Even before I had my bypass surgery, I was well aware that at some point, I couldn’t just rely on weight loss to look good. That, at some point, weight loss would lead to a skinny-fat, flabby shell…and that’s almost as bad as being just plain old fat.
So I knew that working out was going to be in my future. I accepted it as part of my process. And for the first three months, I just healed. Not much in the way of physical activity. But once I had my 3-month follow up with my surgeon, and he gave me the green light, I knew it was time to roll ahead with the working out thing.
Unsurprisingly, I have never cared for working out. Not sure why — perhaps it’s that I have no (and never have had any) natural aptitude for sports or athletic prowess of any kind. I “sport” about as well as I sing. [Imagine Roseanne singing the national anthem. Then imagine her being athletic. There you go.]
And also not surprisingly, legions of people have tried to change that about me over the years. I have been bribed, coaxed, threatened, peer pressured, shamed or coerced into some kind of fitness routine, from the time I was a kid onward. And save but one of those times (my tennis streak of 2003-2005), I hated it all with a hot passion. Nothing quite put the fear in me like the possibility of having to go do something active. I simply hated it: hated being outside, hated sweating, hated the heat and hated the exertion.
While many friends of mine naturally excelled at running or softball or later, yoga, I never took to it. I came out of the womb preferring to read inside all day on the sofa. Don’t believe me? Take a gander at my ass.
But now it seems time. I’ve had success since my surgery (80 lbs down from my heaviest weight, 50 lbs down from when I started the surgery process) and I like the results. I’ve been able to bag up a bunch of old clothes that are too big, once and for all. My bra size has changed. My Spanx size has changed. People tell me I look happy, younger, glow-y, etc. And while the desire to look better (and eventually good) in my clothes is important, what I am now afraid of is looking good in my clothes….and like one of these freak pumpkins when I’m naked:
And let’s face it: time isn’t on my side here. I didn’t have this surgery at 20, where shit bounces back in place relatively well. I had it at 37, after abusing my body for decades with yo-yo diets and massive weight gain/loss. There is some serious toning to be done, and probably plastic surgery after that. Because why lose all this weight only to then be…flabby?
So, rather than rely totally on plastic surgery (“There is only so much we can fucking do, lady.” — plastic surgeons) I knew that toning my ass at the gym was paramount. Not only that, I am tired of being tired and listless and low energy. If the Viking and I have children in the future (and that’s the plan), I want to be able to keep up with the little shit. I will require a reservoir of energy, and I’m assuming that comes with being in better shape than I am now. Because now? I am in no shape.
I know this because I recently joined a fitness center, and starting at the beginning of this week, I began trying to workout in earnest. This particular center is an anomaly — more like a country club than a gym (with the fees to prove it), and with an older average membership age, which is fine by me. It suits my personality and speed.
So this past Monday, I strode in, full of piss and vinegar and determination, with my shitty black New Balances, too-big shorts and a bleach stained t-shirt. I spent an hour and twenty three minutes on the treadmill on Monday, burning 350 calories and getting 3 miles under my belt. I increased the incline rather than the speed, and worked up a good sweat.
On Tuesday, I felt like what pre-Miyagi Daniel must have felt like after the Cobra Kais kicked the bleeding shit out of him on the beach.
My sciatic was pinched, so my back & ass were hot with pain. Whatever tissue connects my thighs to my hips was on fire. I took a heating pad to work and didn’t care who saw. Perhaps my overly-enthusiastic goal of pounding out 10 miles a week was a bit of an overshot. Tuesday I didn’t fare too much better, as I was able to only walk 2.5 miles before the pain from the day before ate my ass. I was literally limping on the treadmill that day. Wednesday, I managed 1 mile on the treadmill until my feet went numb. Not content with just 1 mile under my belt, I hobbled over to the stationary bikes and put 4.5 miles on the kind with a chair on it.
She’s probably going faster than I was.
Then moved over to the bike with an actual seat, and got 1.5 miles before my ass literally turned numb and I managed to dismount. Sitting on that bike seat — clearly not meant for asses like mine — was about as fucking comfortable as sitting on a goddamned wooden fence post. It made me wonder what poor bastards like Lance Armstrong did if they ever had hemorrhoids.
