"I'm not telling you it's going to be easy, I'm telling you it's going to be worth it." ― Art Williams
I read Erica Millard's amazing blog post "Dear New Girl at the Gym" back in January of this year. It made sense to post it back then. Many people were hitting the gym for the first time, or for the first time in a long time, in trying to adhere to New Year's resolutions. I was blown away. I thought it was perfect. Well, nearly perfect. Because I had been that new person at the gym.
I read through it, substituting he for each she, and him for each her, and ignoring the part about having just had a baby. The message was spot on.
As I read it, I thought about being that new person four years ago at R.E.A.C.T. Defense Systems. I certainly felt self-conscious, thinking that I was being judged (I wasn't). I also thought about today. If I'm partnered up with a new student, I make every effort possible to be encouraging and to let them know that it takes time.
Today, a friend of mine... a male friend of mine... was talking about attending some boot camp classes at his local gym, but felt that he might be embarrassed if he were unable to keep up. It made me think of "Dear New Girl...", which I pointed him towards, giving him the heads up to make the necessary pronoun substitutions.
As I was re-reading it myself, I thought that it's definitely something that I'd like to share here. But I'm going to make some slight modifications, which I hope will be OK with the original author.
Dear New Person at the Gym,
You stand across from me in boot camp or on the treadmill next to me or a few bikes over in spin. I have never seen you before, but here you are. I can tell by the look on your face you are embarrassed. Embarrassed that you can't do a pushup or don't know how to adjust your bike or that you walk on the treadmill when the person on the other side of you runs for a full hour at the speed of a cheetah. You look around and wonder what on earth you are doing here. You glance at me and I smile, but you look away pretending you didn't see, because that would mean I noticed you. Maybe you are discouraged. Maybe you tell yourself this was a huge mistake and you're going to ask for your money back. Maybe you wonder if I'm judging you.
I am not.
I want you to know how proud I am of you. You see, even though it might not seem like it, none of us are judging you. Why? Because so many of us were just like you. We know what it is like. We know how hard it is, especially in the beginning. Really we do. Maybe you woke up one day weighing forty pounds more than you did five years ago. I have been there. Maybe you stepped on the scale at the doctor's office, had the nurse cluck her tongue, and then had the doctor say something like, "Now let's talk about your weight." I have been there. Maybe you get half way through the warm up in a group fitness class and wonder if you are this out of breath now, is a full hour going to kill you? I have been there. Maybe money and time are tight and the idea of spending $30-$70 a month and an hour a day on yourself feels awfully selfish. I have been there. So many of us have.
You see us running or biking or lifting weights, and may feel discouraged or that we are judging you. Please, please, PLEASE know that we are not, because so many of us have been in your same shoes. You see us for what we are now, but many of us started out just like you, on a journey to find our best selves.
Please come back. I know it is hard, but it will get better, I promise.
And then you will wake up one day and wonder when you became that person. You know that person who can jog a few miles or do a whole spin class or even do boot camp without being sore the next day. And you will be the one, standing across the room, smiling at the new person hoping they knows how wonderful and brave they are. Hoping they know they are worth all the work. Because you are. You are so worth it. You deserve to be your healthiest self.
Now there might come a time and a place where someone will judge you, even someone at the gym. Maybe they make rude comments or give you that look. Maybe they have never known what it feels like to struggle with their weight. Maybe they have low self-esteem. Maybe they have never eaten an entire pan of brownies by themselves (I have) or an entire bag of Halloween candy before a single trick or treater came to their door (I have). Maybe they forgot what it was like to be the new person. Please, don't waste your time on them. You are on a journey to be your best self, and they don't belong on your journey. Find people and a place where you can begin where you are.
Come back. You are so worth it.
EDIT: I reached out to Ms. Millard on twitter to make sure my posting a modified version of her work was OK. Very grateful to her for the quick response:
@2ndHalfCharlie Looks good to me. I hope it helps your friend!— Erica Millard (@erica_millard) July 27, 2014