Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Yesterday, I had the pleasure (not) of walking through a gym a couple of times on my way to my daughter's class there. I say "not" because I am really not a fan of the gym these days. When I walk in there, I feel like I don't belong. I feel like a slob.

It wasn't always like that. Back in 1996, I joined a real gym for the first time. I had gotten up to 201 pounds (gasp) and knew I just *had* to do something about my weight. So I started walking 4 miles a day and going to the gym. At first, I did feel weird about it. It was kindof an upscale gym... a big one with racquetball courts and 3 pools and a lot of snooty people prancing around with their noses in the air. I was one of the fattest people there, even when I got down to 168 pounds. Every so often I would see another fat person, but seriously, it seemed like everyone I ran across was either totally buff and muscled or a bean pole. Oh wait, I forgot... there were a lot of heavy (older) ladies in the water aerobics class. It was pretty fun bobbing and spinning around with them in their floral swim caps.

I remember one time when I was in the locker room, hiding in a bathroom stall as I changed clothes (because there was NO WAY I was going to get naked in a big room full of thin people. Just thinking about it gives me flashbacks to middle school PE.) As I was donning my size 18 jeans, a mom and her daughter came into the room and began to undress.

Teen Daughter: "That was a good workout."
Mom: "I always feel good after I work out."
Teen Daughter: "And we get to stay in shape."
Mom: "Exactly. I mean, look around. You don't see any FAT people here!"

I stayed in the bathroom stall until they were gone.

But I kept on going to the gym, and my body started to change. One day I was walking the track, which had mirrors at both ends. I was walking along doing my miles, watching the normal-weight people whiz by me, when suddenly I noticed that there were NO FAT PEOPLE in the mirror I was walking towards! WHAT?? I got closer and closer and holy cow, I didn't look fat anymore! I was stunned. I mean, I wasn't *thin,* I weighed about 168, but hey, I look pretty darn good at 168. I like my curves. And what I saw in that mirror made me very happy.

Fast forward to last night. I haven't set foot in a gym in about 7 years. And this was a *new* gym, one I was not familiar with. As I walked through with my kids to their class, I felt all eyes on me... literally, because someone at this gym thought it would be a good idea to point ALL the cardio machines at the entrance. As I bopped along, feeling awfully fat and self-conscious, I glanced over and saw all the Beautiful People running, biking, stairclimbing, and ellipticalling along. "I totally do not belong here," I thought. And then I got my wake up call.

As I passed through, there was a big workout room with huge windows, and there was an aerobics class in session. They were doing some kind of step aerobics/kickboxing type of workout. The music was fast and there were probably 20 or 25 rather fit looking young women jumping around like maniacs. I thought, "I wish..." And then, at the back of the class, I saw her. I saw a woman who looked to be a good 270 pounds, going up and down on her step, kicking and boxing and sweating her heart out. I was just in awe. If that class wasn't in session I might have gone over and told her how inspiring she is. She was working SO HARD. Her step was not as tall as the other women's, and her kicks were not as high, but boy was she working it! Wow.

And then I forgot about her.

I went to my kid's class. Watched her have fun and exercise for 45 minutes. It was pretty fun! And then it was time to walk back through the gym to go home. And do you know what? That woman was still there, almost an HOUR later, still kicking and boxing and going up and down on that step with the rest of the class. Everyone was COVERED in sweat. How can anyone do that for an hour?? But there was this woman, still going strong. I am SO PROUD of her, whoever she is. She totally is taking charge of her life and her health. I just love that woman right now for being brave enough to go into that class in the first place... and for coming back enough times to be capable of that level of endurance. Wow.

We have to step out of our comfort zone in order, not to just lose weight, but to GROW. Nothing ever grew without stress. As my mentors used to tell me when I was a teen, "a diamond is just a lump of coal under pressure."

If we just sit around doing what we've always done, we'll keep getting what we always got. Maybe I don't feel like walking or biking every day because it's annoying, or I'd rather watch TV, or people might laugh at me. But if I just take the leap and do it, I'll see results. Maybe I don't want to go searching through the produce section to find new vegetables I've never tried, but if I do, my horizons will be broadened. And maybe it's time to really change things up a bit. After all, how can you expect to change your life without actually CHANGING your life?