What I felt like afterward.
Part of my membership includes a lesson with a personal trainer. And that’s a big part of the reason I knew I needed a gym membership, not just access to a gym, which I have (albeit shitty access to a shitty gym) via my apartment. I need to be held accountable. I need someone to show me what to do, like they would if I were a total idiot. I think I need to physically jiggle my arm fat at him to make sure he understands just what we’re up against, here. I NEED BOB HARPER.
Because this center is in an older, more affluent part of town, a good portion of the clientele is, well, senior. Again, this is fine with me — there aren’t mirrors everywhere with ripped roid rats looking to see and be seen and grunt at each other. Is it sobering to be slogging away on the treadmill when a Pepaw more than twice your age is on the machine next to you, lapping your fat ass into oblivion? Yes, yes it is.
But all of that is okay. It comes with the territory. There are over 100 classes a week for me to choose from, all included. When I lose about 25 more pounds, and build up some kind of fucking stamina, I intend to take a few of those classes. Maybe, even to my absolute chagrin, a Zumba class or two. My rhythm is laughably bad but I’ve heard too many people gush about how fun it is. Whatever — anything that’s not me trying to watch an episode of Property Brothers while I sweat my ass off is worth considering.
Probably the weirdest part of this whole “gym” thing for me was the women’s locker room. It’s big, sleek, beautiful and full of lovely amenities. But I am, for all intents and purposes, an only child who grew up with incredibly modest parents. And because I was body conscious from a very young age, I have always been extremely uncomfortable with any public level of undress. So imagine my horror when I turned the corner and unwittingly came upon a woman, butt-ass nekkid, drying off her giant bush with a towel. My eyes could not avert themselves fast enough.
During my tour of the place, which included the locker room, the gym docent showed me the whirlpool and sauna areas. I looked at her dubiously.
“What do you go in the sauna with?” I asked her.
“Oh,” she said, laughing, having sensed my wariness. “Your bathing suit. Or some ladies wear nothing. Just, you know, whatever.”
There is not an ice cube’s chance in hell that I would ever voluntarily wander in a sauna full of half-to-fully naked people and have a seat. Ain’t. No. Way. How in the fuck do you NOT look? What if they speak to you? WHAT IF YOU ACCIDENTALLY STARE? I know men manage their way around this dilemma in urinals every day, but I am not a man and I do not want to have to see strange naked people.
As the staff member showed me around the locker room, we happened upon a lady changing. She had her back to us, THANK THE GOD, but her bra was off, and I was afraid there was more coming, and soon.
The staff girl said to me, “Oh, hey! Yeah, well, the ladies do undress in here.”
I waved my hand. “Pffft. We’re all women, right?” I feigned. Internally, though, I was petrified.
I was petrified because I do not understand women who do not have deep-rooted and crippling, debilitating body image issues. They are like unicorns to me. I am fascinated with their kind, but I don’t understand how they work or process things. It leaves me thinking — and probably rightfully so — that I’m the freak, not them.
Thankfully, my gym docent pointed out a small, private dressing room in the corner. “You can always use this room, if you’d like more privacy when you change,” she said, surely having sensed that I was indeed THAT PERSON. And I did use that room — and have — each day I’ve been there. I was only accosted in there once, and that was by a fellow fatty who was, no doubt, eaten up with the same issues I have and seeking the solace of privacy. But since the room was occupied by yours truly, I don’t know what she did about changing. She was even larger and more awkward than I was; had I driven her away? Did she go into one of the bathroom stalls? (I will, if that happens to me. Did it in 7th grade, will do it again.) I AM MODEST, DAMMIT.
I am full of scars, cellulite, and blobs of misappropriated skin. I do not wear matching bra & underwear, I don’t shave as often as I should, and my ass has the texture of a walnut. Maybe one of these days I’ll get a bod worth flaunting, but until then, I’ll be changing behind closed doors, thankyouverymuch.