Saturday, March 9, 2013

35 Weighs on My Mind

I just turned 35.  Somehow it is a much bigger deal than I ever anticipated.  I know, I know; 35 is not bad…but somehow…it is.  I have several friends who turned 35 this year as well and there seems to be a consensus.  Turning 35 stinks.  Turning 30 was not great but I still felt young, you know?  And every year after that I didn’t worry because, hey, at least I’m not 35.  I realize that 35 is not old.  Maybe it seems that way because of the next milestone.  Suddenly you realize that you will be 40.  In 5 years! 5 more years to be young!!!

  Something in my brain snapped the day I turned 35.  It finally hit me that I need to get in gear about getting in shape.  I’ve always wanted to get in shape…ever since I had kids it was always in the works.  Gonna get in shape.  Next month.

But I have to be honest.  I don’t like working out.  I’m busy.  And I definitely have a fear of working out in front of other people.  (I will not go into that because I can’t afford to pay you for therapy.)  So in all my not-so-sincere efforts to get in shape I used that excuse to keep from joining a gym.  I’ll just “work out at home” which we all know means…sweat to the oldies for two consecutive weeks with Richard Simmons and then stick the DVD on eBay for some other sucker.
You have to be 35 or older to ride this ride.

On the way home from my 35 year old checkup, where all sorts of geriatric words like “cholesterol” and “mammogram” were thrown around, I was feeling pretty freaked out . So freaked out that I pulled into a local gym. I presented myself to the receptionist and announced that I would like to sign up for a year’s membership.  The man looked me up and down, then very kindly suggested that instead perhaps I should sign up for December to see if I liked it.  If I did, we could go from there.  Ouch.  I told him to do whatever he had to do but I would be back the next day to work out.

I have to say, the next day I was seriously nervous.  This was not some old people’s gym or women’s only operation.  This was a real gym.  I envisioned being the only fat person in a room full of bodybuilders and supermodels.  That did not sound fun.  With my newfound 35-year-old maturity, I just sucked it up and went.  Suck it up, Buttercup, and do it.

   I did it.  I’ve done it almost every day since.  It’s been a process, for sure.  The first few days I think the staff was even concerned.  You see, I am not only overweight, I am also Irish.  This means that with the smallest hint of exertion, I turn as red as a tomato.  I noticed staff staying close by the first few days, finding things to do in my vicinity but eventually they backed off when they realized that I was okay, I just looked like I was having a heart attack. I have to say, it is not so bad.  It is in no way as intimidating as it once was.  It is actually kind of …fun.  (GASP!) 
That's me.

Along the way I’ve learned some things.  Having gone where few fatties dare to go, I feel the need to pass on some tips.  This way you can benefit from the gym without making the mistakes I have.  I know that some of you fit people may say these things go without saying.  Whatever.  This is necessary for some of us.

1. The people at the gym are normal people.  They are NOT all in shape and they are NOT looking at you.  Everyone has things on their body to work on.  No one looks pretty working out.  If you go about the same time every day, you actually tend to run into the same people.  I seem to average between 3 and 5 pm, much too late for the psycho early birds and too early for the pilates/piloxing/body boot camp crowd.  So after a while I started recognizing people who generally work out in that slot.  I secretly call us “The Rejects”.  I don’t think anyone (in their right mind) at the gym is looking for friends but we do tend to nod at each other as we go our respective ways.  I don’t know these people but I have made names for them all.  For example, there is Osteoporosis Grandma, Retired Cop, Latin Lesbian, Old Guy with Skinny Bike Pants.  There’s also Guy That Looks Like My Brother But Shorter, Cheerleader Who Works Out With Mom, and Slice Girl, who I do know from the local pizza joint.

And, of course I can only assume every gym has one, Creeper.  You know, Creeper, a slightly sweaty, slightly balding man who will look at 18 empty machines and get on the one right next to you.

All in all, not a bad crowd.  I do NOT want to know what name they call me.

2. Get good work out music but don’t sing along.  You have to have music to move to or you will find yourself staring at the counter on the machine wondering just how long 5 minutes really is and whether you truly are only burning 20 calories.  Because I am a mom to tweens, I listen to pop and I am not afraid to admit it.  Something important to remember, though, is that even though you can’t hear yourself singing because of the earphones, other people can.  And that might lead them to do the very thing you fight so hard against…they might LOOK at you.   I do okay with the not singing but truthfully, the thing I have to work on is keeping my facial expressions neutral.  People don’t hear what you hear!  Seriously, I will be zoned out on the elliptical and find myself getting very very serious because we are never ever ever getting back together! LIKE EVER.

Yes, I have seen a few odd looks thrown my way.

