This past October, I was moping around my lovely friend M’s apartment, complaining about money and facing another 24-hour plus stretch of not hearing from the boyfriend, when she semi-slapped me across the face and said “Cheer up bitch! Want to go to the gym?” Now, all things considered, I’m more of a chocolate-and-whiskey girl than a “sweat-out-your-problems” girl, but M was really excited and I could tag along for free, so I ran (“ran”) home to put on my highly unattractive gym clothes and give it a go. It took me all of three minutes on the treadmill that first day to realize two very important things: I was DEFINITELY out of shape, and I hadn’t felt that good in weeks.
I’ve never been able to get a gym routine to stick in the past. I’ll work out for a few months and then stop, finding this excuse or that as a get-out-of-gym free card: I work really long hours! I’m exhausted from running around in heels all day! I just don’t want to! I’m not an out-of-shape person necessarily, I just have zero intention of taking $100+/session classes (unless there’s a champagne bar in Cardio Barre, I’m uninterested) and for a long time, I couldn’t find the motivation to join, let alone actually go to, a gym. I spent three years of sometimes-running a few miles in the summer, relying on juice cleanses and a fast metabolism in the meantime to keep me “in shape” on the outside, but perhaps not so much on the inside.
As I stopped sharing my time and attention and started to focus on myself, the gym became a steady part of my ever-changing life, something that I could focus on when things got really difficult or overwhelming. I can’t change my circumstances, but I can push a littler harder, run a little faster, lift a little more. It’s an hour a few days a week where I can stare straight ahead and stop thinking about anything but the dull ache in my legs and keeping my breath steady for just another few minutes, just another few reps. It’s not the most convenient part of my routine, and there are so many days where all I want is to sit on my couch with a bag of Sun Chips and Netflix, and yes, sometimes I’ll give in. But I’m focused this time: I want the routine, sweating like crazy, lost in my headphones and myself, surrounded by strangers, all taking an hour for themselves.
I’ve already changed so much in just five months, both physically and mentally. Physically, I’ve never felt stronger or more capable. The unfortunate side effect of this is that I humblebrag constantly (to the point N has actually had to ask me to stop), dying to share this new confidence I’ve found with everyone around me. Mentally, I feel stronger, more alert, like I know what I’m capable of doing if I just take a few minutes to focus and breathe. My sister T, herself a seasoned runner, hiker, skiier and all-around active person, has already convinced me to run a half-marathon with her this year, something I swore I’d never do and now I can’t wait. Having a goal set that’s entirely personal and up to me is a tangible reminder that I’m in charge of my life, I’m in charge of myself, and I can push a littler harder, run a little faster, and just be a little more.