an accent.

Then I saw someone moving toward me but I stared all the harder at the monitor. I could will myself into invisibility, just like I could will myself into Narnia when I was a kid being teased by the neighborhood thugs.

Oh yeah. That didn't work either. Damn.

"So are you coming?" the instructor asked me. He was standing on the next treadmill.

"Oh. Uh. Hi. Um. Well, I, er..." I pulled the earphones out of my ears and did my best to get out of it.

"Come on," he said and waved me over as he walked towards the gym.

"Yeah, uh, I, er, was thinking, maybe it will be too hard for me," I walked behind him, not wanting to be rude. "Maybe I should try it another time? When I'm more fit. I just don't know..."

He walked into the gym and I followed him like an obedient puppy. He introduced me to a group of people who smiled and welcomed me instantaneously.

"You're finally going to work out with the group?" one lady asked. She must have seen me working out with a personal trainer in the gym at some point.

The group seemed happy to have me. No one mentioned that 5'10" losers weren't allowed. I was overjoyed and motivated by both the class, and by the kindness of my fellow human beings.

Acceptance surprises me every time.

Also, I can barely walk today.



Somebody get me a wheelchair.


  1. I can't workout with people watching. This is why the gym at 5:30 when they open works for me. Bare minimum of eyes watching me.

  2. This is why I bought a treadmill.

  3. Sounds like a story I heard from a lady whose daughter just joined my son's preschool class after her preschool abruptly shutdown. She was surprised and overjoyed by the way the kids in the class welcomed her daughter and made her feel at home even though she hasn't spent the whole year with them.

    Most group situations aren't as bad as we build them up to be in our heads. Also, people are generally forgiving of the "new guy" and any perceived faults or protocol lapses. Unless of course said fault/lapse happens during school dropoff/pickup, in that case it's rule of the pack.

    This brought to you by a severely introverted 6'3" male who chose to work with computers for a living.

  4. CrossFit and that P90X or whatever it is scare the Bejeezus out of me. I can't even work up to going to the gym at all, let alone joining a group class. I prance around to workout DVDs in our guest room. Solo. Except for when Mr. W passes by the door and laughs at me.

  5. I'm just the opposite, if I'm in a group, where everyone is doing, and looking just as goofy as I am? I'm good. But running in a gym on a treadmill (ie look about as awful as I possibly can) by myself? Not gonna happen. They're all looking me, I can tell.

  6. @Joshua: You could always wear a burka.

    @Megan: I'm fine with a treadmill. I'm fine with just about anything except brand new people who are strangers to me.

    @Cary: Laugh! Thanks for the advice, Kettle.

    @Mel Heth: Tell Mr. W you will grapevine over there and kick his ass!

    @Amelia: You make a solid point.

  7. Ah I'm glad you had such a good experience with the group. I always get nervous when I'm in groups that are new to me. Like in the gym a couple of weeks ago, I started talking really loud and laughing about nothing. People thought I was nuts.

  8. GREAT post. love the way you write. will be back to read more!!!

    (and I have felt like you described every time I go to a class at the gym)

  9. Nick ..Washington...he has given it away with RICK the PRICK and JAGGER- MEESE.
    It's " game over".
    See you in the movie " Kansas Kings".

  10. Own it woman! Your reluctance always surprises me. I find you to be an inspiration in so many ways. From your writing, spiritualism, life in relationships, raw love of your family and your Amish restaurant... Anyone that works out at 530 cannot be a loser.

    Pressure? no. Just truth. You are a 5'10" modern woman.

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  12. You're 5'10"??? YOU'RE the superhero!!!

  13. Sweet. Good job. If you want more options for solo workouts at home, we just started working with GaiamTV. Check it out. Tons of videos across all kinds of things you'd like - fitness, yoga, spirituality, wellness, etc.

  14. This is funny to me because just visually you're the kind of person I'd be worried to work out in front of because I'd be thinking you thought I looked like a whale. I mean, if I didn't "know" you, I'd be worried. You're awesome and would never be like: Look at that whale. But this is one reason yoga classes terrify me. All those lithe ladies in their trendy outfits, bending so effortlessly while I pant and sweat unattractively. Ugh.

  15. I agree with Amelia. Even with all the mirrors, everyone in the classes that I take look just as goofy as me.
    Put me on a treadmill in the main part of the gym and I feel like all eyes are on me and it becomes a silent competition to keep up with the person on the treadmill/bike/elliptical next to me...which usually ends quite badly for me.

  16. Oh, and @Erin: all the yoga classes I have taken at this gym have been in the dark or very minimally lighted. The show-offs are literally lost in shadows. Makes it quite enjoyable for us who are not lithe or in the "trendy outfits" :-)

  17. Sweet Mandy, your mind is a battlefield I know well! For me, it's the NAMES that kill me. All the crap I have to remember as well as my shoes. I just took a temp position for a bit and EVERYONE in the damn office knows the new six foot tall redhead--and to save my ANKLES I cannot remember the names of blonde 1-9, the dimpled waif, trusty Miss Yogurt, or nitwit manager. Who has kids or dogs or allergies is entirely beyond me. Groups slaughter me.

