Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Streaking at the Gym

Now there is a headline to get your attention! Please note, there will be NO pictures in this particular blog entry. Its a good thing. Trust me.

So I mentioned before that I am getting fed up with my eating habits and couch potato ways. Joe has been very encouraging and made the suggestion this week that I put it on my personal calendar and commit to going to the gym three times a week. This was a sensible suggestion and I readily agreed. After all, I work at the international mecca of cardiovascular fitness and health. One of my benefits is a membership to one of the fanciest and finest gyms in the nation. I am, in essence, refusing some of my own compensation by not utilizing it. And since I have a new PDA and love to have things to plug into it, I was eager to schedule my work out times and push all those pretty buttons. Of course, pushing the buttons I think ought to count on some level as one work out...but I digress.

So today was the big day, the first day of my new schedule. I get up at 5:30 every morning anyway, so rather than getting up and sitting and surfing the Internet for a half hour as I usually do, I just got dressed and headed out the door. There was a surprising number of people at the gym. Evidently insanity runs hand in hand with good health. Or maybe just insomnia.

The locker room was blessedly deserted as I put my things up. It gave me the courage to step onto the medical scale positioned conveniently by the full length mirror (in case there is any doubt in your mind what your weight looks like apparently. Allows you to view the horror both from an aesthetic and numeric standpoint at once). If there was any doubt that I needed to be there, it disappeared as I slid the weight indicator to the right...and further right...and further right. I have been avoiding the scale until today. Not a pretty sight.

But, there I was all dressed to work out, so I shook off that number pretty good. I really only get horribly depressed by the scale when one of two things is going on:

A. If Joe is looking over my shoulder at the number. Logically, I know he loves me and wants me. He told me I was sexy when I weighed 70 pounds more than I do right now. But in my mind, it doesn't matter. I want to be beautiful for him.

B. If I know in my heart I have not really been trying very hard to improve things.

Neither applied in that moment, so off I went.

I am not adverse to exercise like some are. I actually really enjoy it. I have phenomenal lung capacity and very strong legs. Working out feels good to me. I don't mind what it takes to be in shape. Its the process of getting into shape that I hate. The mental conversation in my mind that wonders how badly things are flopping around and whether people are sneering at me and thinking I am disgusting, whether small children are pointing and asking questions. I hate the feeling of having known my form to easily accomplish certain things, levels of strength, stretching, endurance, and feeling how far I have slid since my martial arts days. Worrying I am too old to get my groove back. Worrying my thighs rubbing together are going to start a small fire. Things like that.

But the actual feeling as my muscles come alive is addictive and powerful. I don't mind getting sweaty. I love to feel myself improve. I can easily turn my embarassment into anger, both at any who would think poorly on me as I struggle to correct the problems with my body and with myself for letting things get the way they have. But also with the situations life has thrown my way that overwhelmed my desire to keep going. I have come to the conclusion that I am storing an incredible amount of anger and grief deep in my muscles. I feel it as my heart rate goes up, as my thighs and butt start to burn and tense. It will sound strange when I say that it feels good, to feel this fury roar out of my physicality, to have not only a way to express it in physical movement, but a way to recognize it. I tried hard to commit that euphoric feeling of rage to memory, to put it in my list of resources for when I feel like my grief is running me over. It felt good and I have not cried at all today.

One of the greatest pleasures in working out here is the locker room facilities. They are just gorgeous. Cherry hardwood floor to ceiling. Fluffy ivory towels, as many as you like to use. All the amenities you could ask for in terms of personal hygeine products and beauty aids. Plus the sauna. The whirlpool. The steam room. The ultra clean facilities. The beautiful tile work and fancy lighting. Its really very luxurious. It feels good there to finish a work out and shower up. Only today I actually got into the shower and realized as I was soaping up my hair and toying with the idea of buying some very expensive hair products as a means of motivation for working out (stuff I would only use when showering at the gym) that I had gotten into the shower without grabbing myself a towel.

Insert here a flash of horror. I am wet. I am nude. I am in the healthy body capital of the free world taking a shower behind a curtain. And the towel that I need is OUT THERE.

So I begin to fret. This is a ladies locker room. As such, plenty of women walk around in various states of undress, frequently for the purpose of showing off what their time there at the gym has done for their bodies. Particularly the young girls who do not realize that time has not yet had a chance to march itself across their youthful beauty and that it will get harder in future years to maintain things. I am happy for them, but envy them their smug assumptions. I had them too in my day. And they look at one another. They look at YOU. I make it a habit to NEVER. EVER. EVER. be naked in the gym locker room. I am using the word never here. Never. naked. in. gym.

But it was a quiet morning in the Cooper ladies locker room and I got cautiously hopeful. Project Stealth Towel was born. I finished showering and stood there dripping as I listened carefully. Spa music was playing softly, a nice touch. Anyone in the locker room would be half asleep for sure. I could hear no motion to warn me of any other people about, but I was keenly aware that slender women can move without a sound...no thighs to rub together. I tiptoe rapidly toward the grooming area, where the towels are kept, jiggly bits dripping water was I go. I listen again. Nothing. My heart is pounding. I am keenly aware that some of these privileged people with their healthy lifestyles have probably never seen a fat chick naked. I tell myself they are more afraid of me than I am of them and if I leave them alone they will leave me alone...and steal across the tiled floor, heart pounding, to seize two towels from the vanity nearest the showers. I then get a burst of energy, impressive given I have just done 40 minutes on an ellipitcal for the first time in four or five months, and hit Mach III racing back to my shower where my clothing awaits to conceal me once more, parts of me clapping against others as if to applaud my success. I hastily yank the mint green curtain closed and get the giggles. I just walked through one portion of my place of employment naked. Well. Snuck. Not walked. But nobody saw me, and I can promise you, I will not ever. ever. ever. forget a towel again.

Getting dressed in the shower room sucks. I felt like my kids, who frequently try to roll their underwear and pajamas onto still-wet bodies because they cannot be bothered to dry off, then walk around looking plastered and uncomfortable and slightly disheveled. I am going to have to find myself a towel wrap or bathing suit cover up something to wear until I get out of the damp areas and dry off all the way. Because I don't do naked in the ladies gym locker room. Ever. And I don't like putting my clothes on still half damp.

But I did it. I worked out, got ready for work at the gym, and I feel pretty darn good about that, for today.

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