I get so nervous taking group fitness classes. I took 2 today. First was @equinox Ab Lab, which was high intensity and had me gasping for breath. The other was yoga, where my balance was so bad I TIPPED OVER in a low lunge. As much as I benefit from the structure of classes, I hate being the one person in class that lags behind or has to stop and rest here and there. Is it my weight? (175) My weak lungs I've had since birth? My age? (50 next year) My flat feet? I really want to do Outdoor Boot Camp but I'm afraid I'll get embarrassed. Side note: I realize in the grand scheme of things I'm very blessed and privileged and this is nothing. I'm just in my head feeling less than right now. #gym #fitness #fear #thinking #yoga #squats #advice #confidence #workout #inspirationalquotes #privilege #weightloss #feminist #body #mind #strength #fit
I walked into Equinox on Sunday to see a crowd gathered in the lobby. While riding the elevator with the gym’s manager, I asked her why there was a group of members hanging out on the first floor. She said they were preparing for Equinox’s Outdoor Boot Camp.
“It’s all body-resistant exercises. I think you’d really like it,” she said.
She’d be right there. I much prefer body-resistant work-outs over sets/reps with weights. But here’s what scares me: I don’t want to be that person in the group that lags behind. Other than the yoga classes – where women in their sixties and seventies kick my ass in terms of flexibility and balance – I am always a) the oldest in the room and b) the heaviest in the room. It doesn’t help matters that the studios all have floor to ceiling mirrors.
There are times when I catch myself in Warrior 2 and see how thick I am. It’s not the same reflection I see when I walk around naked at home. (Which I do often, in case you’re wondering.) The woman in the studio mirror is fuller around the middle with no waist. The woman in the shitty mirror in my apartment has more curve to her. It’s very difficult not to get in my head in those moments during class.
I tried Ab Lab on Monday. This is a thirty-minute high-intensity ab workout. (Duh, obviously.) The positive? I made it through the class. The bad? I was the only one in the room who needed to take breaks.
After the class the instructor came up to me and said, “You did great.”
“It’s my weight,” I said, my eyes cast downward. “It slows me down.”
“It has nothing to do with your weight. You’re not breathing,. You’re holding your breath. You have to remember to breath.”
I’m not quite sure what the hell that means, but it made me feel a tiny bit better.
I’m turning fifty next year. My plan is to finish this draft of my book by end of year, shop it to agents, and then get a book deal by end of next year. While accomplishing that goal, I want to whip my body into the best shape I am capable of achieving. I want to go into my fiftieth year having completed two very daunting tasks, not just to prove to myself that I can but to defy the stereotypes society holds about women “of a certain age.”
People look at me or my photos and say I don’t look my age, but I do. This is what forty-eight looks like. I am by no means an anomaly. I look around that yoga studio every week and see women ten to twenty years my senior twisting and contorting themselves into shapes I only can dream of making with my body. The only reason people never guess my age or act so shocked when I reveal it (besides politeness) is that they stop paying attention to us and therefore do not have an accurate frame of reference. We’re written off as no longer being valuable and vibrant. I want to turn fifty, do a book tour and press, and use that platform to show society that it doesn’t end at thirty-five or forty or fifty. On the contrary; it’s just beginning.
I’ve written before about the song “Why Georgia” by John Mayer and how the lyrics resonate with me. If you don’t know the song, it’s about a guy in his early twenties coasting down a highway back to his apartment. On the drive there, he contemplates whether or not the choices he’s made are the right ones and if they’ll take him where he wants to go in life. Whenever I listen to it I get wistful for a time some twenty-five years ago when it was all ahead of me. I wish I possessed the self-awareness at twenty-two to wonder if I was on the right path. Now – at forty-eight – the direction I want my life to take is crystal clear, but it took decades of stumbling around for me to get here. Realizing that makes me regret the dawdling.
Why didn’t I got to therapy sooner?
Why did it take me so long to go on medication?
Why wasn’t I more proactive?
My song could be called “Why Manhattan.” Instead of suffering from a “quarter-life crisis” I’m in the midst of an honest-to-goodness and genu-wine mid-life crisis. But that’s the operative word: mid-life.
‘Cause I wonder sometimes
About the outcome
Of a still verdictless life
While sitting in bed early one morning drinking my coffee and listening to this song, a thought struck me. The verdict isn’t in until it’s over. Only then can someone assess what we contributed to this world. At any given time we can do something to change that verdict, be it at age twenty-five or eighty-five. There will always be that stretch of road in front of us. Yes, some will have a longer ride than others, but there are still exits to take and turns to make. That’s the beauty of growing older, I think. There’s less uncertainty. You’ve taken all the wrong turns already. You’ve left all the stuff holding you back in the rear-view mirror. As long as you know your destination, all you have to do is choose the route you want to take and drive.