It’s a Wednesday night, and I’m sitting at my kitchen table alone. I’ve just devoured an entire Totino’s pizza and am now indulging in my after-dinner ritual of wallowing in self-disgust. Between gulps of root beer milk, I let out a loud moan to no one in particular. “I hate who I am.”
I’m a sick girl, pot-bellied, covered in eczema and limping from a tilted pelvis I must have been born with. I’ve accepted the person who I have become.
Between my yelps and the loud noise from the timer telling me my post-meal appetizer cheddar potato skins are done, I scroll through my Twitter feed. A tweet from @FitspoGirl catches my eye: “Sweat like a pig to look like a fox.”
Damn, that got me. Talk about some Fitspiration. In that moment, I forget all about the potato skins with melted cheese crusted on the sides. I dump the rest of my half-gallon glass of ginger ale into the sink. I lace up my Reeboks, sling my hair up in a loose ponytail and head to the most populated part of campus — the Rec.
Aside from the Boulder County Country Club, the CSU Rec Center is the last place you’d see a pioneer-bodied woman like me. With a stomach resembling an undercooked loaf of banana bread, you’d have better luck finding me in line at Cafe Mex or on the floor in my room, unable to muster the upper body strength required to get into bed and pull the sheets over my head. So to say that the gym is unknown territory to me would be an understatement.
I’m shaking in my Reeboks as I walk up to the building. The fact that I am winded from pulling the doors open makes me wonder if I should continue in or turn back. But my sneakers keep moving forward, as if they are on a mission. I hand a woman in a green polo shirt my student ID, simultaneously afraid and hopeful she’s going to scoff at my attempt and send me back to my apartment. But she swipes it without a word and hands it back. I’m in.
I make my way through the cavernous, two-story building. Before storing my jacket, wallet and keys in an unlocked and easily accessible locker, I send a quick text to my mom.
“Mama, it’s happening. I’m here. At the gym. Say goodbye to cellulite butt-cheek!” I don’t even wait for a response.
I look around the fast-paced, high-stress environment. There are gray and black contraptions lined up side by side. Girls with perfectly shiny hair and Lulu Lemon yoga pants that cost more than my iPhone 5c run on these machines. They look like gazelles. Do they even sweat? I wonder. To my left, beefy, meathead boys are grunting as they lift metal bars. “What the hell,” I mutter as I mount a space-like machine named “Precor.”
I start to move my legs, and the foot stands move with me. I start slow. I want to build up my strength gradually. I stick my headphones into my earholes and hit start on the latest “Serial” podcast. I continue moving my legs, back and forth. The rhythm of the simple movement comforts me in this new environment.
People are walking around, starting or finishing their workouts. And I can’t help but feel their eyes on me. Their blank stares say, “Why is Quasimodo standing on the Precor out of breath in a One Direction shirt?”
I ignore the bullies, as I learned to do late into my high school years. I’m not here for them. I’m here to sweat like a pig to look like a fox.
As I metaphorically run away from the lions and tigers of my self-esteem, I look up and see Hot Max from ANTH 100. He’s on Treadmill (a name I learned by asking Precor’s neighbor), smoothly gliding without going anywhere. I didn’t know he frequented the gym. All at once, I’m excited and nervous. Maybe this could be my chance. He could see me on Precor and be impressed by my dedication to self-care. Or he could be disgusted by my stationary running form and sweat stains.
But this idea is never entertained. Almost like clockwork, he hops off the machine and walks off.
I sigh and continue stationary running. I’m out of breath at this point and the sweat is flooding me. Maybe it’s time to stop — I don’t want to drown. I step off Precor. The screen says I’ve only been on it for five minutes, but I know better.
I make my way out of the maze of athletes feeling better than I did when I came in. To top off this feeling, I remember the pan of cheesy potato skins waiting for me at home.
Collegian A&E Reporter Zara DeGroot can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zar_degroot.