Please, Don’t Watch Me Sweat

This year, I’ve been on a bit of a health journey. Nothing serious, but just simply trying to make small, healthy changes. Drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising.

The last one is the thing I struggle with the most. I’m not a lover of running. I do not understand the running craze. People who love running are anomalies to me, though they seem to be occupying greater and greater percentages of the population for some reason. Just know this – If you see me running, then there is probably a child in danger or a mass murder following me. Those are reasons to run. My health? Meh.

I think its okay to not love every form of exercise. I mean, not everyone loves every sport – so why should I love burning calories in every single form there is?

Yet, sometimes I feel like this anti-running thing is precisely the problem. Surely, because I have no interest in running a 5K or mini or marathon or tough mudder or ragnarok thingy….surely, that’s not the reason I’m over weight? Right? Right?!?! Somebody, quick! Reaffirm me!!!

Okay, this is probably denial. I will admit it.

The truth is…I don’t like for people to see me sweat. Literally, even when I was in shape, people would comment on how red my face was when I exercised. The worst part is that it was usually one of those muscled powerhouses checking in due to liability.

“No, I am not dying, thank you. I am just part Irish and we get red in the face when we drink…and when we exercise, apparently.” I would say and then feel total mortification. I am a serial over-discloser. A “fine” would have been perfectly acceptable here.

I truly only have two memories of the gym/workout place that I enjoy. The first was when I lived at home with my parents. Maybe it was tenth grade? I had a gym membership and a license. Some mornings or some very late evenings, I would hustle to the gym and workout in bliss…I mean, solitude. Hmmm….

Solitude = Bliss

No surprise there! Perhaps my introversion extends to physical exercise too. It probably does, because I don’t even want my kids around when I get my sweat on. Though, in my defense, the eight year old tends to say things that aren’t so tactful. Like, “Mommy, why do your boobs jiggle so much?” Invariably, I end up screeching through gasps of air about not pointing at people’s private body parts. Then, the child will say, “Mommy, are you dying?” Because obviously, if I can’t talk due to exertion, then I must be dying.

Thank you, eight year old. You are a bright, shining ray of affirmation.

The only other time I have enjoyed working out was when I was at boarding school. I had a friend, actually two of them, who would randomly be in the gym when I arrived. Jimi and Shane. Both of these guys were hardcore gym dudes. What is a hardcore gym dude? Ummm….anyone dude at the gym more than I am.

Anyway, they were just these really nice guys who said nice things like “You can do it!” and “You are going to have abs like Shakira!” This sort of thing was really good for me. I did get pretty good abs by the time I hit 500 situps on an incline bench, but they were never near Shakira range. Still, the votes of confidence were incredibly appreciated.

So here I am, thirty-three years old, trying to like exercise again or at least tolerate it enough to be able to do it on my worst depression/anxiety days. I’m not sure that my depressive days are the problem though. The days I am high strung? Now, those are the days I struggle to exercise.

You would think that there is a certain level of energy surrounding anxiety. Perhaps I could just channel all of the angst into a turn on the elliptical or a few reps with the weights? One would think something like that if they didn’t have debilitating anxiety.

Now, I’m medicated so it should be fine, right? I wouldn’t say my anxiety is well-medicated at all. I could probably find something that works better or is preferred, but that is not something I’m ready for right now. Honestly, it took three years to figure out the medication for my depression. I really just want to maintain for a year or two and I’m giving myself permission.

So yes, when I workout, especially around other people, it usually goes something like this…

Anxiety Goes to the Gym

I walk into the gym. Someone makes eye contact with me. My brain cycles through whether they are thinking any of the following things…

“She is fat.”

“Bet this is her first day here!”

“Oh my god, why is she wearing that?”

“Oh my god, why isn’t she wearing (insert some item here – likely, a girdle)?

“Does she really think working out is going to help *that*?”

I scan my check-in card and turn towards the workout area. Five thousand machines are in front of me, as well as more people with eyes. My brain begins sorting the various eyes turned toward me – malicious or kind? Additionally, now I have these thoughts.

“Oh my god, which machine do I use?!?!”

“Which one is the furthest away from anyone?” (Because I can’t yet determine which eyes are malicious or kind.)

“Treadmill or bike or elliptical? Which one will I look less awful doing? My feet will be insanely loud on the treadmill, because of my poundage. The bike isn’t really full body exercise so the gym rats will know I’m a noob, even though my fat ass probably already gave it away. Eliptical it is! Now, furthest from anyone!”

Locating the elliptical, I hop on and try to get the thing going. It beeps loudly and I do this weird stop/start combo thing that probably looks like I’m having a seizure. Now,I’m thinking…

“F*ck!!! F*ck! F*ckity Fuck!”

“Everyone has now definitely stopped to look at me!”

“Yes, those are definitely malicious eyes!”

“Screw it, I’m just going to look like I know how to work this thing!”

I begin vigorously pumping my arms and legs, willing the machine to just cooperate. It does…sort of. Now, I’m thinking…

“Oh my god, is this thing set to mountain mode or something?”

“I can’t breathe….I can’t breathe…I can’t breathe….”

“What would my therapist say?!?!? Something about the moment….something about the moment…stay in the moment.”

“This moment f*ing sucks!!!! Damn it, therapist, why do I pay you so much money!”

“What’s that you say? Oh, breathe in/breath out? Do you see that I’m climbing mount Everest here? Breathing is a little tough right now.”

