We all have irrational fears and hang-ups. My weirdest one is probably the fear of getting my foot stuck in a revolving door. It’s never happened, but that doesn’t stop me from stepping out of revolving doors as fast as I can. Not rational, but not worth the effort to correct.
Then there are the problem ones. I didn’t realize it at the time, but tracing back to high school, I’ve always felt self-conscious in certain situations. When I started ninth grade, I had to leave literally all of my friends behind. We had been at magnet schools up until then and all dispersed to our neighborhood schools. Without friends – defenses -- and still in the throes of diabulimia, I was self-conscious about eating in the overly crowded cafeteria. It always felt like people were watching me eat.
Lucky for me I had a sympathetic teacher who had come over from my middle school. She had a service period during lunch the first year, so she let me eat in her classroom.
The adult manifestation of that is exercising in front of people. I’ve always hated the chain gyms; the feeling of eyes boring into my back made my skin crawl. But even when I moved to a building with its own gym, I bought stuff so I could work out in my apartment. But that stuff only went so far. I get bored easily, and I had gotten equipment for someone who was much more fit than I am now. To get back to where I was, I needed more than I had in the privacy of home.
So, I made myself go, mainly at times when the gym was empty or almost empty. It wasn’t regular (consistency is one of my biggest downfalls), so it was ineffective.
The bigger I got, the more afraid I was to feel judged. Avoiding people did nothing to put that irrational fear to rest. Tired of where I had gotten myself, I decided I had to try consistency or else be stuck where I was. So, I went when there were people, but just a handful. Of course, I stuck to the recumbent bike, which offered the least exposure and the least likelihood of looking foolish.
But that couldn’t last, either. I needed to start jogging again. It would juice my heart rate and increase my endurance. When I was healthiest, I was walking and jogging in intervals that could get up to seven or eight miles per hour. There was no way I was going to be even close to that now. I was going to look like an idiot jogging at four miles an hour when some of these folks walked that fast.
But everyone has to (re)start somewhere. Fifteen minutes. I would ask myself for just 15 minutes. The rest could be on the bike. I could do that.
And I did. Twice. On Saturday and Sunday. The weekday regulars I had come to recognize were even there weekend, which was nice. And they were supportive. Even nicer.
Of course, I celebrated irrationally by being completely self-destructive and not working out at all this week (maybe tomorrow morning?), but a step forward is a step forward, even if accompanied by two steps back.