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Unexpected Lessons I Learned at the Gym

I would say I am “mildly athletic.” I played sports in high school, got out of shape in my twenties, and discovered distance running (and by distance, I mean I prefer 5Ks to half marathons, but have done both and everything in between) before I had my first child. 

I managed to run the Army 10-miler between Kid No. 1 and Kid No. 2, but at this point I am a lazy, occasional jogger who manages to trudge through about two miles on my treadmill once or twice a month.
Anyway, my husband, the one who does PT every day and can take a month off and pick it back up like it’s nothing, always tells me I need to lift weights. To which I respond, “you need to lift weights” in a mocking voice, and walk away in search of a snack.
I have zero interest in actually lifting weights. However, I recognized that despite being at a comfortable weight, I am not in shape. I could use some firming up, and if I want to continue to eat Oreos, McDonalds and doughnuts the way I do, it wouldn’t hurt to mix it up a little in my “fitness routine.” 
 
That last line made me laugh. I have a private Instagram account, and it is silly how quickly I will dismiss the fitness journey (wo)men and healthy eating bloggers who request to follow me (obviously solely because they want me to join their horde of followers, not because they have any interest in my adorable family and silly antics.) If they read my bio, they would see that I am not their target audience. I have had enough acquaintances try to sell me on their shakes/plans/exercise programs, but I am honest, and say, “look, I don’t care about exercise that much, and I like doughnuts. Best of luck to you, but I’m out.”
 
All of this to say, recently I have started going to a gym. And by that, I go sometimes (not that often). Regardless, I have learned some valuable lessons. As follows:

Be Nice

First I decided to try out Pure Barre. I had no idea what to expect, but I ordered a $6 pair of sticky socks on Amazon and signed up for the free intro class. I found myself nervous as I entered the studio. It truly brought me back to that time in elementary school when I had to go to gymnastics and my BFF was home sick. I didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t even know what I was doing. However, as I was putting my stuff in my cubby (again, flashbacks), I turned to find a friendly face. 
 
“First time?  Hi, I’m Sarah. You’re gonna love it.”
 
(My BFF’s name is Sarah. Irony.) Anyway, Sarah does not work there. She was just another gal going to the class who had come to love it and wanted me to feel welcome.
 
You guys, be that woman. 
 
Just having someone sit next to and shamelessly look to for cues as to what to do was huge. However, I was laughing to myself as the class started. It felt like an “I Love Lucy” episode, and I wished there was a camera zoomed in on me for the benefit of laughing at later.
 
The warm up was kind of fast-paced and I didn’t know what I was doing. As it went on, I was able to figure out what to do and watch those around me enough to not feel like a total imbecile. It helped that there were septuagenarians in our class (our town doubles as a retirement community), so I was definitely not the least coordinated/athletic in the room. In the end, it was good, but just not for me for various reasons.
 
However, give it a shot. Plenty of my friends love it!
 
 

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask for Guidance

I heard about a local gym that did only drop in classes. This sounded perfect. I am not in a place where I want to commit to a gym membership because I am both cheap and lazy. With my work schedule (and constantly sick children), I don’t know if I will make it to enough classes to “pay for” a monthly membership, but I am more than willing to pay $6 to go to a class when it’s convenient and try out something new. 
 
My first class was “Abs and ASSets” and when I entered the gym, I shamelessly asked a very fit-looking woman in the waiting area who looked like she belonged there to help me. I recognized that there seemed to be a sign in iPad but I didn’t know how it worked or what room my class would be in. I later figured out that she is one of the teachers there, but that morning she was a participant in the same class as me. She could also probably bench press me. 
 
As we filed into the class, I was about 15 seconds behind the other 3 women, and they all seemed to know what they were doing. I started following them, but then they started shifting exercises. (There was no teacher yet. We appeared to be warming up.) Again, I just followed along, but then there was no (apparent) rhyme or reason as to who was doing what and when.
 
Why was A doing windmills while B was doing sit-ups, and C is already onto a different thing?
 
After a couple of minutes I noticed a white board propped at the front of the room with three warmup exercises listed. They were all following this, and I was, again, Lucille Ball-ing my way through like a confused little lemming. I was literally stifling my own laughter at myself and wondering if they were thinking, “what is this moron doing?” (Don’t worry, we were all facing an entire wall of mirrors, so if they were watching me, which is pretty unlikely, they surely noticed I was doing things in the wrong order.)
 
I had asked for help at sign-in, but when I walked in and realized I had no idea what we were doing, I should have just asked one of them. 
 

Embrace Your Current Status

In both classes (and in the few I have attended since then at the drop-in place), I tend to fall in the middle of the pack. There are clearly the participants who are regular gym rats and this their thing. I hear them referencing “cheat days” and realize we are on different wavelengths. Then there are the people who are struggling to keep up and taking breaks more frequently than myself. I like to hang with the latter, providing sarcastic commentary to get us through the class.
 
But with these wide ranging abilities in one class, it’s easy to just shrug and realize that everyone is running his or her own race. I am trying to get myself to a better place than I am right now, not catch up with Ms. Muscles in front of me.
 
(I mean, I wouldn’t be opposed to looking like the teacher does in a pair of workout leggings, but my desire for fast food outweighs my desire for a perfect rear end, so I know that’s not going to happen. And I’m OK with that.)
 
 

My Pelvic Floor Needs Work

OK, let’s be real here: babies ruin everything. (I challenge you to find an area of your life they don’t destroy.) But nowhere is this more true than your lady bits.  We all hear the jokes about peeing yourself when you laugh or sneeze, but it was never a problem I faced after my first. I mean, she weighed five pounds. She practically fell out. My second stressed my body, and also weighed a whopping seven pounds.  I assume anyone with babies bigger than mine and more than two children require Depends on a daily basis.
 
I had a relentless cough for about a month and suddenly I realized how badly my pelvic floor had suffered. However, it was when the cough was gone, and I was simply doing jumping jacks on what I thought was an empty bladder, that I realized I needed to look into pelvic floor physical therapy.
 
(Yes, it’s a thing. No, I can’t tell you anything about it because I just got the referral from Tricare, and they can’t get me in until July because apparently our community has a lot of moms with unreliable bladder control.) Stay tuned for a future post! 
 
For someone whose only form of exercise in the past decade came from running on a treadmill and occasional community road races, I am grateful to have found a new exercise outlet. It also gave me an excuse to buy more workout clothes, since my running shorts, race T-shirts, and running shoes didn’t feel like the best options for cross training. Pro Tip: TJ Maxx has great options if you are morally opposed to spending $90 on leggings for sale at your gym. Do you know how many doughnuts I could buy with $90?

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