Excerpts From A Workout Diary

by lccarson

Did you ever have one of those really busy decades? You know, the ones where an old friend says, “So when did you start teaching at the university?” and even the synopsis takes five minutes and it turns out your husband isn’t in it? Oops. Just me then?

The coming-apart part was mostly friendly, mostly sad, and just doesn’t make a good story no matter how I embellish the details. The getting-shit-together-afterward part? Well, it’s not an overnight best-seller or anything, but I think I’m starting to see happily-ever-after on the horizon.

As they say in baseball, it’s a rebuilding year. The good news is that an on-campus gym membership is cheap. The bad news is I’ll be working out with boys half my age and half my weight. So the first question is, Can I avoid wearing Lycra? The second question is, How can you tell which "bodywash" will also be an adequate shampoo? I’ve already concluded that I should avoid anything that says "with lotion" or "exfoliating."

Thirty-five to two. That’s thirty-five boys working out and me, and the girl in a TRAINER shirt who guards the medicine balls. First impressions? I have a new superpower: invisibility. In another context, the only woman in a room might stand out but in the weight room I’m so see-through that the boys bump into me in passing. Literally. And, damn, there are way way way too many mirrors in here for a room dedicated to sweating and squatting.

I am now the sort of person who owns shower sandals. Ick. However, the alternative is much ickier.

Am I self-conscious in the locker room? Hell yeah, but it turns out that my tattoos are more than personal milestones. They’re protective coloration. When girls stare in the shower, I choose to believe they’re looking at my ink, not my ass.

I’ve made a few notes on my workout wardrobe. Hiding my upper arms with long sleeves doesn’t fool anyone into thinking I’m skinny. It just makes me sweat more. On the other hand, I must remember not to wear a tank top again for hamstring curls and back extensions. Epic cleavage. Really. There was an echo.

Hallelujah for a workout partner with a sense of humour. Why would you go through this with someone who can’t make you laugh?

Here’s a tip for the kid on leg press bitching about his prof this morning. Consider your audience. It’s a university gym and a few of your neighbours are (let’s be kind) over thirty-five. Odds are that we know exactly who you’re talking about and could easily describe you to him over coffee. Shall we give him your regards?

Today I killed in deadlifts, 4 sets of 6 at 155 pounds, and lat pulldowns, 4 sets of 6 at 110 pounds. That’s worthy of a sauna!

I’m having a flashback to the classroom. After you chalk your hands for deadlifts, where do you wipe the excess? I’m dressed entirely in black. Is there any part of my body that can stand being highlighted by dusty white handprints? Butt? Belly? Boobs? I’m seriously considering running my hands through my hair instead. Would I rather look old, or fat?

Got my first massage in over a year. Know who can really tell if you've been working out? Your masseuse knows all.

Know who else knows if you’ve been working out? The other people who work out. It took about six months for the boys to stop bumping into me. Today someone asked me to spot him on bench press. Hooray, I’m no longer the invisible woman.

I wonder if it would be terribly wrong to drop a smallish weight on the oblivious guy who wants to do his pushups on the power lifting platform? What sort of chucklehead lays down, face down, at arm’s length from strangers hiking hundreds of pounds of steel in the air? I wonder how you got into university ‘cause I’m afraid I know how you’re getting out!

Whatever you hate doing in the gym, you’ll hate abdominal exercises more.

I’ve got another good news, bad news scenario. The good news is that I wasn’t the only woman working out this afternoon. The bad news is that we may need a new rule: You can only wear pink or lululemon in the weight room if you mean it ironically. I forgive Her for being fit and thin and blonde but not for doing Her warm-up stretches in the only available squat rack.

It turns out that my tattoos are so pretty that naked strangers strike up conversation about them in the locker room. I think that’s good. Is that good?

I don’t feel like the Pillsbury doughboy any more. Now I feel like a strong person trapped inside a Pillsbury doughboy costume. Poke me. I’ve got abs under there somewhere.

The happily-ever-after isn’t how I found my prince in the weight room, or how my fairy godmother transformed my upper arms in an instant with a wave of her wand. Happily-ever-after is how, at some point in the last few months, I stopped putting Crystal Light in my water bottle and started drinking Gatorade instead. I started showing up at the gym even on the days when my workout partner didn’t. I haven’t lost a pound in six months, but I’ve had to take in the waistband of every pair of pants I own.

Today, at the hardware store, I bought a pair of lamps and the clerk offered to call for carry-out. Once I figured out what she meant (“Let me get a man over to help take those to your car”), I laughed and hiked both of them under one arm so I could open the door for myself.