“Oh my god, I’m having an anxiety attack AT THE GYM! Oh my god. Oh my god…what do I do? What do I do?”

At this point, I glance up from the elliptical machine from hell and discover a floor to ceiling mirror. Said mirror reveals my bright red face infused with a mixture of horror and confusion, as well as the eight malicious sets of eyes looking at me.

“Who puts mirrors in a gym?!?!?”

“Hot people who are in shape and want to look at themselves – that’s who!”

“Damn, I’m not hot OR in shape!”

“Why is that hot, in shape lady looking at me?!?!?”

The elliptical decides that the warm up is complete and switches into actual mountain mode.

“Oh my god, oh my god. Malicious eyes. Malicious eyes. Mountain mode. Mountain mode. Can’t breathe. Can’t breathe.”

At this point, I decide that nothing is worth keeling over on the elliptical and being resuscitated by EMTs while the malicious eyes look on from their various perches in front of the reflecting glass.

Stumbling off of the elliptical machine, I beeline for the locker room, only to discover a naked, hot chick strutting her stuff. I pretend to be looking in a locker, even though I didn’t bring anything in here, because lord knows I don’t want to see *that*. Determining that I’ve stared at the locker for an acceptable amount of time, I rush out trying not to note how many people are probably watching me head for the exit.

I collapse in my car and notice that its 8:35.

I worked out today – for 7 minutes.

Solutions?

Well, after all of this reflection, I’m going to try working out at home. Did you know Amazon sells rowing machines, elliptical machines, stationary bikes, etc.? I put the power of Prime to use (shipping a machine to me definitely makes up for the yearly membership fee). I’m also going to listen to affirmations while I’m exercising. In fact, I’m actually considering having my husband read them while I record him. Things like “Your so sexy. Keep going. Shakira has nothing on you.” Ha!

Do I have social anxiety? Probably. Am I introverted or do I have social anxiety? No clue. It doesn’t really matter, as long as I don’t let it make my life too small…or my waist too large.

Candidly,

Ash

Debase Thyself Not!

Recently, I was in a meeting and was very publicly called out for one of my faults. As the words were shared, I felt myself folding inward. My posture slouched. I wrapped my sweater tighter around myself, as though it could shield me from the humiliation. I began ducking my head and looking out from the corner of my eye like a shy little child.

I felt small.

I stewed pretty hard on this humiliation for a good 48 hours. I pressed pause and replay, rewound and fast forwarded, zoomed in and scanned out, assessing the crowd. Then, a small inner voice said, “You don’t have to relive this over and over again.” And so I shelved that ugly VHS replaying in my head.

I sat still with the feeling only – humiliation.

I will be honest. She and I haven’t been best friends. In fact, if I were to describe humiliation, then she would not be a friend at all. She would be that overly friendly stranger at the grocery store. You know, the one who kind of creeps you out and that you awkwardly pretend not hearing. Maybe, humiliation could even be personified as the obnoxious DISH representative at the mall or Walmart – the one who knows you don’t want to talk, but still asks how much you are paying for internet/cable service. (**Side note: My husband cracks me up when these people ask that question. He says, “That’s none of your business.” Poor, unsuspecting DISH rep. I feel for you. I really do. Just not enough to stop and listen.) My point is that humiliation is one of those feelings that everyone wants to ignore, push away. Yet, it is still a valuable teacher.

As I sat with the unique, searing pain of embarrassment, I had to draw on some reserves, because I felt very overwhelmed. I tried to imagine what a therapist or wise friend would ask about my experience. The first questions were somewhat inane. Are you humiliated often? Are there certain people who humiliate you often? That sort of thing. Along the way, one really good question came up.

Have you communicated that it is okay for people to speak of you this way?

Pause. Long pause. Longer pause.

Not directly, but perhaps unconsciously.

You see, I am an expert at negative self-talk. I can wield it with the precision of an Olympic fencer. Here is what I mean…

I use my negative self-talk to let people know its okay to be real. They don’t have to pretend and no one is perfect. I also use it as deflection from scrutiny. For instance, someone who is annoyed with me might call out my faults and I instantly acquiesce, agreeing with them and perhaps adding to it. The other person is so dumbstruck that they sort of don’t know what else to say. It’s also an effective tool in becoming a pseudo-comedian. There are few people who do not relate to a good, humiliating story.

Yet, in all of this vocal, negative self talk there is a misnomer to my soul. Perhaps, but I’m not necessarily sure of this, I am inadvertently giving permission to others that they may speak of me in that way too. Now, I don’t really like to be humiliated by others. It hurts deeply and this begs a question. Why don’t I feel hurt when I talk negatively about myself to others?

I am numb.

Self-deprecation has been a shield from others at times, but it has also been a sword too. If I stab myself with a sword, then I prevent you from doing it first. The problem is…

I still stabbed myself. I am still bleeding. Maybe I don’t have the momentum and force that another person would, but I’m still bleeding. I still injured myself.

So this is something I’m going to be working on. I’m still not opposed to sharing my faults. Authenticity is still my cornerstone. I won’t use it as a tool though. I won’t manipulate it to gain friends, prevent hurt or shield myself.

Yet again, an uncomfortable feeling shows me the way forward. Humiliation, perhaps the most brutal of teachers, is indeed my friend.

Wow, I’m honestly a little freaked out about this prospect!

Candidly,

ASh