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved." ~Helen Keller

Challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone, and build your health, your character, your life.

I appreciate all of your prayers and thoughts on my last post! I feel good knowing that there are good people out there who care about me and my little girl. All of that kindness has eased my mind tremendously. Thank you!

This blog is in the running for the Best Health Blog in the 2009 Blogger's Choice Awards. It's currently #6! If you haven't voted yet, you can do so here:

My site was nominated for Best Health Blog!

Thanks for your votes!
Be well!


happyfunpants said...


I was that girl. Okay, maybe not last night, but after I joined the gym, I went to step aerobics classes. I participated in the toning step with weights classes. I was 260-280 pounds surrounded by people who weighed between 120-130. And you know what? When it bothered me at first, I realized that I was the only one it bothered. No one else cared. Sure, people looked at me, but I can't blame them. When I'm on the exercise machines I look at EVERYONE who walks through those doors because it gives me something to look at. :)

Now I've lost more weight - but I still get those feelings every now and again when I'm biking, or running, or doing anything exercise-y where others can see. Then I remember that if I hole up in my house/room/bathroom whatever, I'm the only one that's losing out...I'm losing out on fresh air, on the great feelings that come with moving my body, and on the stress relieivng benefits. I'm screwing myself.

Besides, if I never get out there, how will I lose the weight? If my goal is to be healthier, then I need to be healthier in spirit - which means to worry less about others and their feelings towards me.

When I stopped worrying about what other people thought, I realized that what *I* thought shone through.

And I'm pretty f---ing amazing.

beerab said...

Inspiring! I got rid of my gym membership though lol. I stopped liking the gym I went to- the staff drastically changed and it was getting really crowded and I just decided I'd rather work out at home. Got a treadmill for myself and do weights and concentrate on eating right :)

Just wanted to say I love reading your blog :)

phelpsvj said...

I am that girl too. I am 300 lbs and am in the gym at least 4 days a week kickin' a**. I was scared at first, all eyes were on me when I walked in. Now, i'm one of the 5am regulars. I realized the same as the above story- no one else cared but me. And ya know what?! I'm sweating way more than anyone else in there and that makes me proud. Some people walk out of the gym looking as picture perfect as when they walked in- what good is that doing? none.
My motto is you gotta do what you gotta do, even if u think u look like a fool.

I also have been reading your blog for a while and it has really resonated with alot I go through in dealing with food issues. You share so much here and thats something that I wouldn't be comfortable with. Thank you for being so open with you life to help others along. I wanted to mention I found this new association BEDA (http://www.bedaonline.com/) and was thrilled to see a association for Binge Eating!!! It was founded by a woman who was in the same boat we are. Luckily, the first conference they are having is in my area and I'm looking forward to figuring out alot more about myself.
Keep up the blogging!!

Karen In Tennessee said...

I can totally relate. Last night I was in my front yard FINALLY beginning my retriever puppy Sunny's obedience training. I have trained dogs in obedience for over 30 years and it felt comfortable and familiar to be working with Sunny but I KNOW I want to feel more fit when I actually go in the ring with him to compete for his titles. Another good reason to focus on MY health. If that 270 pounder can exercise for over an hour, I know I can train my puppy for an obedience title and get slimmer so that I feel better when I am doing it. Good reminder, Lyn! And I voted for you!

Skeletor's Mommy said...

Awesome post. I really makes me want to step up and be that girl.

Pubsgal said...

I joined the gym next door to work back in January, and I'm really enjoying it. I lucked out and found a couple of classes with some great instructors. I also had the locker room phobia and felt *very* uncomfortable at first. Firstly, most people just want to get cleaned up and on with their day. I also realized that I'm probably not the only one who developed mild locker room phobia in middle school. :-) (Even the some of the slender gals, I'm sure. How we perceive other people's bodies often doesn't match up with how they perceive their own.)

