About 2 months ago I plucked up the courage to join a gym.
I haven’t exercised in over 15 years, & my body has taken huge strain. Having Myasthenia Gravis meant that I couldn’t exercise, as stimulation of the muscles meant that they were weaker overall & it could even affect my lungs & breathing. Well-meaning people would say I need to get fitter, or lift weights in order to try strengthen my muscles, but it just isn’t possible with MG. It is a very frustrating situation to be in, as we all know the importance of exercise as well as the associated endorphins.
But now, with my second chance at life causing me to jump out of bed every morning & be excited to see what I can do today, I knew that I needed to lose weight in a healthy manner & start caring for my body the way it deserves.
Starting at a gym terrified me. There are super fit people there & I was so nervous that I would be judged for the way I look, my inabilities & just because I am the newbie. But I put on my big girl panties & headed to Virgin Active Cedar Square – it is close to both home & work, & I immediately got a good vibe from the staff when I walked in. They were welcoming, kind & made me feel so comfortable.
I had no idea what to do on any of the machines, so decided to ease into this journey by trying out some classes. There were so many to choose from – dancing, boxing, yoga, pilates, The Grid, spinning… How would I know what I would actually like? And would I stand out like a sore thumb in the class?
First up was boxing… Oh boy! I huffed, puffed, groaned, grunted, sweated & wanted to cry – that was just trying to fit into my tights in order to get to gym. I didn’t have proper takkies, & had to wear a t-shirt I had been sleeping is as I literally had no active wear. I didn’t want to spend unnecessary money if I didn’t enjoy this fitness journey, plus my goal is to lose weight so I didn’t think it was worth buying clothes that would (hopefully) be too big for me.
Arriving at the gym, I swiped my card & made my way to the room in which the class was to be held. There were a few other women there & I looked around nervously. Not one of them greeted me. They acted like I didn’t exist. Running around the room as part of the warm-up, I had to keep taking breaks & sips of my water. I explained to the instructor that I was very unfit & hadn’t exercised in some time – he was so understanding & spent extra time helping me with every exercise to ensure I was doing it correctly to prevent further injury. But I was put off by the eye-rolling & judgement coming from some of the women in the class. They made me feel self-conscious & embarrassed. I couldn’t wait for the class to be over & ran out at the end before jumping into my car & letting a few tears escape down my cheek. What was I doing? I wasn’t ready for this.
The following week I decided to try dance class. I had done competitive dance before I was diagnosed, & had always enjoyed moving to music – it brought me so much happiness & transported me to a better place.
As I walked into the room, I saw the same woman that had been at boxing. My heart sank. But she ignored me & acted like she hadn’t seen me. Perhaps she didn’t remember how terrible I was, or maybe she was just so caught up in her own world?
Dance class was everything I could possibly dream of & more. The instructor was so full of life & made me feel so welcome. She was beautiful inside & out, & didn’t pick me out in front of the others for not knowing the movements. She laughed & I left feeling on top of the world.
This first class was over 2 months ago, & I have been going on a weekly basis. It is my pure escape & something that I look forward to every week. I love the feel-good vibes. I am still catching up to the others that have been going for ages, but when I look back on the fact that I was walking with a cane this time last year I am FLIPPING PROUD.
But this woman & her cronies… Gosh. She is literally destroying my enjoyment & happiness, & I even skipped dance class this week as I couldn’t handle having to deal with her. I feel like I am back at high school, & there are the “cool kids” in the corner of the class room who are judging me. I feel like I will never fit in, or really be good enough. I hide away in the corner, & always stand at the back of the class so nobody will see me. The enjoyment of the class is totally destroyed by the fact that I feel like I don’t fit in & that they are judging me.
This past weekend I took my sister to gym with me as they had an open weekend. She commented on how friendly all the staff were, & we both love the fact that they know me by name & make everyone feel so welcome.
And then, can you believe it, THE woman came to the same class I had signed my sister & I up for. Now, I am not your usual lady at the gym. I still don’t have much hair. I wear crazy tights. I laugh out loud when I can’t do something. But yet this one still acts like she has never seen me. I was standing at the entrance when she walked in, & offered a nervous smile. She looked at me & immediately looked away – pretending she had never seen me. Weird right?
Then helping the instructor set up the equipment for the class, we were standing next to each other. I thought I would try again – my mum has instilled good manners in me & has always encouraged me to be friendly. I greeted her. She looked at me like I was poop on her shoes & walked away. My sister noticed this interaction & reminded me to be the bigger person. I think if she hadn’t been there with me I would have immediately walked out & probably shed a few tears on the way.
It took a lot of guts to join a gym. I know I am overweight. I know I am unfit. I know that there is a LOT of stuff that I cannot do. I don’t have a workout buddy that I can go to gym with, & have had to step out of my shell to make friends at the gym.
There are some wonderful ladies at the gym that greet, encourage & support one another – but there seems to be this nasty little clique that cuts through to your core & reminds you that you will never really be good enough.
I don’t know if I will go back to dance class. It really upsets me, but I just can’t deal with being made to feel small, insignificant & not good enough by other women who are there. I am better than I was this time last week – better than this time last month – & a whole new person compared to who I was this time last year. But I will still never measure up to anything compared to the “cool kids”.
My personal trainer, Zander, is one in a million & really encourages me on a daily basis. He shows me I can be strong. He shows me I can be a fighter. But then I walk into a class with the mean girls & I lose all of that. I lose myself. I become that little nerd from school who didn’t fit in & my insecurities are front & centre.
I just want to remind everyone that you have no idea of the battle that people are fighting. You don’t know what is going on at home. You don’t know what medication they are on that has caused them to gain weight. You don’t know if they had an accident & haven’t been able to exercise in some time. You don’t know what they are feeling. You don’t know if your smile could brighten their day. You don’t know if your snotty, judgmental look could completely ruin it.
It costs you nothing to be kind. It takes nothing to be kind & welcoming. But it can be the turning point in someone’s life.
So if you are this woman, please #ChooseKind. Please don’t make others feel like they will never measure up to you. Please just smile at me & others like me. At the end of the day we are all people & we deserve mutual respect & love.