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
Advertisements

Excuses

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.

Ode to my Ass

Exhausted and relieved, I crashed back to the exercise mat. It was fifth grade gym class, and we had just completed a minute-long sit-up test. I had cranked out more than most in my class. The boy next to me, however, was only aware of the tremors in the mat radiating from my last one.
“Geez, ease up on the Ho-Hos, why don’t you?”

But I’ve never even had a Ho-Ho. 

Indignation, shame, anger all coursed through me and flushed my cheeks. That boy radiated judgement and assumptions. I knew he was wrong … about most of it. Of course, I said nothing in my own defense. Instead, I mentally added sit-up vigor to a growing list of body-conscious issues to worry over.

Such an encounter was nothing new. As early as first grade, I towered over most of my class, including the boys. In the second grade, my girth caught up to my height. Sometime around third grade, it began to outstrip my height. Next to cute, petite little girls, I felt like Shrek with my supersized body. I became ashamed of the space I took up. I learned to suck in my breath, shrink into myself, pull in my arms and legs tight, try to occupy no more space than an average person. It was my burden to carry, along with all that extra me.

Then skating and roller derby came barreling into my life. I had dreams of becoming a graceful, nimble skater like Suzy Hotrod or Francey Pants. I went to bouts and imagined myself jamming through tight spaces, lapping the pack. This was the skater in my head. In the rink, though, I still felt clumsy and unsure. I didn’t skate like anyone I knew, certainly not like anyone I admired.
At Rollercon, I attended an on-skates seminar, “Does This Make My Butt Look Big?” Like a bird puffing up its feathers to look intimidating, our goal was to make our asses more intimidating, into the biggest obstacles they could be. I was a natural. For the first time, I wasn’t focused on defying the laws of physics. Quite the opposite; I unfolded from myself. Years of self-consciousness melted away. This is what my ass was born to do.
At practice a few months later, I was struggling with a drill. As usual, I was caught up in where to put my feet, wishing they were quick and nimble. After a particularly disappointing performance, our coach for the drill, Ivanna Schoop, skated up to me.
“You know, you have so much power; I would love to see you harness it. Use that leg of yours, with all its strength, to push those bitches out of your way.”

Power? Me?

Dazed, I skated away from Schoopie on a cloud.

On the car ride home, I mulled over her words. I would probably never be fast and nimble like Lola Blow or Queefer Sutherland. With just a few words, the imaginary skater in my head was hip-checked right off the track. Another skater was forming in her place. She uses her ass like a weapon, harnesses her mass and strength for offense and defense. She may not zip through tight spaces between skaters, but she makes her own holes on the track. This skater holds her own valuable place on the team.

So what if my ass knocked things off shelves in a store? It could OWN a bitch out on the track. So it took me ages to track down a pair of jeans with enough fabric to cover that juicy butt. Nobody was getting past it on the track. So what if I towered above the rest of the pack like a giant? I could get loooow. And then? Good luck knocking me down.

Through derby, I stumbled on the most honest relationship with my body I’ve ever had. The transformation was huge, but I didn’t understand it fully until a Derby Lite student told me a story about one of my classes.

“You said something like, ‘with all this mass, I was meant to be a blocker.’ You just owned your body … all of it. It was like you realized the beauty and power in your own body, regardless of its size. It was so inspirational and empowering.”

I remember that moment and several others like it. There was no shame in my body, no apology or vain efforts to make it what it wasn’t. There was only truth and acceptance.

Power.

That student was more right than she knew. It was beautiful.

It was a goddamn miracle.

