For the past three weeks, I’ve been going to a personal trainer. I realize that’s not very long, but according to my muscles, it’s nigh near forever. I am not entirely averse to exercise. In certain contexts I like it — like when I’m playing soccer or dancing all up in the clurb. But when given the choice between working out and eating a taco, well, tacos win every time.
A few months ago, I got on the scale for the first time in years and it was traumatizing. I’m one of those people who goes to the doctor and specifically tells the nurse not to tell how much I weigh, because I’m super neurotic and will just fixate on it. That’s how much this crap bothers me. But this time I looked and discovered I’d gained an undisclosed but alarming amount of weight in the six years that I’ve lived in New York. What’s worse: I felt soft and mushy and lazy and just not comfortable in my own body. (And yeah, I know that’s not a ton, but it is kind of a lot when you’re only 5 feet tall. Oh, how I envy you tall ladies who can evenly distribute weight all over your lanky frames. There is no place for it to go on me.)
It was time for a plan. A plan I couldn’t avoid, or excuse my way out of. Luckily, there happens to be a personal training place in the same building as The Frisky, which meant I couldn’t legitimately argue that it was too far away (like I’d done so many times when I had a gym membership). It was relatively inexpensive (which meant I couldn’t bow out on budget), and each session was only a half hour long (so I couldn’t say I didn’t have enough time for it). I signed up, and now go three times a week and I already feel like things are a-changin’. Plus I’ve learned some pretty valuable lessons that apply to non-working-out life, too.
1. Being called strong is one the best compliments you can give someone. My training regiment is oriented around strength training and building muscle definition. During one of my first sessions, my trainer Meg told me that she thought that I was pretty strong, and that I had a good work ethic when it came to actually doing the exercise. It occurred to me that I’d never in my life been told I was physically strong. Isn’t that weird? I guess it’s not a compliment that’s on the top of the Lady Compliment list — pretty, smart, funny, but never strong. That was really, really cool, and I’m holding on to that to help get me through exercises I don’t think I can do.
2. You can be super skinny and still not be strong. I know this is like, Smart Fitness 101 but it never really clicked with me. Being model thin, and being physically capable are two very different things. I guess I never realized that until one of my friends who is what most fashion mags would consider The Platonic Ideal of Womanhood admitted to me that she couldn’t do a push up or run at all. I know that seems fairly obvious to most of you, but it was a big wake up call to me. I want to be strong more than I want to be thin — and strength is a way better indication of physical fitness than any number on a scale.
3. Working out is 50 percent mental. Sometimes you’ll think you can’t do something that you really can actually do. In order to do that thing, you’ve got to change the negative messaging in your brain. Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of doing crunch reps or something, and I’ll think, holy fuck this is the most painful thing in the world and I can’t do another one of these dumb, torturous things. But actually, I can. Actually, no one has ever died from doing one more crunch (I think). I’ve begun being able to tell myself a different message: “You can get through this. It’s only temporary.” And that helps me push past to get the job done.
4. It really helps to have someone there. Half of why I go to personal training is because I have entered into an accountability agreement with my trainer. If I don’t show up, he’ll ride the elevator up to the 8th floor and drag my ass down there. Consequently, I always show up, because the alternative is super embarrassing. Even if you don’t have a personal trainer, going with a friend who expects you to show up somewhere and do yoga or whatever can be super helpful.
5. Feeling accomplished can come from unexpected places. These days, it’s super exciting to me that I can lift 15 pounds on each arm. A few months ago, the best I could do was ten. Progress is slow and probably not noticeable to anyone but me (I really love feeling up my upper arm muscles like a weirdo). But it’s what keeps me motivated enough to get up and do it again.