If my middle school self (or even my high school self) met my current self, I don’t know if my past self would recognize my present self. Though I still read the same books, watch the same movies, and though I still like writing and art and things like that, a part of me has changed in a pretty fundamental way.
I actually work out. Even more importantly, and more weirdly, I actually like working out. I go to the gym at least four times a week – lately, it’s been more like five times a week – and I own a Fitbit, for god’s sake. A few years ago, I never even considered stepping foot in a gym, and I never needed nor desired to own an activity tracker.
In middle school (and high school), I was always that one person who trailed behind the pack in gym class and totally and completely sucked at every sport. I dreaded gym class. I was never good at any part of it, and never really wanted to be, either. I was lazy, I hated working out, and I would become out of breath after a few seconds of jogging. Physical activity just wasn’t my thing, and I never really thought it ever would be.
My past experiences (or lack thereof) with gym class make it even more weird that I now have a gym membership and now feel like I can never own enough workout clothes.
So how did this happen? What changed?
In April or May of last year, my best friend asked (more like told) me to go to the gym with her one Saturday afternoon…. And then I declined, saying I had too much homework because I was a full-time college student at the time so of course I always had an endless list of assignments to complete. So, anyway, I declined, but I relented and said I would go with her the following Saturday. So one Saturday in April or May of 2016, I went to the gym for the very first time. And I was so so so so scared. I felt so awkward and out of place and I felt like I didn’t belong there. But my friend worked out right next to me, and she convinced me that no one was negatively judging me, and that, despite how sore and out of breath I was, my body would be thanking me soon.
The next day I woke up and felt like my entire body got hit by a truck. You know when people are sick and complain that it feels like they got hit by a truck? Well, they were all lying. Try being completely and utterly physically inactive and then go do a moderately intense workout at a gym for about an hour and a half. That is what getting hit by a truck feels like.
The day after my first gym session, I was so sore I could barely walk up or down stairs. I couldn’t really move any part of my body without feeling sore. I had no idea how people who went to gym all the time lived like that?? How could they possibly deal with being that sore?
I was incredibly sore for – I’m not kidding – about a week afterwards. But after my soreness subsided, I felt better. Stronger. So then I began going to the gym on Saturdays with my friend.
Then, one day in July of 2016, I got my own gym membership. And I began going to the gym on my own.
Getting a gym membership was a huge turning point in my life. I went from never exercising, and hating the thought of any physical activity, to joining to a gym.
And now I love working out. I love going to the gym, I love using the Stairmaster, I love picking up heavy (for me) weights and then putting them back down again. As gross as this sounds, I love seeing my sweat drip onto the floor of the gym and feeling it slide down my face. And I love finishing off a workout super strongly and then stepping off a machine and feeling like I conquered it, like I conquered myself.
Going to the gym makes me feel strong, it makes me feel better, and it makes me feel alright. It’s not just about looking better, it’s about feeling better. Working out clears my head and puts all my stress and worries into perspective. There are days where the gym is the only good part of my day, and the only part of my day that I look forward to.
Now that I’ve been going to the gym consistently for quite a while, I cannot imagine going back to how I was in middle school and high school. That inactive time of my life is over. Even so, I still find it difficult to think of myself as a “gym rat” or someone who is even close to being considered “athletic.” I still think of myself as the same lazy person I was in middle school and high school, and I don’t really know when I’ll be able to look at myself in a different light.
I’m not where I was, but I’m still not where I could be. So I guess all I can do is just sweat out my doubt and continue on, ceaselessly, until I am stronger than I ever thought possible, until I have nothing left to conquer.