Does Everyone At The Gym Know What They're Doing?

Because I sure as shit don't.
Publish date:
January 7, 2013
the gym, anxiety, working out

"So, wait, I just put the thing in the thing and they let me in the thing?" This is me asking my boyfriend how to walk into a gym with my brand spanking new membership card.

"Um, yes?"

I haven't been inside an actual house of workout in perhaps a decade. That is hardly a humble brag. I'm 32 and it shows.

Case in point: Last week at a wedding back home in Los Angeles, the very first thing my best friends' mom, a woman who's known me since I was 12, said after not seeing me in about a year was, "So you've put on weight!" She actually meant it as a compliment. I downed my glass of champagne and replied with an impressively low-pitched, "Yes. Yes, I have."

But again, this isn't about my weight. I've managed to keep it somewhat tight these past few years, if not only slightly jiggly, by walking most places due to my lack of driver's license and eating like a wild animal -- i.e., meat, veggies and fruit -- or like a French woman. But whatever muscle memory my body had been clinging to like a physical mnemonic has gone the way of Aunt Sally. Basically she's been more than excused, she's been escorted out the damn building.

So now? Gym. And also crippling anxiety.

"You leaving already? Did you even work out?" That from one of the impossibly fit trainers patrolling the row of treadmills as if the folks stuck on that hamster wheel had no choice.

When I walked into the building for the first time, the plan was to just get a feel for the place. Basically I was casing the joint, making sure I could see myself among its rock hard groupies. Besides being hit with some of the worst-smelling air this side of my own farts, I was also struck with how "in the know" everyone seemed.

That's the thing that gets me most about the gym. The fact that everyone looks like they know what they're doing. I sure as shit don't.

As a lark I climbed on the elliptical machine I remember using once in a faraway land called my early 20s and was immediately annoyed with the disproportional shiny-button-to-instructions ratio. The thing was like a damn IKEA jungle gym but minus the helpful cave drawings. Instead of looking like a dummy (or worse a "January"), I just pretended to use it for a few seconds before hoping off.

Next up were the weight lifting machine thingies, which I just perused like an incompetent quality control inspector, never touching, just eyeballing. Then I hit the showers to see how gross they might be. A bevy of half-naked old ladies met me near the door and again I pretended to know what to do, that is stare blatantly, because boobs.

Resisting the urge to sit in the sauna for an hour and come back home all sweaty like I did something, I turned on my Niked heel to go. That's when the trainer man caught and shamed me. "Did you even work out?"

"I'm just feeling the place out, you know. I'm not sure if I wanna go here or the other location," I lied.

"Well, we're way less crowded down here. There are always machines available," he said as an advertisement, not realizing he'd probably sent me running (OK taxi-ing) to the packed gym just so I'd have a built-in excuse not to go. It's sooo crowded!

But despite all my readymade alibis -- I'm pretty fit! I look good for my age! Gyms stink! -- eventually I'll have to just shut up and do it. If not tomorrow, the next day.

What motivates you to work out besides living past 40 or whatever? I need some non-cheesy incentive to put my dog-walking sneakers to better use.