GYM CLASSES AND FEAR
Recently I took my mother away for two weeks holiday and in the mornings I went off to a gym to do a class. I signed up for a body pump class by phone and noticed, as I drove to the gym, that I was becoming increasingly anxious. I arrived early and watched the other people setting up their little stations with a step, a towel, water bottle, bar bells and weights. They were all women of varying ages but none looked quite as old as me. I started slowly, gathered the same equipment and placed it in the far back corner of the room. I felt like I was in a strange land that had unwritten rules and I was afraid that I would somehow break those rules and risk derision or condemnation by the strangers there. I wondered if people thought I shouldn't be there, whether the weights I had chosen were too heavy (which they couldn't be because I was so scared I chose the lightest weights possible) and whether I would make a fool of myself if I didn't keep up.
Of course, the instructor, a very fit child (well, she looked like a child to me, but she was probably all of 21 years of age) asked if there were newcomers to the class and I put up my hand. She left the podium and came to talk to me personally which drew everyone's attention to the fact that I was there. My anxiety increased as I saw her take in my age and size and she urged me to go slowly and carefully. I probably looked like her grandmother - I could have been her grandmother! The class got under way to a loud, disco beat and I followed the person in front of me, a woman in her 40's who looked like she did this every day. I couldn't keep up, I got winded and sweaty and uncomfortable and felt like I might wet myself, but I did most of it. By the end of the class, I was thinking about where I could find a similar class near where I lived. Why would anyone want to do anything that makes them sweaty, uncomfortable and incontinent? Because, by the end of the class, I felt exhilarated, energetic, capable, surprised that I could do as much as I could, determined to use heavier weights next time and even more important than that, I felt part of a community! And that was just after one hour. Other women made eye contact and smiled. I knew that if I came back there might be friends to be made amongst the group. I felt truly alive. The nerves went away after I had packed up all the equipment (acting like I knew exactly what to do) and nothing was left but unalloyed joy. Why go to a fitness class? Simply, to feel that good.