37 Percent, A Gym Story

Zach and I decided to join a gym this month. I know, a classic tail of a January joiner with lofty goals of losing some chub. I had never belonged to a gym before other than the ones available in college and felt a little overwhelmed as we stepped into the warehouse-like space, filled to the brim with sweaty people on big machines.

The toned and fit guy behind the desk helped us set up our accounts and gave us a tour of the gym. He was very enthusiastic and excited about all this gym had to offer and how it could make our fitness dreams a reality. It looked like it had everything we needed, but I felt unsure with how I should approach the gym. I really had no idea what type of exercises I should be doing or how to work out in a way that is actually doing anything useful to my body. My previous gym experiences had been me half-heartedly using the elliptical and using a few machines before going home and sufficiently rewarding myself at dinner for having a great workout. 

Despite this uneasiness, we decided to sign up and become members. Our tour guide sat us behind a desk and completed our membership paperwork. He told us to wait right there, he was going to have someone talk to us about setting up our goals. It felt abrupt, and I realized he probably didn’t want us to duck out of there before getting the “we can make your dreams come true” spiel that would sell us personal training. 

While we waited, I noticed that the wall above the membership desk had photos of all the personal trainers who work there. I whispered to Zach, “I would want to train with Katie, she looks the most normal and least intimidating.” Almost immediately after I said that, a very fit and enthusiastic personal trainer bounces up to the desk. “Hey guys! I’m David, I’m the gym rat here and I just want to talk to you about why you’re signing up today and what you want to accomplish. I really believe that health and fitness is where it all starts and everything else in your life will just come from that.” 

Here we go, I thought. This was the peppy, ultra-fit guy I wanted to avoid. I also wasn’t completely sure he even worked there or if he was just a volunteer member at the gym and was truly that passionate about fitness. 

We told him that we were here because we wanted to lose some weight and get in better shape for our upcoming wedding. He thought that was awesome and expressed his immense support and excitement that we decided to sign up today at this gym. He started to ask us how much weight we want to lose and by what time. We let him know we would like to reach these goals by November. He looked at Zach, “You will probably drop all the weight you want to in three months, so the real focus for you will be building muscle.” Then, turning to me, “And, you, yes, you’ll be able to do it by November with average 0.5-2 pounds a week, with plateauing some weeks.” Cool, awesome, love to hear how effortless weight loss is for dudes. He begins to set up our intake appointments, “Alright, Zach, I’m setting you up with Steve. He is primarily focused on muscle and physique so even if you don’t want to be on stage one day, it will help you reach your goals.” UM, ON STAGE? LOL. I audibly laughed out loud, but I am 90% sure he wasn’t kidding. He turns to me, again, “And, for you, I’m going to meet with you, I specialize in weight loss.” Or, as I heard, “And, Chubbs, as a weight loss expert, I’m going to personally meet with you so we can see how many rolls we can get off of you before your wedding.” 

Of course this would happen, I had the audacity to joke about getting the super enthused fitness guy and here I am planning to set my goals and about to share with him all my chubby insecurities. We schedule our appointment for Wednesday. 

Wednesday comes and I see David, peppy and ready to go. We walk over to a desk and computer to sit down and suddenly multiple employees come up to him, trying to get his help with something. He excuses himself, and rushes over. When he returns, I learn that a guy had been doing some specific type of squat and had essentially, snapped his leg in half - bone sticking out and everything. Hm, maybe deciding to exercise was a mistake. David comes back, apologizing, and trying to gather himself so we can start our appointment. Another trainer passes him, grabs David’s arm, and says, “Feel my hand! I’m shaking. That was crazy. I am never doing legs again!” Me either, my friend, me either. As I began to make plans to never do a squat, David, excitedly begins, “So Shannon, let’s talk about why you’re here.” 

He asks me to not give Hallmark answers and no generic “to get healthy!” responses, but to be honest with why I’m here and what I want to accomplish. There are some standard questions about how much weight I want to lose, what other goals I had in mind, e.g. getting toned, more energy, flexibility, etc. After the basics, he looks at me, intently, “So, when was the last time you felt good?” I laugh, “Uh, what? How do you mean?” “Just, good, when was the last time?” he responds. 

