Annnd we’re back! Sometimes life takes over and leaves you in a position to prioritize. For the last few weeks, work has grabbed hold of the both of us, and likewise, we found refuge at the gym. As new members at our respective areas of exercise, we each encountered some version of personal empowerment and unsolicited support.
I’ve never enjoyed going to the gym—a distaste that began as a young girl routinely picked last for kickball. Sacrificing recess to sing in the chorus, I was always more of an “artist” anyway…but alas, my young body would eventually change and, with puberty, my voice training and physical training weren’t interchangeable.
In my 20’s, working out was no longer avoidable. Because I wasted my compulsory gym hour in high school, and my free-form schedule during college (dancing on bars counts, right?), I would have to teach myself good habits. I had to opt in, both mentally and physically.
I tried a string of gym formats, including the women’s gym—where I was yoga-molested mid-class by my spandex-wearing male instructor–but nothing stuck. Maybe it was that early gym-class rejection or the touchy-feely yogi that made me feel vulnerable.
Fast forward a few years, and a relocation from NY to LA, add in the sedentary LA lifestyle where a mid-day hustle is replaced by a car ride up the block, and I can no longer fit into my jeans. I can’t blame puberty or the freshman fifteen anymore.
I just moved into an apartment complex with a free gym (SCORE!) leaving me 0 excuses for not getting back down to pre-In-N-Out weight. I had a girlfriend get me started and amazing personal trainer-turned-life coach convince me that I’m not trying to impress anyone and just getting my ass there is enough. Hell yeah! I’M GOING TO THE GYM!
But a success story this is not!
Month two and I’m feeling good about myself. I’ve mastered my best “don’t talk to me” face, I’ve figured out a routine, and I’ve created the perfect cardio/weights playlist. I’ve also discovered that 9pm is the magic hour, as the gym is practically deserted.
That didn’t last. I was approached late one Friday night.
While crunching my legs on the chair-leg-raiser machine, I was interrupted by a light touch on my arm. A man stacking approximately 4 feet 10 inches stood before me explaining that I was using the machine improperly. I took in this scene, still in shock at the physically touch of a silk-skinned stranger, when I noticed his 2-sizes-too-big jeans, cinched at the waist by a leather belt. I noticed the wrinkles around his eyes and on his fingers and recognized the familiarity of his touch was that of my grandmother. I was till absorbing as he told me about a 20-minute workout that would have me “toned in no time!” He offered to teach me how to work out. 😐
I was mentally at war. One side of me thinking, “Please leave me the fuck alone,” the other thinking “Aw, if my grandma was at the gym, she’d touch/talk to strangers. I’d want someone to be nice to her.” So I let the conversation go as he weaseled personal details out of me. I let it go as he insisted that we be gym buddies and suggested I put his number in my phone. I followed his instruction as he told me to dial him now so he’d have my number too. I also let it go when he rubbed his hand up my arm, the arm I was pretty proud of, telling me he can teach me how to tone 😦
He pick-up artist-ed me. Big old grown up me got swindled by an old man at the gym. Even in his old age, he was able to take advantage of my stupid vulnerability. I growled at my personal disappointment as I walked home that night. At least the call didn’t go through.
Wrong. 11:30 pm, the texts start coming.
“Ode to Women’s Gym”
Fat shorts from the Nike outlet: check.
Thanksgiving 5K walk t-shirt: check.
Inspirational rap playlist: check.
Racing through my mental checklist, I Tokyo-drift my Honda Civic into the Vons parking lot, park abruptly and speedwalk into my personal heaven that is the Women’s Gym.
I triumphantly greet the receptionist and sales woman who roped me into a membership (you saved me, Linda), breeze past women air punching their problems in Body Attack, and others using their newborns as weights (really, it’s a thing!). I enter the locker room full of half-dressed elderlies who confidently don’t care about anything. I can’t wait to be that happy to hang out in my underpants.
Emerging from the locker room, I look around at my fellow women, baggy t-shirts and stretch pants abounding, and I know that these are my people. My ladies. We’re in an oasis void of seniors who have ‘committed their retirement to triathlons’ and meatheads who’s body grease is either gallons of sweat, or literally, grease. I spent years working as a pool manager at an unprogressive Family Fitness center, wasting a majority of the summer getting sun chaffed and teaching toddlers how to float. I miss nothing about the tea tree air cloud of the sauna hallway, nothing about the weight room that had more mirrors than a fun house.
The women’s gym is a haven where patrons come to trim the for-sale-sign arm flab into a tight Rolodex, thus continuing the collective goal of all women to animorph into Michelle Obama. We wear what we want. Heck, I saw a woman wearing jeans today. Jeans! Let’s face it; black stretchy workout pants are makeup for your thigh sacks. And you know what the Women’s Gym says? Let it all hang out.
Getting home after a workday is synonymous with being blacked out; if work is alcohol, finally getting home is the sixth Irish Car Bomb. As long as the Women’s Gym sits strategically in the Von’s strip mall on my route home from work, I’ll still fit in my freshman year of college pants.