YouTube Spirals

I sit down at my desk, wearing my pajamas, blankly contemplating my plans for the day. Eat food. Work out. Take shower. Write. Look for a job. My only accomplishment so far is getting out of bed, and already I’m overwhelmed.
One step at a time. Focus on getting to the gym.
The logistics of the one simple task seem insurmountable. I’m not sure which day I showered last, but I feel and smell gamey. It would be . . . inconsiderate to go to a gym with people and sweat through this funk. But, it seems like a waste of resources to shower before the gym. Do you know how much effort it takes to shower?
Plagued with indecision, I open my Web browser. You know, just to see what’s what.
Look! Dogs who really don’t want to take a bath. Hilarious! Click.
I let the video pour over me, wash away my morning indecision. It doesn’t matter if I shower before the gym. Right now there are only these dogs.
Then it’s over. YouTube has helpfully recommended some other videos I may find interesting. Oh look, a puppy jumping on a trampoline. Click. Is that really the original She-Ra movie special? MY CHILDHOOD IS ON YOUTUBE. Listen to my mighty, enthusiastic CLICK.
Turns out, She-Ra doesn’t hold up as well as I thought she would. That’s okay. We live in a world with Colin Firth jumping into a lake. Click. And doing an interview on Bridget Jones’s Diary. Click. No, YouTube, I do not wish to see clips from What a Girl Wants. But perhaps just one from Bridget Jones. Click. And another. Click.
My eyes glaze over, ever fixedly watching the computer screen. Strange; I feel no enjoyment, no happiness, even though my face is smiling. Then again, I feel no pain. No anxiety about being unemployed, without a purpose for my life, or even a reason to get off this chair. Letting the screen blur in and out of focus, I don’t feel the uncertainty of my future or that crushing sense of self-worthlessness weighing on my shoulders. There is me and YouTube—nothing else.
Until my dog creeps in the room and pokes her cold wet nose under my arm, as though to say, “What? Are you still here?” I give her a perfunctory pat on the head and return to my screen, because James McAvoy, that’s why.
Here’s that scene from the end of Penelope. You know, the one I’ve seen 152 times. I must see it again. Click. I’ll just rewind this a bit, shall I? Click. Again. Again. And again. Click, click, click.
Something deep inside my brain pings. Nobody spends this much time in front of YouTube. Why do I keep at it? Do I really want to see these things, or is compulsion in the driving seat? I click now, because I clicked before. I click again because there is something to click. If I don’t click, there is something I won’t see.
A distinctly cottony feeling takes over my mouth. I must be thirsty, but that could just be because I haven’t had anything to drink yet. It’s only been three hours. Should the back of my throat really feel all scratchy burny? Once I acknowledge my thirst, I must entertain the possibility that the dull, yet sharpening ache in my stomach is hunger. What am I going to do about that? Is there any food in the house? Do I even feel like eating anything? Too much. I can’t deal.
Dear YouTube, More James McAvoy, please.
Why, thank you! An interview! Who’s Graham Norton? Click.
Sweet lord almighty. Graham Norton is genius. Must. Watch. More. Click, click, click.
It’s been four hours, now. I don’t think I’ll make it to the gym. When I don’t have a job to go to, how is there not enough time to work out? I weigh my options and determine that, in order to eat, I must leave the house. Leaving the house means taking a shower, which means getting up off this chair. I mean, I could do all that, or, I could watch this interview with Helen Mirren.
PAUL RUDD JUST KISSED DAME HELEN MIRREN. Nothing I watch after this could be so good. But look…
Click, click, click, click.
Have I really been watching YouTube videos for five hours? Who does that? God, Megan. You are such a lazy bitch. Get up! Get up!
Maybe after this video.
Okay, just one more. No, this will be the last one. No, this one. This one. Click, click, click, click.
For real! It’s been seven hours! Get out of this chair! You stupid YouTube zombie, there is a world out there and a life for you to live and you’re wasting it all! What is wrong with you? You should be ashamed of yourself. Click click. Zap zap.
Is it really 5? Okay, you can’t let Husband come home and find you like this. If he doesn’t see, he won’t know. No one will know.
Only this fear of someone else knowing how I wasted my day, seeing how worthless and pointless my existence has become, motivates me off my chair.
As I shower the stench of who knows how many days off my skin, I feel like I’m coming to from a trance. Did I really forget to eat anything today? Me?! Images from the hours of binge-watching clips swim in my head, none of them offering insight or meaning, only lost time.
Tomorrow, I promise myself. Tomorrow will be better. I will be better.

Priorities

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.