Have you ever noticed that all the “experts” advocate finding some sort of exercise or work-out routine that’s “fun” to do, claiming that you are more likely to stick with it if it’s something that you enjoy?
Sometimes I want to strangle those experts. Because, really, how is sweating fun? How is that feeling, where your lungs are burning and your legs feel like jello, fun? Gasping for breath? Having sweat sting your eyes? Puking? These are supposed to be fun? Really?
I have briefly mentioned how my first time with the gym and a trainer this time around led to me puking. I’ve never been a puker. Even with all the cross-country I ran in high school and the fun, FUN times in basic training and AIT for the Army, I never once puked. So when I experienced this for the first time around two years ago when I started this journey, it was absolutely mortifying. Like, puke-all-over-the-wall-because-I missed-the garbage-can-when-I didn’t-get-there-in-time-and-now-someone-else-was-going-to-have-to-clean-up-my-disgusting-vomit mortifying. We hadn’t even made it out of the “assessment” portion of the session. I think the hardest thing we’d done up to this point was spend a few minutes walking on the treadmill.
So let’s just say that was ANYTHING but fun. I can’t even tell you how much I wanted to quit right then and there. I don’t know what led me to try again. Desperation probably. I NEEDED to be successful this time. I NEEDED to start feeling better about myself, get back in some sort of reasonable shape, and I clearly hadn’t been able to do it on my own. So I swallowed my embarrassment (instead of tacos) and went back for seconds.
And promptly repeated session number one. Puke all over the wall. Yes. Again. It smelled like the potato chips I had just stuffed my face with before showing up for the session.
Now, you must all be thinking that my trainer was totally sadistic, or I was just THAT out of shape. Well…I was just THAT out of shape, and maybe my trainer WAS slightly sadistic, but I think more than anything else, the reason I puked these first two sessions was because I was so nervous. I was so embarrassed to be there in my current condition. I was so embarrassed by how fat I had gotten. I was so embarrassed by how I could barely spend a few minutes (like less than 5) walking super-slow on the treadmill before I was out of breath. I was so embarrassed that I had let the fat-gain get so out of control. And I was so embarrassed that I was asking for HELP from a stranger to fix this.
It was pretty much my rock-bottom moment. I left that second session totally humiliated, sure. And believe me, I was even MORE tempted to quit than before, if that’s possible. But I had told myself I was going to do this three times a week, for 30 minutes each time, until I hit my goal. I had no idea what that goal was at that point, but I can tell you for sure that I wasn’t even existing on the same planet as it. So…enough said.
It would have been so easy to give up. To embrace the failure. To believe what my brain was telling me, “This time isn’t going to be any different than the million times before.” That voice was SO loud in my head. And I’ve never wanted to quit anything more in my entire life.
I knew what quitting would look like. Freedom to eat all the junk food I wanted. More weight gain. Bigger and bigger clothing sizes. Less and less mobility (I’d be that fat chick cruising Walmart in the scooter). Lower and lower self-esteem. Majorly deteriorating health. Eventual death.
So as the “just quit” temptation was dangling in front of my vision, I had another thought. What if I DIDN’T quit? What would THAT look like?
But I had a hunch that it might be better than quitting. Considering that the other choice was eventual death, I thought maybe—just maybe–deciding not to quit would be the smart bet.
And let’s face it. I’ve always been hella smart.
I decided, at that very moment, that quitting wasn’t going to be on the table this time. I’d quit a million times before, and the only thing quitting had led to was this crappy reality where I puked all over walls and could barely fasten my bra.
Turns out, it could hurt a lot. A LOT. My first two weeks in the gym were absolute hell. My trainer was actually really cool, and I know he tried to ease me into it, but I was just so beyond out-of-shape that it didn’t matter. The endless pushups and 20-mile road marches of Basic Training had NOTHING on my first two weeks in the gym.
I have never been so sore in my entire life. Like, combined. Each and every single time I needed to drag my butt—almost literally—to the gym, I was tempted to quit again. It would have been so much more fun to soak in a warm bath, or curl up on the couch and not move.
I was born with a really obstinate streak that can be such a weakness. It’s caused me to make a lot of bad decisions and mistakes in my life. However, very occasionally, this pig-headedness will rear up and morph into one of my greatest strengths. Funny how that works.
And that’s what it did for me here. By sheer force of will, I made it through those first two weeks. I’m pretty sure no one believed I’d stick it out. NO ONE. Not even myself. But I showed up at every session. I ignored the pain and soreness. I told the shrieking voice in my mind that wanted me to quit to kiss my fat butt.
And I survived.
The worst was behind me, but don’t think that after those two weeks, things got easier. Because they didn’t. I still wanted to quit every chance I got. I was still so tired after every workout that I wasn’t sure I could drag myself back to the car. And, more importantly, I was still fat. Really, really fat.
But I was also making progress. I wasn’t quite as sore as I had been. I was amazed that each physical challenge my trainer gave me was something that I could accomplish. There was NO failure here. Not once did I have to say, “I can’t do this.” And I started to notice improvements in my strength. I started to notice that it was a tiny bit easier to tie my shoes. And I started to notice that it took climbing two flights of stairs before I was wheezing all over the place instead of just one.
I cannot stress enough how important these physical improvements were in motivating me and keeping me going. I realized at this point that I was going to appear fat for a very long time, and that if I just focused on the mirror or what size my clothes were, there was no way I’d keep this up. There was NO instant gratification in my appearance or size, and using those things as an “incentive” to keep putting my body through the kind of torture my workouts produced, frankly, seemed ridiculous.
But the instant gratification WAS there in my physical ability and strength. The gains I made in this arena came so quickly that I was astonished. I did not turn into wonder woman overnight. Not even close. But I started to feel human again. My emotions stabilized somewhat. The soreness started to feel good in a weird way. And best of all, I started to feel hopeful.
For the first time in years, I had hope that I could change the direction of my life. I had hope that I could be better than I was. I had hope that I could actually accomplish something that I set my mind to.
It was a miniscule amount at first. A tiny kernel, really. But it was there. It existed. And that tiny kernel of hope felt like the brightest floodlight in my dark, lost existence.
Is exercise fun yet? Not even close. I still want to kick those “fun advocates” in the junk half of the time. I can’t sit here and lie and say, “Oh yes I just LOVE exercise.” Maybe I’ll never get to that point. Maybe I will. Does it really matter?
Fun has zero bearing on why I’m still doing this. The bottom line is that I have made a decision. A commitment. And I still have a lot of days where I’m tempted to throw in the towel.
On those days I think about those days of puking on the wall at the gym. I think about how far I’ve come since then. I think about the fact that this isn’t a race, and that whatever time it takes for me to hit my goal is whatever time it takes. The important thing is that I don’t give up. I stumble. I backslide. I get lazy. I cheat. I avoid the scale. I eat junk I shouldn’t. I skip workouts. I hit snooze on my alarm. I play “Let’s make a deal” with myself. I spit out all kinds of lame excuses. I get injured. But I don’t quit.
That’s the difference between this time and all of the times that I’ve done this before. And that’s the ONLY reason that I’m going to be successful this time. Because I’m not giving up.