I returned to the gym.
It had been four months since my last visit. Four months at $15 a month. That's roughly $60 in membership fees down the tubes, a sixty dollars that could have been spent on a couple of pairs of fabulously cute summer shoes from DSW. But really, it's ok. I continue to pay my gym membership because, regardless of how long my absences may be, I always, always, always go back. It's just not always pretty when I do.
My consistency in working out has been wildy erratic over the years. I will go through phases in which working out is as much a part of my daily routine as is brushing my teeth. Alternately, I will completely lose interest in it, and getting myself to the gym becomes this monumental task, as if someone is asking me to stick needles in my eyes. When it comes to working out, I generally live in these extremes - I either love it or I don't - and I find that very odd, because this is really the only thing in my life that I can say that about. Usually, once I love something, I love it forever. And ever. And ever. It's just the way I'm built. Those of you who have seen the 24"x36" "Sound of Music" poster that has been hanging in my college dorm/post-college apartment/adult home for the last 20 years know exactly what I am talking about.
It's always a bit daunting returning to the gym after a long sabbatical, and this time was no different. As I walked through the doors last week, I felt like all eyes had shifted my way, but I'm sure that in reality no one was was paying a lick of attention to me. I approached the front desk to show my membership card (NOTE: I keep my membership card on my keychain, thus creating the illusion that I work out so frequently, that I MUST have my membership card with me at ALL times). I was greeted by a very young, perky, smiley girl who was no doubt named Tiffany, Kaitlyn, or Amber. She looked very fit and healthy, and I knew immediately that she had more asparagus in her diet than me. She greeted me with great warmth, which meant that she was either really sweet, or she thought I was a new member, because in all the months she has been working at Gold's Gym, she has never once seen my fat face.
I started walking toward the stretching area, in the back part of the gym. At this point, I was struck at how adept we human beings can be at masking our true feelings. Inside, I was plagued with self-doubt as I strode past the rows and rows of ellipticals, hard bodies, and treadmills, but you never would have known that I was in the least bit intimidated. I strutted through that place projecting an enormous amount of confidence. Think John Travolta as Tony Manero in the opening sequence of "Saturday Night Fever." I could almost hear Barry Gibb's falsetto in my head: "Well you can tell by the way I use my walk..."
But in the same way that we soon learned that Tony worked in a paint shop for $2.25 an hour, blew all his money at the disco every weekend, and had the most dysfunctional family in all of Brooklyn, I too was about to see my wall of bravado come crashing down.
The stretching part actually went quite well. Back in 2003, I had worked with a personal trainer for about 11.7 seconds, and she had taught me some pretty good stretching techniques. It was when I actually jumped on one of the machines that things got interesting. Or pitiful, however you choose to look at it.
I made my way to one of the ellipticals, and made sure I chose one right in front of one of the TV's. I also made sure I was near the area where all of the boys lift weights . These two distractions, coupled with some fabulous hand-picked tunes playing in my head, provided me with just the right amount of entertainment. Said entertainment is necessary because the elliptical is quite possibly the most boring piece of machinery on God's green earth.
But great cardio, man.
I hopped on the machine with all of the aforementioned Manero-esque swagger I could muster. Before starting your workout, you have to program all of this personal information about yourself so it can accurately calculate how many calories you have burned. First on the list is ENTER WEIGHT. Usually the digital scale starts at 150, and you push the Up or Down button in order to get to your weight. I'll let you guess which direction I go in. This is always a slightly embarassing period of time for me because the numbers move rather slowly, and I feel like it takes me 12 years to get to my weight. For some reason, however, this scale started at 50. "Sweet Lord," I thought, "I'm gonna be here all night". So, I pushed the Up button and all of the sudden, it jammed at 59. Fifty-nine pounds.
Um, yeah. In my butt.
As I continued struggling with the machine, I just knew that all eyes were on me now. And I could hear what they were thinking: "Looks like Chub's first time on the elliptical." I wanted to scream at all of them, "I know how to do this! I ROCK on this machine! I raise the roof! I bring the funk!" But alas, Ellipticus Maximus Boringus would not cooperate with me. So, I finally conceded defeat, jumped off of the machine, and hopped on the one next to me. So frustrated, I sounded just like Napoleon Dynamite in my head: "GAH! This is RETARDED!" Fortunately, this elliptical worked fine, I began my workout, and life was good again.
The endorphins started kicking in right away, the boys lifting weights looked good, and my tunes were spurning me on. Then I started to notice that I kept getting looks from every guy that walked by. Lingering looks. This does not happen to me very often, so I began to wonder what this was all about. Was my figure already looking fabulous? Then a guy looked right at me, gave me the thumbs up, and mouthed the words, "I like your shirt." That was it! I was wearing one of my Beatles t-shirts! Boys always dig my Beatles shirts. Major dude-magnet if there ever was one. A modicum of coolness started creeping back into my consciousness. Then, my MP3 player started playing a Johnny Cash song, "Walk The Line." I couldn't help but sing along, "I keep a close watch on this heart of mine." A guy working out right in front of me must have heard me, because he looked up at me at smiled. Oh man, I am in the cool stratosphere now!
And then it happened.
"Walk The Line" drew to a close and my MP3, with its songs in alphabetical order, moved to the next song: "You Light Up My Life", by Debby Boone. "So many nights, I'd sit by my window..." And with that, my cool points went out the window. "You Light Up My Life" was one of the first songs I ever downloaded, because I love schmaltzy 70's pop, and that song was the first that I ever sang in front of an audience. Indeed, "You Light Up My Life" can still bring me to tears. That is who I am. Sentimental, simple, geeky, goofy...miles and miles away from cool.
I completed my workout shortly thereafter, and left the gym feeling great. Euphoric actually. I gave a wink and a goodbye to Tiffany/Kaitlyn/Amber as if to say, "See ya tomorrow kid." As I stepped out into the sun, I said a prayer right then and there, asking God to take away my ridiculous self-consumption and my silly insecurities, and to help me abandon all of my "gotta seem cool" efforts. I further asked Him to remind me tomorrow of how good I felt today, so that there would be no internal battle about whether or not to go to the gym. It is, after all, the right place for me to be.
And as Debby Boone would say, "It can't be wrong, when it feels so right."