Let’s talk about why middle school has kept me from ever joining a gym

Let’s start with the minor problems of being in a gym, all of which can be summed up with the phrase “other people.” Subsets include:

  • Other people can see you working out.
  • Other people can see how long you’ve been working out. Or not.
  • Other people can see it when your arms or legs get all jelly and shake. 
  • This basically recreates a terrible moment for me from middle school, when we were doing the Presidential Fitness Test. You could either do pull-ups or you could do this terrible thing they’d devised for those of us too weak to ever do a pull-up, called the flexed arm hang. Where you held onto the bar in a “pulled up” position for as along as possible and your tiny female gym teacher with the scary dyed red hair timed you, counting the seconds out loud so everyone could hear, just in case they weren’t capable of counting to “17″ on their own.
  • Anyway, at about second 11, my arms started to shake so badly that I actually heard someone in the crowd say, “Look at her arms shake!”
  • Hahaha oh god I’m still proud that I didn’t cry. 

In middle school, I wasn’t actually in all that bad of shape. When I was a kid, I played sports. For some reason people who have only known me as an adult in social situations are amazed by this? I guess because I tend to act horrified when people talk about throwing themselves face-first down cliffs? 

And I do get nervous about signing up for backpacking trips into backcountry with random people who do that stuff all the time, saying yes to boating expeditions into the Arctic North to hunt great white whales…

What if they make me do a flexed arm hang?

I, like a lot of people, quit playing sports when I hit college, and now that I’m an adult, I’ve lost some confidence.

It’s not all psychological: it turns out it’s true that if you do nothing but read books for several years, you get sort of winded and dizzy when you try to hike in 97 degree heat, and end up sitting with your boyfriend’s grandfather in the shade instead of walking on a gently sloping trail. I HAD AN EAR INFECTION. Let’s not talk about it.

Ok, so now I’m trying harder. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I hate running– but perhaps you’ve also inferred that now I do, in fact, go running. I’m not a good runner but I am stubborn. 

I run slowly and for short distances. I run outside, which is great for several reasons:

  • It gets me outside, which gets me light. I live in Seattle. Even if it’s cloudy, being outside for half an hour gets you your daily dose of Vitamin D. Really. I read about it. 
  • I can run with my dog. Sometimes she sucks though. When she gets tired or bored, she does the pee fake-out, where she pretends to squat so I have to stop. Which I love because it’s a great excuse to stop I resent because I love running so much
  • It solves the “other people” problem. You may not think so, since typically “other people” are allowed to walk around outside and use public spaces, etc. but here’s the thing: if I’m running, and I pass you, you DON’T KNOW how long I’ve been running or how far! I might be running this slowly because I’m warming up for my marathon training, or cooling down after a 10 mile sprint. I might be recovering from double-ACL surgery after doing a Sahara 100 mile race that I won, and just getting back into it. YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE. 
  • Whereas if I’m in a gym, you can see me get on the treadmill and pant and gasp and trip over my shoelaces and sit down and get whizzed off the conveyor belt in a heap. 
  • Here’s the issue: it’s really, really cold outside.

The major problem with being in a gym:

  • Something about gym machines makes me illiterate. I have a graduate degree in reading, basically, and whenever I look at those instructions, all I see is landing directions for a spaceship written in Cyrillic. 
  • It’s like when my friend was putting together a piece of Ikea furniture and loudly protested, “THE PICTURES ARE IN SWEDISH.”
  • And the penalty for getting the machine instructions wrong is breaking my spine. And then having to do a flexed arm hang in front of my crush while worrying about whether or not people were making fun of me for not shaving my legs yet while a math test looms in half an hour.

I was also bad at the V-sit and reach. Which is just mean, to have that double-whammy. It’s a wonder I’m allowed to vote in this country at all.