Growing up as girl (turning woman) has never been simple. There are rules you live by that others don’t, and most times, there’s a lot of judgement geared towards you. I’ve learned to work around those rules, when I can, and soldier through the times that are just beyond my control. It never felt as much of a man’s world until I set foot in the bright, air conditioned, slightly smelly gym.
As soon as I walked in, I knew I was out of place. There’s something about the vast brightly lit glassy interior that makes you think I don’t belong here.
I sit and wait on a couch for my partner to come out. Most of the magazines are Men’s Fitness. According to my friend, there is one Women’s Fitness lying around somewhere. So props for that. The only women around are either working the front desk, with judgemental tones that do nothing to ease my nerves, or working a counter where you can buy some healthy stuff to feel like a better human being.
I am neither of those women.
I am out of shape, confused, anxious and extremely out of my comfort zone.
We move into the gym anyway. We start off with the treadmill. Walking, that should be easy, right? Wrong. Treadmills are weird and have a lot of buttons. As much as you tell yourself the carpet will move soon, you will be jolted into a panic once it actually rolls. Two minutes in, I’m getting the hang of it and my nervousness has now migrated to a new victim: the people.
I live in a country where testosterone and sexual frustration cling in the air like your aunt’s thick old perfume and this luxury room full of metal was no exception.
The guys look at me like I’m an exotic animal on display. (I’m looking at you guy in the grey shirt who insisted in following me not-so subtly across the gym). I’m not a humble girl, but let me tell you, there’s not much to look at when I’m in a loose shirt and leggings. Not to mention beads of sweat acting as my highlighter.
My partner, who is ever kind and patient, (I know you’re reading this, so know I appreciate you), tries to walk me through different “moves”. We start off with what he thinks is an easy machine for me. Keeping in mind my horrible dread of being watched, he tries to find a machine where I’m not on the front lines. He doesn’t know this, but gyms are designed so that you’re always on display.
So this “secluded” machine was right in front of a giant mirror that reflected into another one. Gray shirt dude conveniently had full access to my reflection. My nerves were on edge. While I was being demonstrated how to work my chest muscles, I was debating if being healthy is really worth it.
My “coach” for the day finally manages to convince me to try a weird pushing and pulling maneuver. He almost succeeds until I find out that you have to do “reps” and “sets”. If anyone doesn’t know what that means (like I did), it means you do an exercise a bajillion times then you repeat.
It’s safe to say I wasn’t having it.
Then comes the complicated machines. Although my partner swears “it’s actually easy”, when he demonstrates a lot of pulling, my mind blanks. All I say is, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
The worst part is I felt like shit. I felt incompetent. Helpless. And worst of all I felt like a quitter. A failure. I, Helen who tries everything and figures out, failed.
And because I’m not a quitter, I decided to try it one more time, but this time, on my terms, (which means just treadmills). At least, I will eventually.
3 out of 10 Helen’s would recommend.