Weekly Writing Challenge: Fit to Write – by Erica on August 12, 2013
This week’s creative writing challenge, tell us about what health means to you. Have you struggled with an illness, physical or emotional? What got you through that time? How it has changed your perspective? Are you a fitness fanatic? Let us know about how you got interested in athleticism and the ways it affects your life. Let us know what brings you happiness and balance, through physical effort or mental calm.
Fitness: Friendships & Falling in Love
“Hey, I have an idea .. let’s go to the gym this morning,” he says – smiling, as if the excitement in his voice and pearly whites are going to motivate me to jump out of bed and say, “That’s a great idea!” It is one of those Saturday mornings … the kind of Saturday morning that, quite honestly, after a crazy week of classes, all-night cram sessions, group projects, and endless family dramas, I want nothing more than to stay right where I’m at, wrapped up in a zebra print sheet set, complete with the matching comforter and pillow case. I remember thinking – even back then, that this bed decor could use some updating .. I mean seriously, can we say “Goodbye 1995?!” I could tell I wasn’t going to win this – and so I agreed to go to the gym .. on my Saturday.
When I think back to my experiences with exercise, health and fitness, I have few memories. I remember that throughout grade school / high school – I dreaded gym class. It was never a favorite class of mine – and that is what I equated “working out” to for most of my life. After high school – I tried here and there to “workout”. While I lived in Idaho – I remember an ex-boyfriend (who shall remain anonymous) taking me to a gym that he went to on the National Guard base. It was the biggest disaster ever, partially because our relationship was on the fritz, and this was his solution in bringing us closer together – we could workout together. I decided to give this a try, so the night before – I went shopping, and made sure I had the cutest outfit to “workout” in. I didn’t know the first thing about exercise, but I wanted to make sure that I looked my best .. and so, after work that day – we headed over to the base. I changed into a pair of black shorts and a fitted pink & black stripped tee, slipped into my brand new pink puma shoes, pulled my hair back into a ponytail, giving myself a once-over in the mirror, I was ready! I’m not quite sure what my ex was doing, but I walked out of the changing room first, and remember staring at all of these machines – not knowing what to do exactly – they all looked so foreign to me. Then, this other (quite handsome) guy walked over to me and asked if he could help me out. “Sure,” I said, “This is my first time here, and well .. how exactly do you use these machines?” He smiled, “Oh it’s quite simple, here let me adjust the seat height and weights for you!” He walked me through the basics, and even got me started on some of the free weights. At this point – I had totally forgotten about my ex, that I had arrived with my ex .. I was enjoying the company, and just as this handsome young man started to ask my affiliation with the gym on this base .. out walks my ex .. in the ugliest outfit .. an old faded cream-colored t-shirt with a big mallard duck printed on the front, neon yellow swim trunks, knee-high socks and black dress shoes! “Sorry it took me so long, ” he says, walking towards me, “I couldn’t seem to find my tennis shoes.” My face turned fifty shades of red .. the guy next to me, trying his hardest not to laugh, watched us both. I wanted to pretend like I didn’t know him, I wanted to tell him what an idiot he was for wearing such a ridiculous outfit and that I hated to even be seen with him! Heck, I knew NOTHING about going to a gym, but at least I made sure to wear clothes that matched, and shoes that were meant for exercising! “Thanks for helping her out,” he says to my new friend, “But, I’ve got it from here.” As I walked away from Mr. Handsome and followed Mr. Fashion Disaster .. I already knew that this wasn’t going to work, and I was right – soon after this, we broke up.
