Well, I’ve joined a gym.
You have to understand, I have never, ever had a gym membership before. I haven’t been around exercise equipment since PE in high school. Last week I got on a treadmill for the first time in my life.
So, yeah, I joined a gym. I thought long and hard about why I’m doing this and what I want out of it, and how hard I’m willing/able to advocate for myself, because advocating for myself in this circumstance is a necessity.
I’ve said before that joining a gym is absolutely unnecessary, and I stand by that statement. You can engage in healthy, joyful movement without ever setting foot in any sort of organized exercise establishment. I recognize that being able to have a gym membership is a privileged thing – not everyone can join a gym, for myriad reasons. I made the personal decision to join a gym because I wanted to reach specific goals for my body (namely, increased upper body strength) that I found difficult to accomplish on my own. I also kind of wanted to see what it was like: having never had a gym membership, I was curious about how it would work in my life. Would I go? Would I enjoy it? There’s no way to know without trying, so here I am.
It’s been interesting. When I was shopping around for a gym to join, I made it very clear that I was not interested in weight loss. Some of the gym employees that I spoke to understood right away, and some really struggled with the idea. All of them were polite and tried to be accommodating to my goals, but I could tell that most of them had never encountered anyone quite like me before. I tried to approach the whole thing with firmness and a bit of humor, and it seems to have worked, so yay for that.
I also decided to get a few sessions with a personal trainer, mostly so I could get a feel for how to use the equipment, how to set up a reasonable routine, and how to not hurt myself in the process. Again, it’s been interesting – weight loss is so often used as a (very poor) measure of success when it comes to exercise that it’s hard for people to understand that I don’t need to know how much I’ve lost or how many calories I’ve burned in order to feel successful. I’ve also had to be very clear that my diet and nutrition are not acceptable topics of discussion. Yes, I will assure my personal trainer that I’ve eaten, that I have enough fuel to get through my workout, but that’s as far as that conversation goes.
It’s been about three weeks now, and I’m still at it, so it must be worth something. Most days I go to the gym and enjoy it – I like the time to myself, I like the way working out makes me feel, I like knowing that I’m doing something nurturing for my body. Some days it’s a bit of a slog, but some days everything is a bit of a slog. Such is life.
I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about how I’m going to feel as my body changes. Since I am changing my activity level, my body shape and size are almost certain to change to some degree – I won’t lose 100 pounds, but things will change. How will I feel about that? Will I be disappointed if I don’t lose a bit of weight? Will I be disappointed if I do lose a bit of weight? I’m not sure, but I’m trying to check in with myself regularly to see how I feel about it. All I can do is be aware of it and deal with whatever emotions come up as compassionately as I can. It’s enough.