For several years now, the lovely chebbieanne (known outside the blogosphere as Cheryl) has been an active member of our little cyber community here at me-dot-com, leaving many comments and sharing many interesting, thoughtful and, at times, amusing insights. Well, as it turns out, Cheryl works not far from my office and trains at my gym. It wasn’t too long ago when I discovered that the ‘gym lady’ and the ‘blog lady’ are one and the same. Anyway, the other day I got chatting with Cheryl and felt that her story was one worth sharing and one which might resonate with some of my readers. So, in her own words, here it is…
Gymophobe: the person
Gymophobia: the condition
I enjoyed many blissful years of life in the fast lane. You know the one; fast track to a short life, working long hours, running a business, raising four children, eating whatever, whenever there was time, thriving on stress and being very good at everything. Or so I thought. Was it a problem being morbidly obese? No, not really, I just sat a lot because there’s always somewhere to sit. Moving my body around was a minor issue in my world. My time bomb exploded in the form of an almost fatal heart attack (the sort that only happens to other people). Four days in intensive care, a metal stent in my heart, the weekend off and back to work on Monday. Really (as Craig would say)? What was I thinking? Possibly, not much. Who was in denial?
My plan: lose at least forty kilos (88lbs) and get fit. Sounds simple enough in theory (yep, if only life was theory). My problem: how to exercise and get fit when walking about two hundred and fifty metres gives me chest pain and leaves me gasping for breath. Okay, exercise might be a challenge. My solution: find someone to teach me how to exercise (how hard could that be? – again theory is not real life). Resource required: Person with years of experience training people, the toughness of an elite sportsperson, the hide of a rhinoceros and most importantly the patience of a saint,
On the recommendation of a friend, the trainer was found. This was getting serious. First appointment made – at my office (in my comfort zone – insecure? who me?). For my initial assessment, the trainer arrives looking all serious and well, like an athlete. He has muscles like a race horse and in a very stern business-like way says “So, what can you do?” I reply “not much” in a little mouse like voice (where has my normal voice gone?) hoping against hope that he will just put me in the too hard basket and go away.
He calmly says “lets take some measurements”. My mind goes into overdrive with thoughts racing around like a rabid dog near water. Really, measurements? Can he be serious? I thought he was just here for a chat. I should add that most of these thoughts were preceded by some very crude words. This was already sounding like a really bad idea. The mouse voice says “if you must”.
He finally leaves but not before arranging another meeting which he calls a ‘training session’. A what? I feel sick at the thought. I console myself with the fantasy, that I could, with any luck, have another heart attack and cancel the session. Bad, I know. This was not going to be easy or fun, but sort of necessary, if I wanted to live a bit longer.
The first training session was, of course, at my office (first rule of combat meet the enemy on your turf). Tragically, the full scope of my ability (inability?) was soon revealed. Two squats on and off the couch and a few presses against the kitchen sink left me exhausted and mildly embarrassed. An attempt at dips on a step was abandoned when it became clear that my arse was too big or my arms too short (or both) to execute this move. Yes seriously.
Not one to give up easily, I persevered. Some progress was made and before long the trainer suggested going to a gym. ‘As if that is ever going to happen’, I thought. Gyms are for fit people who know what they are doing and who love exercise. I was not one of those people. They want to go to a gym and I most certainly do not. Ever.
With great reluctance, I did agree to train in a nearby park (a secluded park with no people in it). This continued for many months and then the gym word came up again. Clearly, this guy was not going to give up. “I will take you there just to have a look around and we will only stay a few minutes and then we can get a coffee” he promised.
I considered this dilemma: Coffee – good. Gym – bad. “Well, just for a few minutes” I agreed, trying to smile bravely and thinking only of the coffee. The day arrived and off we went. Now, I realise most people go to a gym to get hot, sweaty and puff a lot but I am way past this point before I even get out of the car. The trainer mutters assurances that this will be fun (for him maybe) as he propels me up the stairs. I stare blankly ahead, silent, sweating, terrified. Do I look afraid? Who me? I am tough. I have survived all sorts of dramas but I am way out of my comfort zone now and do I know it!
The rational mind says it is only a place with exercise stuff in it, while the emotional mind says run and don’t look back. Shit, I can’t run. I can barely walk. I am trapped and there is no escape. I freeze and shut down completely. I cannot think or move so I just stand there, stuck to the floor. “Come sit on the bike” he says, as he guides me in the direction of some piece of metal with a seat that I can barely see over. To this day I do not remember much of what happened next; I was told that I looked like an animal mesmerised by headlights and I made soft grunting noises in response to his questions. Later, back in the safety of the car, the trainer confesses that he has hurried me out because I looked like I was about to collapse. Really? What did he think I would do… the happy dance?
Well, that was three years ago and yes I have been back many, many times since. At first, twice a week, then three times and now five days a week. I have learned to do cool stuff, even leg press two hundred and fifty kilos (about 550 pounds for 3 sets of 20 reps). I have learned the language of the gym, lost eighty pounds and grown some muscles. I have made friends with the great people there too. I bounce in, all smiles and cheery hellos, aware that lurking beneath the surface the fear lingers. I control it now. No, I do not look into the mirrors and I usually close my eyes when I do stuff. I take my mind to another place far away, while my body works as hard as it can. I still have the same trainer. Will I always be a gymaphobe? Probably. Will I keep going to the gym? Definitely. Will I learn to love it?
Maybe not but I do love the results.