PEACE AT THE GYM
When I first started seriously working out almost ten years ago, I couldn’t stand it, but I also was smart enough to know that the alternative was not an option. I remember telling Orlando who owns Complete Athlete in Bristol that I “hated” cardio, “hated” running and really didn’t want to be there. He was a patient trainer who had likely heard it all before and like my business of great skin trying to get clients to understand the importance of good skin care, he tried to do the same for me with physical fitness. I shudder at my language of yesteryear with the insight of hindsight. That I even used the word “hate” for the privilege of exercise is embarrassing. Exercise is indeed a privilege. Get started with it and then get it taken away and you will know what I mean. Some would and I would include myself in this in my past life loved the excuse of not being able to exercise because of a cold or the flu or something, but this is definitely not me now.
Definitely not me now.
The first time I decided to try out the gym that my partner went to, it was a barre class, lots of squats and Jane Fonda like squeezes; a safe bet for someone who thought she abhorred cardio. I couldn’t walk for about four days. This class, however gave me a bit of confidence and I decided that if I could handle a barre class, I could handle a cardio class and promptly signed up for a Sunday morning at Pulse gym with Jackie Lane. When I got to the class, there was only one spot left in the center of the room and that should have been a giveaway that I was in way over my head. Surrounded my waif-like Newport blondes in gorgeous athletic attire should have been a second giveaway, but I trudged in thinking, how bad could it be? It was that bad and about ten minutes into the warm up of old school grapevines, I decided that at that very moment it would be a good time to use the bathroom for a bladder empty whether I needed to or not. Perhaps that would shave about five minutes off of the next fifty minutes of torture I was actually paying for. I admit it; I caved after about twenty minutes. I did the walk of shame, having to blatantly leave the class as I made my way through the sea of super fit chicks who I thought were likely nodding at each other knowing that I wouldn’t make it. Of course this was not true, but it is indicative of my lack of confidence in the world of fitness at the time. Some would think that would have ended my dive headfirst into the world of psycho fitness. I mean we all know there are different degrees of fitness. Some people walk gently or quickly, some people ride bikes leisurely or sit on a spin bike on a sunny day pedaling like a lunatic. There is gently yoga and hot yoga and at the time there was Curves and there was Pulse and everything in between.
My partner, Michael is eighteen years my senior; this means that when we met the first time I was 22 and he was 40. Ironically, we met at the Newport Athletic Club working out together. This is where I also met my former husband so I have a history of workout attempts. When we reconnected the second time, he was 64 and I was 46 and as I exited the Pulse workout, something came over me that hadn’t before- a personal challenge to succeed at the workout I had just walked out on. I thought, Michael is super fit and if I want to really engage in this partnership, I must get myself to as close to his fitness level as possible to really participate in it. I needed to be able to physically keep up with him on those long and fast walks on Cliff Walk and not feel out of breath. So for some reason, I made it a personal mission to complete a Pulse class. I went back and tried again and again and again. Each time I went I pretty much couldn’t stand it, but I kept going until a shift happened. The shift happened when I decided to try a Beach Boot Camp with Kathy Martin. There I was at Second Beach in the morning sunlight before most people had even had their first cup of coffee with about forty other “campers” as they were anointed. The parking lot was filled with Volvos, Audis, Mercedes and everything that represents a high end car show. On top of this, each of us paid almost three hundred dollars for an eight week sign up meeting twice a week at the wee hours of the Newport morning.
As I began the first run in the sand past Kathy thinking “I am going to die, I can’t do this,” I ran by her smiley face and said, “I hate this,” with a tone like I was doing her a favor by participating in this self induced torture. Kathy could have replied with a yell, “Come on, you can do this!” Or she could have screamed, “Get running, fatty!” She could have barked like a drill sergeant, “What are you doing here then, go home if you hate it!” But she didn’t say any of those things. Instead she said, “I know.” I have no idea why those two words challenged me and created a complete mind swap. It was like she was one of us. Like she totally understood that what I was doing sucked, but that it was a necessary evil and that she was with me. So I came back the next time and the time after. I kept signing up for classes trying to get there early to get the coveted spot in the back corner in case I needed to do another walk of shame. I never needed it again. I kept going and seeing improvements in my health, my time, my speed, the size of the weights I grabbed. I changed my language from ‘I hate this’ to ‘I am so happy to have my health and grateful for my legs and my heart ‘as I made my way up and down the hill called Tuckerman Avenue. I began to love the feeling of speed in my running and began feeling like I was part of the tribe of people who regularly worked out instead of an imposter.
Little did I know that this foray into a love of fitness would ultimately be my salvation. People use my business of beauty as a respite from their busy-ness. I love that I get to have a business that provides a mind rest. What my business does for people, mostly women, is what Kathy’s business and Jackie’s business before Kathy has done for me. It has become my sanctuary. I smile when I walk in and I smile and laugh a loud when Kathy shouts out yet another crazy exercise move that I can’t believe I am doing. I absolutely love to be there. I am seldom down so yesterday when I walked in after learning of my friend’s death, Kathy knew I was off. I kept my head down because tears started to stream unexpectedly as I began pedaling. I couldn’t look up at her because I knew if I made eye contact I would lose it. I needed to go within to grieve in silence while the beat of the music pumped and pulsed. At the end of the workout, she made sure to connect because this is where she excels; she knows that her business is not just about the workout, it is about the human and often female connection. She checked in with me and we hugged and I let the tears briefly flow in our sweaty hug. I left knowing that this place I come to is my own place of beauty.
Later she sent me a text checking in with me. This is what makes her business shine in my life; it is not just the workout, this you can get anywhere. It is the attention to detail that makes me want to keep coming back. It is why I am as fit as I am now. It is why only a month after a double mastectomy I was able to safely walk into her class and take my time with total support of the entire class. I look for the spot in the front now, right smack next to Kath, knowing that I call myself the modifier as I have to adjust so many of the moves to fit my level of fitness for my upper half. And it is ok. I am safe and cared for here. Fitness has become a part of my life and without it, I am not who I am now. I cherish the privilege and I happily and joyfully do another burpee for the friends who can’t. Grateful for my legs, for my heart, my life indeed.
this was picture in my workout clothes a month after a double mastectomy. this is why i love fitness and am so grateful for my health.