Ever since The Personal Trainer moved away I’ve been obliged to work out at a gym and by myself.  Both are challenges.

Thanks to grade school ‘physical education’ I’ve never felt comfortable going to a gym. I was the kid who could not do chin ups. Next to the iron rod of doom was a poster with the words “10 chins on this bar makes you a star.” Everyone had a star – some of them with numbers into the 40s or 50s – but not me.  I was off the map with stars for ‘Number of books read’, but this stellar accomplishment did nothing to balance my reputation or satisfy class mates (some of them despise me to this day).  This neurotic wound stings every time I enter a gym: A little voice tells me ‘You don’t have the right to be here”.

Thanks to familiarity and some bulking up, I was beginning to feel more at ease in the ‘big boy section’ of the gym when it was sold to a larger chain. This obliged me to go to a new location. I admit the new place is much better. However, being ‘the new kid on the block’ evokes afresh the ‘chin ups neurosis’.  It doesn’t help the fellows working out at the new place are quite studly; they look like they live here. In their presence I instantly feel ‘Beyond Nelly’. I imagine I have a large sign above me – no doubt in bright pink neon letters. And it says “WIMP”.

The other challenge going to the gym unsupervised is following instructions. TPT sends me each week lists of what to do.  I print them out and take them with me. I often can’t figure out what the same heck I am supposed to do. TPT sometimes sends Youtube videos links to explain what each exercise is. I text him for more and more concrete instructions – even then I don’t always get it right.

For example: yesterday I was trying to do dumbbell presses with 50lb weights, lying head down an inclined bench.* I kept sliding down, leaving my workout trousers still up the bench, exposing my bright striped boxers.  After I figured out how to keep my pants on, only next time to slide – head first – down and off the bench, producing a loud ‘thunk’ as my head hit the ground, with my torso and 100lb pounds of iron on top of me. Mercifully only my L wrist was sprained. As I lay dying, assessing for damage and whether or not it was possible to just keep going down into a floor never to return, I imagined the butch types gathering around to snicker. I was first relieved, then annoyed that NOBODY came over to see if I was OK. I learned the valuable lesson the beautifully buffed men are too busy looking at themselves to notice me.

Nevertheless I will persevere. I will stake a claim at the big boy benches and feel right to be there.  I will even do ten chin ups on a bar.


*I later learned from TPT I was doing the exercise upside down. I mistook ‘incline’ for ‘decline’.  Oops.