“You can’t wear that to the gym.. ” he tells me, as I come out of my dorm room in a cute light pink pair of skorts and fitted green tee. “Why not?” I ask, still contemplating why the heck I gave up my Saturday to get all gross and sweaty, “Well, because – what is that?- is that a skirt you are are wearing? You can’t wear a skirt to the gym, it’s inappropriate!” Nate truly looks concerned about my outfit of choice – which was a first for me. “It’s not a skirt, It’s a skort!” I thought it was perfectly acceptable for working out in. He nodded his head side to side .. “What exactly is a skort?” .. I explain to him that a skort is a skirt with shorts, making it all the more “appropriate” for gym wear! Well, he wasn’t sold on the idea, but that Saturday morning, Nate and I walked over to the Nicholson Rec Center and we worked out together. I remember while Nate showed me the machines, adjusting my seat height and weights, thinking back to that day with my ex, and just how embarrassed I was to be seen with him. I watched Nate in his sleeveless white Nike Dri-Fit Tee, black & orange shorts .. that matched his black & orange sneakers, he looked so sleek – like he belonged in this gym, and I – I was with HIM – my very own Mr. Handsome! I was so proud to walk in and out of that gym with him. We (to my surprise) talked a lot while lifting weights. He helped me lift the bar – as he stood over me, encouraging me, telling me “One more, come on, you can do it .. just one more, you got this!” I felt this connection with him, bonding and working out, it was this experience that turned me on to exercising. And then came his turn – but he lifted more than just the bar, and I tried my best to motivate him to lift that bar, mostly hoping he did lift it – because if it happened to fall on his chest – well, I would probably just burst into to tears, frantically grab the closest guy to help me. Luckily, this was never an issue – because I’m sure Nate knew I was not capable of lifting a 100+ pound weight off of him. As we left that day – my perspective on Saturday workouts changed – and I actually looked forward to this time we had together. Little did I know that this time – the shoe was on the other foot.. “I saw you at the gym today,” Ajay, a guy in my dorm hall said in passing, “Oh Yeah..” I said to him. “Haha, I sure did .. good job at lifting that bar,” he sarcastically said to me. In one day – I had been teased for not only my choice in clothing but for my lack of strength too. I figured this was probably my payback for that day at the gym with my ex. Normally, I would let comments like Ajay’s influence me, even my roommate liked to tease me for how much time I spent at the gym – as she would say, “I don’t know why you go to that gym, it’s so ghetto.. nothing like the one I have at home!” She was right, it was pretty ghetto, but that year – while she invited her sleazy / cheater / mono-giving boyfriend over, I was happy to head out to the gym and hang with Nate…
I remembered both of my aunts telling me how important it was to sign up for fitness classes while in college – they were usually 1 credit classes, and usually helped break your week up a little too. What they didn’t tell me – usually, it’s a Grad student who teaches these classes… In my case, the first Abs class I took was not only a Grad student, but he had also done time with the Marines too.. and (before Sara and I took his class) – he was all business. I’ll never forget my first day in that class – I didn’t know anyone, but quickly became friends with a girl named Sara. Her boyfriend was in the ROTC, his name was Brian, she was crazy about him – they were high school sweethearts .. homecoming was that weekend too .. was I going? What was I going to wear? Did I have a plan for my hair? As we discussed these important details .. while “planking” for what seemed like the entire class .. a friendship soon formed, and by the following week, we were all giggles over story-telling about our lives in between “crunches”. Mr. Red-Headed Marine noticed us and our conversations .. making eye contact with us, he smiled and said, “Girls, this is not social time, do I need to separate the two of you?” We both smiled, shaking our heads.. changing our tone of voice down to a whisper. But, during our next class – we had moved on from floor exercises to a series of lunge exercises, my favorite – “The Charlies Angel” Style Lunge! As we lunged back and in straight lines across the gym – Mr. Marine couldn’t help but notice my cute tennis shoes.. “Hey, those are Puma’s .. where did you get those?” Feeling quite proud of myself, looking down at my grey mesh pumas with pink stripes, I tell him, “My Aunt Dina got me these at Nordi’s, they were on sale!” Sara and I follow suit in our “Charlies Angel” lunges and continued in our conversation about the highs & lows of last weekends homecoming, in which he decided to listen in on, and many more conversations aft that… Mr. Marines, now known as Mr. Chatty Pants, almost always wanted to be in on our gossip sessions – I think he actually enjoyed these chats… and us for that matter! By the end of that class, I realized not only how much I enjoyed this fitness class, but also how much I loved the social aspect of it, meeting new people and making friends. Sara and I are still friends (9 years later) – I was there to hear all about her wedding proposal, her first and second pregnancy, all of her moves, her adventures.. and I have this fitness class to thank for our friendship!
I tie most of my memories to experiences I’ve shared with others – friends, family, my husband. When I think about some of my fondest memories – they’ve taken place over a fun run, a workout with a friend, a tennis lesson with my cousin, a walk around the nature trail or Green Lake, a 30 minute treadmill session .. a 5k run with my friend Anita .. I’ll never forget that year we religiously jogged together, because she was determined to beat Nate at this 5K run around the CWU Campus. He had literally just finished an entire medium sized Dominos pizza just before the race, and he still beat the socks off of her, in which, I think she is still bitter over. But, I remember jogging at night with her, jogging in the wind and the rain, jogging all around Ellensburg .. I remember those evenings I couldn’t sleep, because I was worried about an exam, a problem at home that I had no control over, a fight between me & Nate .. but in the end, after that 30 minute run, I always felt better… the circumstances were still the same, nothing had been solved, but my mind always felt clear, and breathing in that fresh / sometimes cold crisp air, it seemed to always take away all of my worries and all of my stress. When I think about that term “Runners High” – It truly is a high, because for that moment – there is NOTHING to bring you down, and for that moment ALL is right in your world. I’m glad that I was open that day – to try again – to go to the gym with Nate… to try out a fitness class, to push myself when I didn’t feel like doing anything at all. It has shaped my life and continues to push me – to become a better, healthier, more fit individual. And hey, anyone who knows me – knows it’s also an excuse to go shopping .. there’s always a good reason for another pair of Pumas!
By Heather Decker