And even if it's an activity one enjoys, it can be uncomfortable and challenging to make the changes needed to fit it into a packed schedule. (I recently decided to schedule a swim day once a week, and it took me about a month to get up the gumption to finally just DO it already! And I loved it.)

antgirl said...

I have belonged to a gym before. I did not feel out of place even though I was overweight then. There are the beautiful people, but then there are a lot of people who were or are like us.

I've gotten fit without the gym this time. It's just easier for me to fit in - to walk into another room and turn the dvd player on. There are no excuses not to 'go'. LOL For me, there are too many reasons not to get to the gym. Thus, my decision for home gyming. We must do whatever works best for us. :)

Colleen said...

I play soccer with several women who are in the 200-250 range. I admire their endurance. There is also a woman who's a regular at the gym who is probably also 250, and she does a longer workout than I do (she's always there when I come in AND when I leave)! I really respect anyone who pushes themselves like that. I too have the urge to tell them how inspiring they are.

new*me said...

I have noticed that when I am out of my comfort zone, I grow ;).....emotionally that is.

I wonder if the voting is slow due to having to sign up? I voted but I wondered that :) You are #1 in my book.

Anonymous said...

Ditto to what everyone else has said-- NO ONE CARES!

Actually, I think everyone is damn impressed if anything :)

Anonymous said...

I was that girl, too!!! I joined a local gym at the end of Sept. I printed my free 2 week pass off at home so I didn't have to ask at the front desk. I presented it at the desk and was trying to act casual. I literally was feeling extremely anxious and panicky!! I have been there ever since - see so many friendly faces everyday...I am there to work out, though - don't like to visit. I currently walk on the treadmill at a pretty steep incline for 25 min. 3 x's a week, ride bike for 40 min (interval training on my own) 2 x's a week, Pilates class twice a week and weight training 3 x's a week. I am over 200 lbs...the gym is the best thing I've ever done...feel like a million bucks. I can honestly say no I don't feel anyone judging me! I am happy as a clam as I exercise my way to being fit! Go for it, Lyn...you can do it!

Anonymous said...

I'm that lady in the back row. Alright, not exactly her. But in my hip hop aerobics class I'm the biggest one there. I always found myself in the back of the class as to not "bother" someone. Sheesh, as if I'm some bother because I take up a bit more space. Recently I found myself in the 2nd row and for a few minutes at the start of the workout I considered moving to the back. But I didnt. And I did sweat and I did feel exhausted and pray for the end lol, but I stayed.
I didnt think anyone noticed me as much as I noticed myself. It worries me that people might have something to say - "That's why I'm AT the gym people, to do something about this body! Wish you could do something with your sour expression!"
How nice of you to think of her that way. SOmetimes I wonder if the girls in my class think similar about me. Because I get through every workout when other super skinny minnies can't... it keeps me going strong.

ani pesto said...

Me too, I've been that lady. I'm the biggest person in my spin classes and generally at the whole gym. It's one of those shiny new intimidating gyms n'all (located at a footie stadium, it's totally full of ripped, beautiful people).

Like the other ladies have said, the initial hurdle of stepping out of your comfort zone and showing up was huge. But once you're there, looking back it really doesn't seem like such a big deal. I do sweat more than others but I feel so bloody good for it. I LOVE my gym :-)

I love that diamond quote - I must write it down

Anonymous said...

You have inspired me to dust off my unused gym pass tomorrow morning and just do it.

Love your blog. Thanks for keeping it real.

rmslil said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I have been wanting to get my bike out recently but a memory of a kid yelling... Look at the fat girl riding a bike ...still goes through my head.

Anonymous said...

I'm usually the biggest one in my kickboxing or step, but not always. I'm currently at 162, and don't really even look that big (other than tummy and thighs) to myself anymore other than there, surrounded by slim women. It's not a beautiful people gym, though, thankfully. I had to get down to the 190s before I could do the classes, they really hurt my knees too much above 200. Maybe that's age more than weight, though. Truthfully, the people I watch are the guys who come to the body sculpt classes and grab huge weights that they can't use after 2 minutes, and squat incorrectly and bend their back the wrong way, etc. Even then, I don't even stare, just occasionally glance.

