Making Peace with The Gym

Making Peace with The Gym

I thought paying for exercise was sort of stupid for years. Within my canon of college thoughts that included aspirations of homesteading and going carless, I thought the idea of the gym was backwards—people didn’t need the gym for thousands of years because they exercised in their everyday lives. If we needed to work to pay to exercise instead of just incorporating it in our livelihood—what was that saying about our values? Our lifestyle? Our society? Cue the small existential crisis.

Of course, at the time I had to climb a hill to get to and from my dorm and classes every day and stuck to cruising the salad buffet in the dining hall. For the first time in my life, managing my weight was pretty easy. That’s not to say my body was in the “ideal” range—it hasn’t been since people were freaking out over Y2K. From childhood and up to now, my weight has been “a thing.” An excuse thing, a pink elephant in the room thing, an identity thing. I never sought to lose forty pounds because I’d lose too much of myself.

But over the last year and a half I gained twenty pounds. In that time I graduated college, moved back in with my parents, sent countless job applications, and landed in retail while I figure out the next move.

Obviously post-grad life has not been what I envisioned and I can’t even slip into my high school prom dress to feel better about keeping my average body intact. Instead, I found myself stress eating while reading the news on my phone and struggling to sleep. I needed something to release all this frustration… not to mention that I was going to be my sister’s maid of honor in a sleeveless dress this summer.

So two months ago I walked into a gym and paid to exercise.

I try to go to the gym 3-4 times a week. My only rules are that I do strength training, push through the time I dial in the cardio machines, and try my best not to make awkward eye contact with anyone.

I can’t control which companies want to interview me and I don’t even know my work schedule two weeks from now. However, the complicated formula for success—work, applications, and writing divided by hours of energy I have in a day—is shrunk to a simple equation when I’m at the gym: time and effort equal calorie burn and muscle built. Over the past couple months I’ve been able to lift heavier weights, workout longer, and feel more motivated to accomplishing my other goals.

Monday morning after the Super Bowl, most of the TVs at the gym were recapping the big game. I was really hoping for the Atlanta Falcons to win—they were an underdog team who owed their city a championship. Normally, a loss like that would deter me. But too many things have discouraged me this past year. So when I was on the elliptical watching Tom Brady hold the Vince Lombardi trophy (yet again), I moved my legs faster. The only option for the Falcons now is to work harder and that goes for me, too. With a minute to go in my workout, I needed one last song to get me through. I picked Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory,” knowing full well that I wasn’t going to stop until that very last saxophone note.

[Photo by Julie Bloom.] 


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