I know you’re out there. I mean, some of you are my closest friends. And I work at a gym, so every day I’m surrounded by the type. And no matter how much I try to understand the way your eyes light up when you talk about chest presses and how you spend two hours focused on one specific muscle group— and then you repeat it with another the next day— I can’t.
I’m the kind of girl who will set her alarm to wake up at 8 am on a Wednesday morning in the hopes that she’ll get her butt up to go for a run— and by run I mean, like, three miles— but when the alarm actually goes off I’ll press “snooze” or, better yet, “off” and go back to bed for another three hours and then wake up and eat bacon instead. I’m the type that adores exercise clothing, because it’s comfy and cute and have you seen how my butt looks in a pair of lulu lemon yoga pants? Because it’s pretty great. (I’ll be honest, lulu’s doing most of the work there.) And since I do work at a gym, I get to hang in yoga pants and shorts pretty much 24/7 and I can’t remember the last time I went a day without rocking a sports bra, but the amount of time I actually spend exercising in such clothing is pretty minimal. At this point I consider it strength training AND yoga just trying to get into the tight-fitting crops.
So when I actually do convince myself to get out there and work up a sweat, I’m already pretty fed up with the whole thing. It takes a lot of will power to get to that point alone, you know? Let’s say, for example, that I go for a run. I start out pretty strong. Some bad workout playlist pumping through my headphones, feet pounding the pavement, eyes downcast lest someone recognize me while I, heaven forbid, sweat and huff like I’m on the last leg of a marathon and not a quarter mile in on completely flat surfaces. I’m not being self-deprecating here. I’m being honest. I swear I’m not made to be active like that. After two miles, I’m tired, my heart is pumping, and whatever dubstep song that’s blaring through my speakers is about to get to its final drop and all I can think before I hear “d-d-d-drop the bass” is that I cannot do this. Just as I’m about ready to give up and walk back home, I’ll hear the tiny voice in my head that sounds a lot like Kate Upton telling me to kick my butt in gear, did you see how much bacon you ate this morning? Do you think those yoga pants will wear themselves? At which point I’ll groan, switch to a new playlist (which will inevitably start with some inspiring rendition of the speech at the end of Miracle) and pick up my pace again. When I get home, I’m tired. I’m sweaty. I’m red in the face and I’m silently calculating how many more of those runs I would have to do to get Kate’s body. And it’s way too many.
I’ll drop to the ground in my room and lay there for a minute, heart jumping out of my chest (freaking cardio) and, if I have the extra will power left, I’ll start working on my abs, arms and legs. I’ll pump out a few measly sets of crunches, bicycles, leg raises and planks. I’ll even do a few pushups and chin-ups. And then I’ll collapse in an undone heap on my bed, fan pointed directly at my body and, chest still heaving, wondering why anyone would relish in doing any of this.
Honestly, it’s pure insanity. I don’t care about endorphins. I can get the same rush from driving on Michigan roads. I’ll never understand “runner’s high” and I sure can’t comprehend the claim that all of this work actually will make a difference because I’ve been trying for a few weeks now and I still hate every bit of it, if not more, because I just wanna be able to dance in a string bikini and look like a babe while doing it.
I hate being sweaty, I hate looking like I’m embarrassed for the next two hours, I hate the way the spinning instructors will tell me just a little more, come on, almost there, pump those legs, tailbone out, keep it up! and how I still have so much more to go if I wanna be anywhere close to where you types of people are physically and mentally.
I considered giving up, but I wanna be able to walk into the gym and look in the floor length mirrors that line each and every wall and think that I could possibly fit in. I wanna be able to take off a cover up to a bikini and be proud of my body, because as much as I do love it already (it’s given me so much), it has work to be done. I want to understand the way it feels to go on a run and actually enjoy it. I want to get on the elliptical and go for miles without wanting to crawl away, white flag waving in despair behind me.
But I found something I can do. I love yoga and strength training and even the burn that comes with it. I feel, most importantly, strong when I’m in the gym now. I care less about achieving a Kate Upton than I do about landing a handstand or squatting a new PR. Once I started to focus less on what I could look like and what my competition was, and I started focusing on just improving my quality of life and ability, I was able to actually enjoy the gym and my body.
This is what fitness is all about. Finding your niche and, pardon the pun, running with it. Keep going, trying new things, until you find what best suits you. Zumba, crossfit or, despite my questioning your sanity, cardio on a treadmill. Your body, your mind and your self-confidence will thank you.
photo by TURE LILLEGRAVEN, story by Erin Pavacik