3. Don’t give in to peer pressure.  One of my good friends who works out regularly found out that I had joined the gym and offered to meet up so we could work out together.  That’s cool.  I told her to go easy on me because I was just starting out.  She started us off with a little move I like to call “Are You Kidding Me?”  where in we lie on our backs with weighted balls between our knees, then somehow magically put our feet on the floor over our heads.  Can you picture this?  Now picture me doing this. 

We lifted some weights and did 1000 lunges.  Okay not 1000 but seriously a ton.  I hate lunges.  It takes all the balance I have not to fall over and I know I’m supposed to tense some muscle up but I don’t know which one so I end up tensing everything in an effort to stay upright. 

At this point, of course I am sweating pretty hard.  But my friend is also 35 and she is fine (perhaps a tiny line of sweat above her lip) so I will not be outdone.  I want to show her some plie stretches my daughter taught me.  We did plies in every ballet position and inside I was happy because she was groaning as much as I was.  Then she said, “Those are good!  Let’s do 3 more reps of each one!”  This is my move that I do “all the time” so how can I say no?

I will not go into what we did following that because honestly it was a blur.  But I can say that I had to take Percocet for three days after that just to walk.  I learned that working out with someone else means that I will give in to peer pressure and that will hurt.  Also I learned…respect dancers!

4. Choose the machine by TV channel.  Our gym does not have machines with TVs attached so there are several TVs mounted along the walls with the closed captioning on.  Be careful choosing.  Even if you have headphones and music, we are Americans.  If there is a TV on somewhere, our eyes are trained to stare at it. There is nothing worse than getting into your workout on a machine and realizing that the TV you are staring at has been turned to the Food Network, or worse yet, Maury Povich.  As much as you try, as much as you shame yourself, you will not be able to look away.  You will have a sudden loss of control and you find yourself wondering how Shaniqua could not know who her baby’s daddy is and what made her four boyfriends agree to fly to wherever this show is taped to be screamed at.

CNN is my favorite.  I can deal with Fox News, which seems to be a favorite at my gym.  I find it a bit repetitive.  And I confess ESPN is not bad when you need to focus on something.  I am a known hater of sports but I have actually shocked my husband lately by offering my opinion on such subjects as someone claiming to be a better receiver than Jerry Rice and the likelihood of Manti Teo not knowing about his pretend girlfriend.

5. Workout bra ≠ any other kind of bra.   Guys, you can ignore this point.  (or maybe you need it, I am not judging)  But never having really done serious workout, I did not know just how necessary a workout bra was.  If you have DDs like I do, for your safety and the comfort of others, those babies need to be battened down like ship’s sails headed into a hurricane.  Otherwise, going over 1 mph on any machine is going to hurt and provide a show that really no one wants to see.

And while we’re on the subject of clothing…

6. Bring a change of underwear.  There is nothing like a hot shower after you’ve gotten all sweaty.  My gym has nice private showers and with the way I work out, I need one.   A lot of times, I don’t worry about it because I am headed straight home so I will use my own shower.  In life, as a woman, I am all about multitasking and so there are times that I have to go somewhere after.  Now, I know to pack pants and shirt because obviously I will not go out in workout clothes.  The underwear, though, is easy to forget.  And while there’s nothing like a hot shower after a workout, there is also nothing like trying to shimmy into sweaty panties or socks after you are clean.  (OK. Before you judge me, I want you to know that I am preemptively judging you.  If you are not so sweaty that your panties and socks need to be replaced after workouts then you are obviously not working out hard enough!)  Since this list is things I’ve learned, I will confess.  I have forgotten.  And if I were headed home, it would not be a big deal.  But if I were headed somewhere like grocery shopping or picking up my daughter from dance, I would have to go commando.   Now you’re wondering if the day we stopped and chatted in the store was that day.  I will never tell.

…On a side note, I will come out and say that women’s locker rooms are not what men imagine.  I have no idea what they picture happening but I can assure you that reality is much different.  Cute girls come already dressed to workout because they look so cute in their workout clothes that it doesn’t matter if they run into someone they know.  The only women you will see naked in a locker room are the ones that you don’t want to see.  Trust me.  Some things can’t be unseen.

All in all, I like working out.  It’s nice to take time for me.  I can forget about the myriad of things that need to be done by the end of the day and just zone out.  And while I don’t look like a model, I know I’m stronger and healthier than I was yesterday.  Most importantly, it makes me feel young!  So I do recommend it.  Just keep these hard learned tips in mind and if you see me there, feel free to nod but keep moving.


  1. Girl! 35 is beautiful! If only....annnnnd you make me want to work out! Love it and you!

  2. Brilliant!

    Remind me to tell you my 'tricks of the trade' for trail running. It lessens the embarrassment ... just a little