It was January 2019- prime "New Year's Resolutions" time- when I saw a friend post on Facebook about how this new gym in Garden City, Motivate Fitness, was offering an introductory 6-week program for new clients. Up to that point I had never belonged to a gym unless you count a long-since lapsed membership to Planet Fitness, another expenditure in a long line of money spent on fitness pursuits that I couldn't stick to and didn't pan out. The cost was more than I had ever put down all at once but I took the plunge. I hadn't tried anything like this before, and I was unhappy with everything I had tried up to that point in what was then my 34 years on this Earth.
I remember it poured snow the first morning I set out for Motivate and I got lost on my way there, owing to the weather and the fact that I hadn't spent much time on that side of town and the fact that the gym was so new they didn't have all of their signage out. It was 10 minutes past when I was supposed to be there when I ended up on a dead-end street, and as I stared out at the chunky snowflakes covering my windshield I contemplated bailing. Going home. Going back to sleep. Maybe I would go re-up my PF membership, and maybe somehow magically it'll be different this time around. Maybe I should do something else. Maybe I'm not cut out for this. I was on the edge of putting my car into gear to turn around and leave when I stopped and called Junior for directions- I had come this far, I might as well see it through for at least today.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I did get to where I was going. The gyms I was used to were big and shiny with lots of machines, rows of televisions mounted above rows of treadmills and so on- faceless places where you came in, did your thing and got out, maybe without even speaking to another person. When I arrived, I found a small group of folks working and sweating and pushing themselves in ways I had never seen at those other gyms, moving from station to station while high BPM music blasting in this simple, down-to-business workout space. I changed into my workout clothes and did my best to fall into the rhythm of the class. I huffed and I puffed and I did my best to keep pace with this body of mine that had not been pushed like this since high school.
In those early days I carried a great deal of self-consciousness. I was older than almost everyone in my group and I struggled with staying out in front of the workouts. I remember feeling like everyone else was on their water skis and I was being dragged behind the boat. But to torture the metaphor just bit longer, I at least was in the water after an almost full adulthood of sitting on the shore. I was proud of that, and that pride made me feel strong. And each day I hung on and finished the workout session despite being absolutely convinced that this day would be the day I would tap out, that the little voice in my head that said I couldn't do it would be right.
At some point, as the days turned into weeks and I had blown past that initial introductory program, a funny thing happened. I remember the day clearly- the session on that afternoon was a dogfight, and I was 2 rounds into a 4-round beast of a routine. I was face down, staring at the pools of sweat pouring off of me onto the mat over which I was doing burpees, my most hated movement. I hadn't even crested that halfway point and I was already so gassed, and that little voice came back as I struggled to push myself back up. The old doubts came back, the self-consciousness, that fear that today was the day I would come up short. As my cheeks flushed with equal parts anger and shame, I looked down at the sweat coming off of me and heard these words in my head, clear as a bell- "if I can't do it, how come I'm doing it?".
It wasn't pretty, but I did finish that workout and every one since then. And I discovered in that moment that not only am I getting strong, but that I am a lot stronger than I had allowed myself to believe. I may still huff and puff and even sometimes crawl from one station to the next, but I have stayed in it these three years since, those words echoing in my head whenever the day's session gets tough. And I have not only gotten better at form and technique and all those things, but I have learned a practiced grace when it comes to my body, reinforced by an incredible group of supportive people and instructors all huffing and puffing right alongside me. I let go of whatever shame I had about not exercising or taking care of myself in the ways that never worked for me, and in doing so I opened myself up to possibilities I could never have imagined that first snowy January morning.
I am so grateful to myself in that moment for trusting myself and taking those first steps on that journey. And if you are reading this and find yourself in the same sort of spot I was in, full of inertia and bewilderment and knowing nothing except that everything you have tried up to this point hasn't stuck, I challenge you to bet on yourself like I did and give Motivate a try. You might just discover as I did that you are stronger than you thought, that it's never too late to start, and you just might enjoy it. And I guarantee that if you feel like you've tried everything, you haven't tried anything like this before.