“Well… um... “ I was taken aback by this question. There were so many ways to interpret feeling ‘good.’ “I’m not sure...I guess I have felt better than I do now, but not sure if I have ever felt good.” Wow, this was getting deep fast. I continued, “I guess, even when I weighed less, I felt like I needed to lose a little weight. I’ve always been a bit chubbier than what was comfortable. And, not just weight, but I’m so weak. I can’t do a push up. I’m winded when I climb stairs. I’m just tired of feeling this way.” I knew I have had some internal conversations where I essentially said the same thing, but it felt different this time. This past year I have been more out of control of my health than anytime before. Well, I suppose I was in complete control, but I was allowing myself to be lazy and to eat way more than I should. Even when I have put on a few pounds in the past, I never noticed a drastic difference in my clothes or how I looked. This year though, I saw the newly developed back fat protrude in dresses and t-shirts. I had to go up a size in pants and I would only buy tops that provided plenty of drapery to hide my growing tummy. Everything felt uncomfortable. 

David seemed happy with an honest answer. I knew he could use this as further leveridge to get me to sign up for personal training, but I didn’t feel like there was a reason to candy-coat the situation, I mean, that’s how we got here, am I right? I was hoping if I gave him a glimmer into my personal feelings, I would get some real direction on how to get my mind and body to a healthier place. 

We stood up to start the exercise portion of our meeting. He first wanted to to get my weight and body fat percentage. I stepped on the scale, already having an idea of what it would be after just that morning stepping on my home scale. “171.” My first thought, was “wow my $20 scale is really accurate, what a great purchase!” I guess I had already become desensitized to the number. I had never weighed in the 170s before but because of the tightness in my clothes, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I saw this number. I had been in the range of 147-155 for the last three or so years, and remember the pain and disappointment I felt when it reached 160. I had watched what I ate for a few weeks and got back down into the 150s and vowed that I would never see 160 on the scale again. Well, here I was, staring at 171. David checked my body fat percentage, which was at 37 percent. He looked at me, “I’m not going to lie, I think you can handle it, this is an unhealthy body fat percentage. It’s just going to get worse if you don’t do something about it.” He let me know my chances of getting type two diabetes would increase if didn’t make some changes. I knew I was a little chubby, but now I knew just what percent of me was actually the chub. 37 percent. 

David showed me a few exercises with breaks between each in which he would give me some type of pep talk. “Shannon, I really believe you can do this, I think you’re ready for this.” At times, I could barely hold back laughter because it sounded so cheesy. But, I actually loved the encouragement. He was good at selling this, and I pretty much knew at that point that I would shell out the hundreds of dollars for personal training. 

David, joyous at my decision to sign up for personal training, set me up with a trainer and plans to meet two times a week for six weeks, twelve sessions. It was nice to feel in control of my health for the first time in a while. Don’t get me wrong, personal training costs a lot, and he assured me I could cancel within the first five days if I realize I don’t like it. I knew though, I needed something to kick-start my journey into health and fitness. 

Since then, I’ve had my first session with my trainer as well as an assigned workout to do between sessions. I’m so sore and it hurts to go from sitting to standing or to even walk up the three steps into my house. Despite the pain, I am more encouraged to exercise and get into better shape than I ever have been in my life. I’m learning to exercise properly for the first time and I am grateful that this is how I’ve chosen to start the new year. I’m sure there will be days where the last thing I want to do is go to the gym but I am hoping that knowing I can actually feel different in the future will push me to do my workouts and soak up all the fitness knowledge I can from my trainer. Hopefully I can get this 37 percent into a healthier range, 

When I sat down to brainstorm what I wanted the year to look like, one of the lines I wrote is, “I don’t want to even recognize myself because I’ll have worked so hard achieving my goals. I’ll be in a completely different place. I don’t want to feel the same. I don’t have to feel like this.” It’s only day 15 of this new year, and I already see how making new choices and aligning my actions with my priorities is getting me there. 

Updates to come as I document the six weeks of training as well as a more detailed post on what I hope to achieve this year. 

With Lava,