Hanlie said...

I was offline for over a month and have just caught up with your blog... As always you inspire me and give me plenty to think about. I especially loved your recent posts about addiction and learned helplessness. You definitely get my vote!

Vickie said...

very good post - I think it is probably nicer to have the treadmills pointed toward the exit rather than have people walk in and see a bunch of backs/butts. . .and I know from my own experience - most people kind of routinely look up - but are so lost in their own workout that they really aren't analyzing who walked in or what they look like.

Yesterday in free weights we were talking (kindly) about Julie who used to TEACH yoga at 300+ lbs (after birth of 3rd baby) she was a powerhouse. A low weight for Julie is right around 200lbs. (And she did get back down there about 2 years after birth of that 3rd baby).

Can you imagine the bravery to teach at that weight? And she very much had the attitude that if she could do it (and she could) then anyone could start where they were - you just have to start slow and build from there.

clickmom said...

We are the same size and not only do I go to the gym and do what I need to do as far as exercise goes but I also sit naked in the sauna every time. You should see the shocked look on the faces of the skinny chicks when they come in and see me there. I figure it's a lesson for them to stay away from the dessert tray!

Rosemary said...

Been there done that....
I do not belong to a gym because of the beautiful people!

But after reading your post, I thought to myself that I was not being truthful to myself. It is not those people it is me.

So I can't use that as an excuse any longer.

Thanks for the inspiration! I need that kick in the pants!

Laurie (GastricGirl.com) said...

Ok, I just voted! :) Good luck! love your blog!

Rebekah said...

Thank you for posting this, I needed to read it.

Ria said...

What a nice, inspiring post! I know resistance training at the gym was a big part of my succeeding earlier this year, but lately I just haven't felt like going . . . reading your post may have been just what I need to get out the door and just do it today.

Mary said...


I'm sure you've heard something like this before -- "you'd stop caring so much about what people thought of you if you realized how little they did."

Most people at the gym, if they're there for a serious workout, are too concerned with their body, their workout, and what's going on to start critiquing others.

I hope that if you get to the point where you want to go to a gym, you don't let this stop you.

Most people, if they notice you at all, would think how inspiring it is that you're committed to making changes. And if there are a few who think something negative -- who cares about them anyway?

Just smile, be confident, and I think you'll be surprised at the outcome!

Karyn said...

Great post, as always, Lyn.

I, too, am in awe of a 'fat girl' who will go to a regular gym - and work out with skinny people. I don't think I could do it.

Your question:
"how can you expect to change your life without actually CHANGING your life?" is right on. Personally, I resist change - (although I have at least learned to recognise it as a very good thing) so this sentence kind of hit home for me.

Ceres said...

I am totally with you, you need to step out of the fake comfort zone and get out there! I'm pretty much like that woman you described at the gym (or used to be, anyway). I am in a cardio kick-boxing class with 30 or so skinny undergrads, and here goes me, the big nerdy grad student with my wobbly thighs and enormous chest jumping up and down :-) You get over it with time. I always take the front row, and after two and a half years in that class, I am one of the best in there, even with all the extra weight. And, let me tell you, when everyone's about to collapse during cardio, the last thing that anyone notices is the person next to them and how much they weigh.
What I'm trying to say is, do not let yourself be intimidated by the skinny or muscular people at the gym. You have as much of a right to be there as they do!

Heather said...

I think thats awesome! I was often that girl and I know how uncomfortable it is to be her, but I think its great that you realize you just have to go for things and not let anything hold you back, even if it may be uncomfortable at times. and if you do feel uncomfortable, well, you dont have to go to the gym. Sure its great to have all the machines and classes available, but for me, I just love sweating it out at home. I can wear just a sports bra and tiny shorts and not worry about people looking at me. I can work out when I feel like it without having to leave my house. its just my personal decision and so I dont think that gyms are absolutely necessary, especially if its not the perfect fit for you. but if you can push yourself and enjoy it, go for it!