  18. You're so much braver than I am. I haven't worked out in a public gym since UT Austin when I went twice a day. Now I'm rocking out to the classics: Cindy Crawford's workout tape from the nineties and a wicked old Jazzercise tape I picked up at a Salvation Army a million years ago. I want my fitness regime to echo the nostalgia of my nutrition plan (where carbs are the bottom of the food pyramid).

  19. I can't work out in a group without giggling. It's not that I'm laughing at anyone else. I just get nervous and giggle.

    I'm far better off walking my dog. He gets me. :)

  20. I am the exact opposite. It's easier for me to work out in a group. Working out alone is the toughest hurdle.

  21. @MOV: Thanks for stopping by!

    @Michelle: Um.

    @NicePeace: I'm an introvert by nature. I don't think it's something I can change. But I have learned to cope with it as best I can.

    @NikkiRules: I'm an Amazon! Whoo!

    @Wow That Was Awkward: I live across the street practically from a gym, so I can't really see myself working out at home. Plus there are children at home who would get in my way!

    @Erin: It is funny, because the way we feel about ourselves actually has very little to do with what we look like. It's all in our heads. And some of us have pretty scary neighborhoods in our heads. And others seemed to be blessed with some sort of blissful forgiving love for their bodies. Wish they could bottle that feeling and pass it around.

    @Ophelia: We all bring our neuroses to the gym. Wherever we are. Ha.

    @Chantel: I'm terrible at remembering names too. I used to make index cards of my students so I could study their names and physical descriptions.

    @Blonde Steel: When is that food pyramid going to catch up with the times?

    @Kimberly: I used to run with my dogs. They were my fuzzy personal trainers.

    @Stopcallingmeshirley: I am beginning to see the wisdom of this.

  22. Acceptance always amazes me as well. What's that about, huh?!

    I actually prefer a group setting because I'll be damned if I don't do my best to keep up. Left to my own devices, I stop when it gets hard and turn on the TV. :-)


  23. i have been going to a gym of one kind or another for over 20 years now, and i have NEVER taken a class, pretty much for the kind of reasons you gave.

    maybe i should try one sometime...

    nice blog, btw! :)

  24. you did it?! omg!!! that is incredible! and boy i bet you are SORE SORE SORE NOW!!!! lol

    i have joined a gym twice. the first time i did ONE WORKOUT that was such a turn off that i never went back. the douchelord on the stationary bike next to me kept trying to check my speed/levels, and i found that infuriating. i also am NOT FIT and didn't want to be around a bunch of super fit freaks picking up on eachother. gross scene!

    the second gym i joined was bally's, and i never worked out. not even once. i paid the money and never even went. STUPID!!!!

    years ago i used to go for walks with a neighbor/friend, but i found that to be very TEDIOUS, as i always had to think of topics to discuss before each walk. ANNOYING! so i bailed on that eventually.

    soooooo, now i work out on my own like i always have. i like it. i can work out in my underwear! lol.

    but ANYWAY! congratulations on conquering this fear, on being accepted by your peers, and on getting into rocking shape! yay!

  25. I'm sorry -- you said you got on the treadmill first so you could hate life less? I get on one only when I need a metaphor to feel even angrier about the endless drudgery that life provides.

    I'll try it your way next time.

    P.S. You funny. You made me snort coffee up my nose just now.

  26. I agree with Wow. Gaiam has a LOT of DVD's available in their library. If you are up at 5:30 am to make it to the gym, let the kids sleep in and workout then. I know- easier said than done.

    Glad you made it to and through the class. It is not easy for everyone.

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  28. You are my new hero. I wouldn't have even gotten on the treadmill.

  29. We recently signed up for a gym called "Fitness over 50". I'll confess, it's easier to to because 1) there isn't anyone there I would feel the need to impress, and 2) my mediocre workout routine makes me look like Jack Lalane in comparison against the other patrons there. Nobody talks to me, I don't talk to anybody... it's GREAT!

  30. Stopped by to say thanks for coming by my blog the other day. I realize I have been a slob and not joined your cult following! Sorry! This has been corrected now. May I have my tunic, please?

    I LOVED this post!

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  32. You did it!!! :) That is a step more than a lot of us who can't even get our lazy butts out of bed. We WANT to exercise, really we do, but..... LOL

  33. Hi Mandy,
    You meet new people every
    day around the world...via
    your blog.
    Your words are one of your
    As a mom you are a Supermom.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Richard O.

  34. I've only recently rejoined a gym and one of the things i hate most are the other people being there, which is also what puts me off going to a class. That being said I have my (separate to the gym) pole fitness class which I love because we have such good banter among the few of us that go during that time slot. But it took me a long time to feel comfortable going there and I only went in the first place because my friend wanted to go and encouraged me to do so!

  35. Good on you! Those were the exact reasons it took me 3 years to try yoga. Ah, the age-old question: where do I leave my shoes?

    Also- I have a (sorta) gym AND a personal trainer in my house- too bad my weight-lifting roomie saw me naked way back before I started cranking out the progeny. Upside: He probably can't remember what I used to look like, either. Double upside: My vanity says I'm going to workout that much harder just in case he does.