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Going to a Gym – A...

Going to a Gym – A Pain in My Butt

I’ve been going to our new medi-center/gym affiliated with our local hospital, where my husband happens to be employed. It’s also the hospital where I’ve been a patient three times in the last two years—all for respiratory failure and the first two times, I’ve been intubated and unconscious in the ICU. I’ve finally gotten stable enough to start water physical therapy again. The gym doesn’t have Physical Therapists, so I rely on the exercises I learned down in Florida when I did water PT there for several months.

It’s hard to walk into a gym, where everyone seems in great shape and you’re nearly 300 pounds. I used to weigh 140 pounds and worked out at a Bally’s five days a week. I was always inspired by those who weren’t in good shape and still tried to do workouts and get in better shape. But I wonder now just what people think when they see me come through.

I’ve never been embarrassed to be naked in a gym locker room. If someone wants to see me naked, more power to them. We always compare ourselves to others, especially women. I suppose men do the same thing. That’s how they find out if their, well, parts are average, or superior to other guys. But now I’d rather change inside the locker, if I could fit. But I keep going because I know it will help me in the long run.

Once I’m in the therapy pool, I feel like I did when I was thirty-three and in shape, when I was a flight RN and had to make a weight requirement (and did). My joints don’t hurt; my back doesn’t spasm. It’s thirty minutes of pure joy. Plus, it’s my time. My ten-year-old son wanted to come with me and I wasn’t exactly disappointed when I read the rules for the pools that said kids under fourteen years old aren’t allowed in the therapy pool. This is my time, and as a stay-at-home mom, it’s really the only time I have to myself.

But I wonder: when will my self-consciousness end? I’m forty-nine years old, not fifteen. I’m in an adult locker room, not the high school gym locker room. I wear my bathing suit under my shorts, so all I have to do is take off my outer layer and I’m set. It’s afterwards. I can’t stand to take a shower, because I have lumbar spine osteoporosis and degenerative joint disease in my right hip, which causes my back to spasm if I stand for any period of time. So, I gather my stuff and use the handicapped shower room, which has a bench seat. It’s nice to have my own space, but then it’s back to the locker room to dry my hair before heading out.

I was getting ready to dry my hair the other day and a woman was drying hers. At first I thought she looked like Jennifer Aniston, but when she flipped her head back upright, she looked like a college student. I told her I liked her hair and she said that since she had kids, it had a mind of its own. I then realized she was closer in age to me than I first thought. I pictured her with a handsome husband and a couple cute kids. And I was jealous. What makes women feel this way to other women? Maybe her husband was having an affair or selling drugs. Maybe she had four or five kids, all of whom were screaming brats. Maybe she was struggling with her sexuality. Who knows? Who knows what I’ve been through in the past fifteen years of having Lupus and Fibromyalgia?

We need to get past assumptions. All women (and men) have a story. We should be thankful for what we have, and not judge others on one look or conversation. It’s a tough thing to do, when we’ve always been raised to look our best or be our best. Sometimes being second isn’t such a bad thing. And we all have to realize that or life will be miserable.

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