This semester I waltzed into my college's Student Recreation Center (A.K.A the Rec) for the first time. Okay, I wouldn't say waltzed. More like I sat in my car for five minutes working up the courage to walk inside while my boyfriend patiently waited for me to meet him in the lobby.
I had already blown off going with him three times from the start of the semester. This was a big deal for me! Not only was it my first time going to the Rec, but it was my first time going to the gym...ever. I didn't play sports in high school, let alone workout. It wasn't until a health scare last year where I learned that working out and keeping your body in shape does more than just manage weight. According to MedlinePlus, it can improve your mental health and mood, improve sleep, strengthen joints and muscles, and reduce your risk of certain cancers (breasts, colon, uterine, lung).
The health benefits were the main driving force for my sudden desire to actually get fit. The muscle definition that comes with it was just a great bonus.
1. Entering the building
My first observations were the massive rock wall, the stench of chlorine, and Smoothie King. I was most excited about the Smoothie King because who doesn't love a good smoothie? My boyfriend was there waiting as I took it all in and confessed the knot of nerves writhing around in my stomach.
He didn't have much sympathy for me.
He's a regular at the Rec.
2. The weight room
I wasn't surprised at the loud music that leaned heavily towards the rap and pop genres, but I was surprised at the large, bright open space filled with rows and rows and rows of equipment, some even resembling modern torture devices.
Another surprise was the crowd. Instantly, I was insecure and self-conscious. I didn't want an audience watching me learn how to work out. How embarrassing! My boyfriend made me a workout plan and first up was barbell squats. My weak legs couldn't finish the 8 assigned reps and maxed out at 4. I was already feeling like a failure as I watched guys with bulging muscles lift two hundred pounds and girls in head-to-toe Lululemon finish their reps and sets with ease.
After the failure at the barbell squats, we moved on to dumbbell shoulder presses. I chose the 7.5-pound dumbbells and watched my boyfriend as he showed me what to do. Except I wasn't really paying attention. I was totally in my head; convinced that everyone was staring and judging my lack of strength.
As I absentmindedly attempted the dumbbell shoulder presses, my boyfriend gave me some tough love. He pointed out my insecurity and helped me to realize that everyone had to start somewhere. It was the fuel I needed to focus on the workout instead of those around me.
So, I stopped thinking about how others were viewing me and started focusing on how I was viewing myself.
3. Final impression
By the end of the workout, I was sweaty, my hair was a mess, and I was still in my cheap Target leggings and hand me down Adidas top. I had never felt more accomplished. I completed a full workout at the gym. I may have been using small weights, and low reps but I did it.
While the beginning was a little rough, I actually ended up enjoying myself! Shocking, right? What's more, I've actually continued to enjoy my workouts. The weights I use are still small but I'm okay with that. Eventually, I'll upgrade to heavier weights as I continue to make progress and build muscle.
Overall the experience was rewarding in more ways than I could have anticipated. I learned more than just HOW to work out. I learned how to listen to my body. I learned of my own physical strength and my inner will power to push through the uncomfortable.
Accepting myself at the stage I was at was hard but I was able to set a goal to strive towards. I feel great mentally and physically and I'm excited to see my continued improvement… not for anyone else, just for me