I hate exercise. There. I said it.
More people in the post-agrarian United States are exercising than ever before: Crossfit, 24-hour gyms, yoga, hiking Meetup groups. They love all the sweat, torture, and challenge! A few months ago, I got into a kickboxing/Crossfit hybrid class, because Trump had just won the election and I needed something more physical than yoga to address how I felt about it. I had gotten into MMA in my early 30s and I was a serious badass. And I hated it. But, my calves never looked so good. Now, 10 years later, I thought it would all come back the minute I put my gloves on.
I quickly discovered that I hate exercise more than ever.
The first pulse of dread washes over me when I notice it’s 3:30–two hours to kickboxing class. I have two hours to either talk myself into going, or talk myself out of it. Most days, it could go either way.
The first round of arguments against vary: I’m sleepy, I’m hungry, I’m still stuffed from lunch. I have all this work to do for a client. I have to call my accountant. I have to call my mom. I just drank a cup of coffee and I’ll get a stomach ache if I’m hopping around with coffee in my stomach. If I manage to remind myself that really none of this is true and/or going to happen at 5:30 in the evening, I move into the argument for going, which is pretty simple: it’s good for me!
Every time I go to class, my body reminds me that I’m in my 40s, and it’s been 10 years since I worked out like this. I know the pain, the sweat, the movement is good for me. I know that if I keep at it, my joints will start to feel better as my muscles get stronger. I might even lose a little weight. And while everything about my health is picture perfect – blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol – doctors are always concerned about my above average BMI. Do they have to call it ‘obese’ though? Can’t I be just a little fat?
The introverted, self defeatist argument begins. It’s an hour till class.
I am going to make a fool of myself if I go to class. The gym is full of people I don’t know. It’s full of kids who don’t have filters or boundaries, who are going to stare and laugh when they see the fat lady flopping all over the mat. I am unconvinced by the fact that they’re in a class, practicing take downs or playing tag. They can see me. Their moms and dads are sitting in chairs that span the length of the room, supposedly watching their kids learn Jiu Jitsu. They have front row seats to the middle-aged, overweight, lumpy form-fitting gym pants, the gulping for air like a fish on its last breath, spraying sweat everywhere every time I punch a bag, swinging arm-fat, squishing belly fat, and I don’t even want to think about what my ass looks like shit show.
I convince myself that I am invisible; that my gym clothes have a high-tech cloaking device that makes me disappear when I walk into the gym. It is the only way I can walk past the front row seats and the swarms of children, into my own little zone of exercise hell.
The revised argument for going is that I’m starting to get stronger. I’ve started working out without my knee brace. I can do almost all of the exercises without stopping, now. My muay thai skills have returned and my form and technique are getting better every class. Sometimes, I even feel like a badass again.
15 minutes before I have to leave.
A friend suggests I start by getting into my workout clothes. She’s right – by the time I have wrestled the girls into a sports bra, I am committed. I turn on my workout clothes cloaking device and head to class because now that I’m invisible, I feel more confident in my ability to go. And, once I’m on the mat, there is no turning back.
I admit that when class is over and I’m drenched in sweat, doing cool down stretches, I feel pretty good. I don’t care if I’m invisible anymore – I look good sweaty, like I’ve been doing something to be healthy. I have accomplished something, and it’s not just the workout. I have won the internal battle too. And I am SO gonna be back for my next class. Right after a two hour conversation about how much I hate exercise.