(I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because even someone with two English degrees needs a little help sometimes. This post, surprisingly enough, was not sponsored by Fitnext. I really just love ’em that much.)
It’s amazing I’ve ever even tried anything sports-related, based on my grade school gym teachers.
I think I was part of the last group of kids who grew up where not everyone was a winner or encouraged. As a kid, I took ballet and piano lessons; I never played soccer or volleyball. I was always tall (I think I stopped growing in the 6th grade) and never particularly good at sports. At recess, I preferred to read or talk to my friends instead of playing kickball.
This pretty much put a big, fat target on my back from my gym teachers. Not good at running? We’ll make fun of you for being one of the last finishers. Really good at dodging, but bad at catching? We’ll get frustrated with you for not just getting out so the game of Dodgeball they called “Warball” (that was when violence was still OK on the playground, I guess) could end, and encourage the kids who were better throwers to hit you. At 14, I had to have a lot of work done on my knee and was basically out of gym for half a year. Instead of accomodating, I got to sit on the gym’s stage and read while other kids played sports. I realized, sitting there, that the gym teachers didn’t have anything to say except about gym-related stuff. They didn’t care about the books I was reading, but they did care about the boy who could throw the ball farthest. I guess our priorities were different. I hope that gym teachers today are a little more accepting of differing athletic abilities.
My high school gym teachers were much better: one of them, at one point, coached the Xavier Women’s basketball team, and patiently taught me how to do lay-ups (I am still pretty darn good at it). The other realized I’d probably be pretty good at archery (I was!) and encouraged me.
Still, the experiences from grades 1-8 pretty much ruined me for exercise later in life. I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t want to do it– beyond a few baskets and a little Hunger Games action, I just wasn’t good at anything.
So, over the years, I found myself both more out of shape and unhappier. I knew running wasn’t a good idea (hello, knees), but I watched all of my friends do it, and was pretty envious. I would go through periods where I’d go to the gym all the time, and then quit, after not seeing results. A couple of friends encouraged me to try this new gym on Main Street, Fitnext– but I brushed it aside. I didn’t want to get buff, and I certainly couldn’t afford it. Personal training is, like, $60 an hour, right? Not happening.
In January, though, something clicked. I was at my heaviest, and didn’t want to be. I was 32, and certainly not getting any younger, and my knees were giving me more issues. I also legitimately had no excuse not to exercise: I work from home, so I could go first thing in the morning without worrying about a commute or looking pretty for work. My upstairs neighbors all went to Fitnext, and its owner, Criston Smith, was a friend of mine on Facebook. It doesn’t hurt to try!
Well, actually, it does. After my first workout with Tes, Fitnext’s head trainer, I couldn’t move my arms for about 4 days. Tes understood my limitations (mostly involving jumping and lateral moves) and was super encouraging and not intimidating. I saw a variety of people in that class: people who were in great shape, people who were just getting started, and people in between. All ages, all races. It was pretty cool, and kind of inspiring. Everyone just fights their own battle. I could, too.
In the first few months, I lost 20 pounds and gained a bunch of muscle. And, slowly, it became part of my routine. I started planning my work trips so that I could get as many workouts in as possible. I started at three visits a week when I wasn’t traveling. Then four. Then five. This week I did five and a bounce class (just because). I hate missing my Saturday class because it tends to be the same people, and we all have a sort of camaraderie (that happens when you’re working out at 9:30 on a Saturday and at least half of the group has over-imbibed the night before) that I miss when I’m not there.
I’ve kind of stalled, inches- and pounds-wise, which was getting me down for a while. Then one of my trainers, Eric (who recently moved) said, “Julie, you realize that when you started, you couldn’t lift ten pounds in a tricep extension, and now you can do 30? You’ve tripled your strength. That’s kind of awesome.”
And he’s right. That is kind of awesome. I may not be a good soccer player, or be able to run, or even be thin, but I am a lot stronger and a lot healthier. I have muscle in my arms and legs. I’m trimmer. I have more endurance for things like walking campus for work, or making a tight connection at the airport.
I really like it, and I will tell you all about it if you let me. Even when, like this morning, my cardio isn’t running on a trampoline (which I like way more than I ever thought I would) but battle ropes, which made me think that maybe, just maybe, I’d pass out. I’m far more confident, because someone is telling me that I can do it: they’re not humiliating me when I can’t, or comparing me to other people in the class. It’s just me, my body and mind, trying their best to work together and lift things. And now I tell myself that I can do it. I get a whole hour in the day to think about nothing more than getting stronger and healthier. It’s cliche, but it is my slice of time just to myself.
If you’re intimidated by the gym or by muscle-bound trainers, check out Fitnext Cincinnati. Really. You get personalized workouts, in a supportive group setting at a very reasonable price. You’ll feel good, look good, and do something to balance out all of the food I write about here!
And to my gym teachers in grade school: fitness isn’t about how you throw the ball, or run a mile, but finding something you love and doing your very best at it. And that’s precisely what I’m doing.