Yesterday, when I was at the gym, I overheard a small group of guys talking. Each one was trying to out do the other with tales of their gym activity. They compared weight lifted, reps done and several other gym related facts that quite frankly have no meaning for me. Plus, I wasn’t listening that long. I was mostly at the bank of lockers next to their group retrieving my things.
So it was only a walk by eavesdropping.
Besides what they were saying was relatively unimportant compared to what I was thinking.
Talk like that, or the thought of talk like that, once scared me when I thought of going to the gym.
My decision to lose weight didn’t start with me thinking I wanted to lose a few pounds before a high school reunion or an upcoming beach vacation. It started when I woke up, got out of bed and felt my knees and feet already starting to hurt from the stress of holding me up when I was halfway to the bathroom. By the time I reached the bathroom, I realized I couldn’t remember a day when my feet and knees didn’t hurt.
Once I finished in the bathroom. I made my way to the kitchen to put the coffee on. Before I set it to brew I decided I needed to finally do something about my weight and stop making excuses for it.
But that was easier declared than done.
Declarations are easy. I’d made about a million of them before. It was action that was needed. And action was terrifying.
I thought of all of the weight machines at the gym and how they resembled medieval torture devices. I thought of the people who routinely used them and how they all looked fit and trim despite claiming the need to lose weight. And I thought of the fact that the last time I dropped a pencil and it rolled under my desk I had to gt onto my knees on the floor. I recalled the fact that I had a very hard time getting back up off the floor.
No way was I going to a gym.
So I made myself a deal. I would start small at home and get my body used to moving again. When I felt I was ready to attempt the gym, I would. But I didn’t have to start out there.
So where did I start?
I wracked my brain for things I could do at home that required no equipment purchases. I came up with walking for cardio, but my brain also kicked up a bunch of floor exercises.
I know what you are thinking. Remember the dropped pencil, Mimsy?
I got you, just wait for it.
One of the first floor exercises that came to mind were crunches. I thought of the crunches and I looked at the floor. I pictured doing the exercises, then having muscle spasms and being stuck on the floor. I pictured medical personnel breaking down my door with axes (although I’m not sure why they had the axes. Perhaps they mugged a group of firemen on their way to my house) and hoisting me back to my feet with one of those harnesses they use for livestock.
Sometimes an active imagination is not a good thing.
So I wasn’t doing the floor exercises on the floor.
I may have issues getting up and down from the floor, but I had no problem getting on and off the bed. My knees could do that, in fact they did it every day. And the bed is a large, flat, if cushy, surface.
So I stretched out a large beach towel on the bed, moved to the middle and did a dozen crunches. I then worked through a mental list of other floor exercises like rolling to my side and lifting my leg up in the air. I even tried a few of the yoga stretches I remembered from long ago classes.
Some couldn’t be done on the bed because they required a more stable surface than my mattress could provide. But a fair amount of them could. By the time I ran through my list, I was sweaty and panting. I then took myself and the towel off of the bed, dropped it into the laundry and took myself for a shower.
Once clean, I made a list of the exercises I did and the number of times I did them. I was working on a three day a week plan so the next time one of my days rolled around, I did it all again. The following week I added a few more repetitions to the mix and kept going.
Eventually, my knees decided the floor was a place I could visit without needing an airlift retrieval system and I moved from the bed to the living room floor. Once comfortable and about fifteen pounds lighter, I decided to give the gym a try.
It was not as traumatic as I feared and for the most part I was ignored. I took my time familiarizing myself. I looked at a machine, studied the diagram plastered to the side and then attempted to use the machine. I think I did 3-5 reps on nearly every machine that looked like something I could operate on that first visit. I also scrupulously cleaned every thing I touched. I think I might have actually done more cleaning than exercising that day. But by the time I left, I was sweaty, my muscles felt like they had been used and I had a good idea of how everything worked.
Most importantly, no one mocked me for my low usage of the machines.
Sure, I still heard other people talking about how many calories they burned and comparing the efforts they went to with a note of bragging to the tones. There was a group of people there that day who were mid way into training for some sort of triathlon and a couple others who were preparing for a marathon.
But it was clear I wasn’t, and they left me alone.
My fears quieted and gradually I became used to the gym, even though it will never be the happy place for me that it seems to be for other people.
And I learned there is no shame in starting small. There is no shame in saying to yourself, ‘I can’t do that yet.’ Its not something that in general I like to admit to myself, that I can’t do something. But adding the ‘yet’ helps, as long as I was moving towards it. I said ‘I can’t’ many times before and then didn’t even try, which is what led to my issues in the first place.
By taking, ‘I can’t even get up and down from the floor to work out,’ and adding the yet, I gave myself hope that one day I would be able to. If I kept working at it. Twelve crunches while on the top of a towel laid out on the bed doesn’t sound like much, but it is better than no crunches. And it leads to fourteen crunches, twenty-five crunches and then being able to do the floor exercises on the actual floor.
Then the thought becomes, ‘Sure, I can do the floor exercises, but I’m not ready for the gym, yet.’ and since you’ve already knocked one yet off of your list, this second one comes with a heavier dose of hope. As do the rest of the yets on your list. I still have plenty of them to check off my list, but I know I’ll get there.
There is no shame in starting small. There is no shame in doing what you can do and working until you can do more. I know in a world with many levels of instant gratification this is a strange thought, but it is a true one. You can’t wish the weight off, I tried. No matter what infomercials tell you, there is not a pill or a cleanse or a magic bean that will make the fat go away either. Admittedly, I think the magic beans only claim to summon giants.
Which is a different issue all together.
Losing weight requires work. It takes effort and there is no shame in starting small and letting your efforts build up.
And anytime you feel like the small thing you are doing is too small, too insignificant to matter, just remember doing anything, no matter how small, is better than doing nothing at all.