The other day I was doing laundry and I caught my reflection in the glass panel of the front-loading washing machine. My calves and knees had exactly the shape and tone I had always aspired to have. I paused, I posed, and I admired this unexpected representation of self. Then, not believing my eyes, I moved closer and dragged my fingertips across the glass. It had to be concave or angled. There was no other explanation. Except it was perfectly flat.
A few days later, after cocktails at a rooftop bar, I slipped off to the ladies room to freshen up. I washed my hands and checked my mascara in the mirror. Then, as I walked toward the door to leave, I saw myself in a floor-to-ceiling mirror. I was squat and plump. Hands down, the image staring back at me was worse than any version I have ever created in my head. And we all know that is one of my greatest strengths.
“Either the mirror in that bathroom is screwy or I’m no taller than a lawn gnome,” I announced to my friends when I rejoined them in the bar.
“She’ll have another Caipirinha,” Joe signaled to the waiter.
If there’s one place where none of this matters, it’s the gym. Except this makes absolutely no sense seeing the gym involves form-fitting attire that prevents me from hiding things like thighs that touch and cellulite that dimples said thighs. At the gym, I sweat to the point I look like I was caught in a torrential downpour. No really, I can squeeze water out of my ponytail when I am finished. And, to make matters worse, I sweat from my kneecaps. My kneecaps!
For the last few months, I have been working out four times a week with each visit lasting no less than ninety minutes. Sometimes, when I am cranky or don’t have any place else to be, my session will last two hours. Once a week my workout includes a trainer who coaxes me to finish the last few crunches and cheers me on as I finish my eightieth seated squat. The other visits are spent fighting my inner voice that yelps, “I can’t” whenever I near the end of a set.
I didn’t join my current gym to slim down to a size two or to reduce my junky trunk. Though there are a ridiculous number of treadmills and random douchebags prancing around in Boston Marathon t-shirts, I don’t aspire to train for a race. It’d be nice to accomplish all of those things, but I know that setting any goals will only result in a sense of failure. People, I’m the girl who spent three hours in the fetal position after the Weight Watchers wench told me I had only lost two pounds. It should have been more, I cried as a buried my head in a pillow and vowed to never eat anything ever again.
On the outside, I go to the gym because it’s the right thing to do. On the inside, I go to the gym because I feel like I have less right to beat myself up about my appearance if I’m at least doing something physical. It’s really that simple. Plus, it’s a far better answer than sitting on my sofa with a sheet cake on my lap, a fork in my hand and icing smeared across my chin. Trust me.
“Looking good,” my trainer said as I passed him en route to the eliptical machine that, if I look a certain way, makes me seasick.
“Hard work’s paying off,” another trainer noted when I finished a ten minute slurp fest at the water fountain. “Plus, you walk around here with a lot more confidence,” he added.
Both compliments made me smile, if not cry (in a good way). I realize some people might need a goal to work toward. In some instances, I do too. An endpoint allows you to plot out the best path. You can’t figure out how to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going. But when it comes to the gym, an established goal is merely an opportunity for me to fail. Though based on what people are saying, it turns out I can still succeed.