We lived in a city growing up, with no car, and with a playground and pool in our apartment complex. My friends and I formed a "gang" whose primary activity was competing in sprints and jumping around. I took gymnastics classes, and my school had a fairly intense Physical Education system that included extracurricular sessions at the pool and "Saturday school," which was basically a half-day of track and field. In sixth grade I started playing volleyball and played again in seventh. In ninth grade, I tried a low-key soccer league, but by then I had put on a few pounds and entered a bit of a depression. From there, I became a veritable slug and gained continually.
I remember so distinctly the keen jealousy I felt of the athletes in high school. Whenever they had meets or games, they came to school in their track suits. Those track suits sent a message: I'm cool, I'm athletic, I'm better than you. As I gained weight, I became increasingly uncomfortable with my body, and felt as though I didn't have the right to exercise because I wasn't already an athlete. Stupid, but not so surprising for a 15 year-old.
In any case, I first set foot in a gym at the age of 25. (I mean a non-school related gym). I've gotten better about it, but I still feel incredibly awkward. I also have fantasies of someone noticing me and raising the alarm because I'm not supposed to be there! I'm not one of them!
In fact, this paranoia exists for other locations as well. For example, I recently made an appointment at a fancy schmancy hair salon. I say fancy schmancy--what I mean is, it wasn't Great Clips. I usually get a trim once a year, and that serves me just fine. But I thought I'd try something new. However, I was terrified of that same reaction: She's not supposed to be here! She's not one of us. In this case I suppose "us" would be the cute girls with the highlights. I scoped out the neighborhood and picked the place that seemed least likely to turn me into an LBHOL (little blue haired old lady--a serious concern in this area) and called ahead. I asked for information. The girl seemed confused about what I was getting at, so I finally blurted out "Do you accept anyone??" She was taken aback, but reassured me that I would not be kicked out upon walking my blubbery, frizzy self through the door. Even then, sitting in the chair, feeling pretty comfortable, I managed to let my insecurities pop out. The nice girl asked if I had been to any of the hot spots in the neighborhood. Then answer was yes. I had been to several of them--the Mexican cantina, the tavern up the road, the new neighborhood bar. But instead of answering affirmatively, I said, "Yeah...the grocery store."
Oh my gosh. I said I had been to the grocery store. I'm such an idiot! I almost laughed at myself right then and there, but I just swallowed it and let her keep cutting, likely assuming that she had a first-class loser in her chair. The thing is, I don't really think of myself that way. I like me! I'm cool! But in certain environments, particularly appearance-focused environment, I feel like a blob. And apparently I have the need to let others know that I know I'm a blob, carry on.
All this is to explain why it has taken me 8 months to work up to trying out one of the weight machines at the gym. More on that later.