Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Reasons I Probably Maybe Ought to Go to the Gym:

  1. Climbing three flights of stairs to get home
  2. Feeling tired–a lot
  3. Getting out of bed in the morning, which shouldn’t really be that hard
  4. Building strength, which I strongly suspect will help my ankle recover
  5. Skating with zero stamina
  6. Spending $20 a month for a gym membership that I don’t use
  7. Dancing
  8. Aching body parts, pretty much every day
  9. Sweating–enough said
  10. Jiggling my belly like a bowlful of jelly, which is only okay if I were Santa


Reasons I use to convince myself to skip the gym:

1.       You’re hungry; go home and eat dinner.
2.       You’ve had a hard day; go home and relax.
3.       You have too much to do at home.
4.       It’s Wednesday. Isn’t it better to make a fresh start on a Monday?
5.       What if your workout clothes don’t fit?
6.       It’s too cold outside.
7.       It’s too hot outside.
8.       It’s dark.
9.       Your ___ hurts too much.
10.   Maybe you’ll hurt your ___ again.
11.   You haven’t shaved.
12.   Your skin is dry. Maybe it’ll itch when you sweat.
13.   You don’t have music to listen to.
14.   You didn’t write a workout plan.
15.   You don’t have any snacks to eat afterward.

Gym Barbie

The day of our first boot camp, the original derby wife and I approach the training room at our YMCA. The metal door has a small square window placed at eye level, like the door of a padded room. One nervous look through the window shows us that it is, indeed, a padded room. The floor’s covered in 2-inch thick exercise mats. Weights and other devices of torture line the walls.

Despite our own self-protective instincts, we walk into the room to meet our instructor. We take great care to brief her on our special needs: Wifey has short bones and a hypermobile body; I broke my tailbone playing roller derby like a boss. She can’t do certain arm exercises; I’m allergic to lunges.

Class begins with a series of exercises; remarkably, we keep up. This isn’t so bad. I can do this. Then Instructor explains that this was our warm-up. Wait. This was just the warm-up? Should I be ready to go home already?

I’m looking longingly at my water bottle when Gym Barbie enters the room. Just as I’m wondering if it means anything that already I would trade State secrets for a drink, she breezes in without a care and joins us on the mats. I drink it all in; her skinny frame, her shiny hair, her skin-tight crop pants, her halter-style sports bra. Christ, the swoosh of her Nikes matches the graceful swoop of pink ribbon on her pants. She doesn’t even bother putting up her hair before jumping in.
Class continues; I flail my parts around roughly the same way Instructor demonstrated. My body pulses with pain and exhaustion. I hear grunting. Is someone whining? Wait, that’s all me. Gym Barbie isn’t grunting. Rather than dragging deep, erratic breaths in through her mouth like a dying mummy, she’s taking controlled breaths—in through the nose, out through the mouth. Her exhales are cute little bursts of air, almost a whistle.
We begin a new set of exercises with one-minute planks. I plant my palms on the mat and lift up onto my toes. In fascination, I watch as sweat rains off my face. My hands struggle to say in place; they squeak against the mat as my wet palms slide outward. I sneak a look at Gym Barbie; she looks like she could stay like this all day. Not only is she not pouring sweat all over the mat, but her hair is hanging around her head, dry as when she walked in the door.
Burn the witch.
Now Instructor wants us to do tricep dips. I wedge myself in front of a chair, palms on its seat, doing a sort of reverse pushup. I am no longer in control of the noises coming from my body. Gym Barbie is still breathing steadily. Finally, she emits a noise that hints at how hard we’re working. A tiny little grunt, followed by stacatto syllables timed perfectly with her little dips, “Woo! I…hun…ger…for…the pain!”
I can’t decide whether she represents what I hope to someday be, if her presence pushes me to perform better, or if she exists merely to taunt me with what I can never be. I do know one thing for sure.

I hate her.


Three years ago, my husband and I joined the YMCA. At the time, my main concerns were losing weight and avoiding the sorts of major diseases that run rampant in my family: diabetes, heart disease, cancer.
I began working out in earnest and using an online program to track my calories in and calories out. This basic formula consumed many of my thoughts and informed just about every decision. I’m tired; can I skip the gym tonight? Check the calorie balance sheet to see if you came out ahead today. I want to have this treat someone brought to work. Check to see if you worked out hard enough to offset that treat. Translation: did I deserve a break? What had I done to earn it?
Following this regimen, I lost weight. And I gained confidence to try new things, like when my friend asked me to join her at the roller rink. I began taking classes at the roller rink, and then with Derby Lite. I lost more weight. I got stronger. And I found a form of exercise that went beyond personal satisfaction and improving myself. Somehow, I had stumbled upon exercise that was fun. Now, here I am: still a member at the Y, but now, a skater for The Chicago Outfit. And those Derby Lite classes I once took? Now I teach them. Me. I teach fitness.
And I’m still overweight.
Over these three years, life happened. I lost a close family member. I was injured and recovered. I was injured again, and recovered again. I’ve gone through a major life change and struggle with depression. I put on muscle and lost fat. Put on fat and lost muscle. I fell off the wagon and clawed my way back on, again and again. Every time, derby was there, waiting for me.
Never before in my life have I maintained a relationship with exercise and nutrition. Any other time I started a workout regimen, boredom or life change or discouragement at a plateau eventually set in, and the gym and I parted ways. It’s not you, it’s me. Life would reset back to sedentary activities, eating what I wanted, and a bigger pair of pants.
But now, when life intervenes and I find myself drifting away from the gym and good nutrition, derby beckons. I’m eager to get back to it. I’m no longer going to the gym and eating well to lose weight. My primary motivation is to get stronger for the things I want to be able to do on the derby track.
I don’t want to eat the “right” foods so I can slim down. I want to eat the foods that will give me the fuel I need for my body to perform all the tasks I ask of it. I don’t want to run intervals because they’ll “scorch fat.” I want to up my endurance so that I can hold my own during speed drills. I don’t want to do a bunch of lunges and squats to tone my butt; I want to gain strength so I can get low and stay low, so I can get more out of my skate strides. I want to be a better skater, for myself and for my team.