Friday, March 4, 2011

Getting past the fear

A few weeks ago, I wrote a somewhat pithy blog about excuses for not exercising. Today, I would like to delve more seriously into the excuse that is hardest to face, but I know from personal experience is the one that keeps fat people from getting out and doing stuff: fear.

I know when I first started going to a gym, I had more fears than most people have leg hairs (fear of having hairy legs was even on the list.) So, for those of you who are afraid to do anything physical (I'm not talking about running a marathon, I'm talking about walking into a gym for the first time or even taking your puppy to the dog park) here is a list of my real fears and the way I got around them:
  • Fear: Someone will call me fat or say something else mean to me.
  • The Reality: There are two points here. First of all, I *am* fat; it's not something that is exactly a secret. Despite societal pressure to associate being fat with being a bad person, the fact of the matter is that it just means I am fat. Not good, not bad, just fat. It's not a dirty or bad word. Having someone call me fat really isn't any different than someone saying, "Hey, you have blondish hair." They might intend it as an insult, but that is their damage, it's not mine, and I won't let it be mine.
    And second, and most important, I have been going to gyms off and on for nearly 20 years now. And never, not ONCE has anyone EVER been mean to me at a gym. Not even close. People understand that I am there for the same reason they are, for exercise. Period.
    (And just for the record, in the last 20 years, the only people who have given me crap about my weight were people who were very close to me. It's been my experience that strangers generally are not mean to me.)
  • Fear: People might look at me/talk to me.
  • The Reality: That's a possibility. People might also talk to me or look at me in a grocery store or a movie theatre. People are (in most cases) human and social interaction is part of being human. If you are out walking or in a gym and really don't want to be talked to, wear your iPod. I can almost guarantee though, once you are comfortable in your own skin you won't need that security blanket any more.
    One note though: I'm not saying no one will ever look at you or maybe even leer and give you the willies while you are walking or at the gym. It is a danger (especially for women) pretty much anywhere you go. This is a huge benefit of either walking in groups/with a partner or working out in a gym -- there is safety in numbers. No professional gym will put up with bad behviour from members, but again, I have never, ever had to deal with it. Another note here -- I have always gone to small local gyms -- I have heard that bigger places like Golds or World Gym tend to be meat markets and can be uncomfortable if that is not your scene.
  • Fear: I might get hurt.
  • The Reality: Yes,  you might get hurt out walking or in a gym. You also might get hurt driving to work, taking a bath or having dinner. You might also have a massive coronary sitting on your couch watching TV. The big advantage to starting exercise at a gym is they have trainers who can show you how to properly use the equipment to prevent injuries. But either way, we all take calculated risks every day. Not exercising at all is putting yourself at a far greater risk. And, (I promise I am not making this up) even if you do get hurt, after a while you will notice that if you are in shape, you recover much faster.
  • Fear: I will be the only person in the gym (or park where ever you choose to exercise) who isn't in shape.
  • The Reality: Unless you are going to a very very very small gym or park, there will be people across the entire spectrum of fitness, from marathon runners to slugs who have to take a nap after tying their shoes (aka, me when I first started:-))
    The thing is, you can't compare yourself to the people who are in perfect shape. I was not born weighing 240 pounds, and the people who I aspire to be like were not born with muscles and awesome bodies. It is actually a great thing that there are so many body types at the gym. One thing I have found is that I can learn from the people who are where I want to be (Alison, Dave, Derick, I'm looking at you:-)), but I can also teach the people who are where I used to be. Even if it's just showing someone how to turn on the TV on the treadmill, I can help someone on their way, and I feel good about that, it shows me how far I have come.
  • Fear: I'm never gonna succeed so why bother?
  • The Reality: Succeed at what? Seriously, this was the hardest fear to get past until I asked myself, "What is my definition of success?" Be in a size 4 dress? Weigh 90 pounds? Be 23 years old again? Those are the kinds of goals I used to torture myself with. I realize now that success to me just means getting off my butt and doing something every day. There are days I work out like a fiend, lift weights, put 3-4 miles on the treadmill and walk out feeling like wonder woman. There are days that I drag my carcass to the gym, struggle to walk 1/2 mile on the treadmill, and drag myself home. But the only days that I do not succeed are the ones on which I do nothing. To quote Paul Simon:

    "A good day ain't got no rain
    A bad day's when I lie in bed
    and think about the things that might have been."
This Saturday, March 5, is a walk out at TM Goodwin. Be there, unafraid!

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