Not all gyms are created equal – July 2010

For us fat/phat/large/overweight folk, walking over the threshold to a gym is equal to walking naked through the center of town with our hands tied behind our backs. No one is eager to do it. There is a lot of time spent avoiding fitness centers and coming up with creative reasons to not join.

The only thing keeping me from joining another gym was that ever present demon in my head telling me I didn’t belong there. I couldn’t possibly show my face to a bunch of people who were 1/4, 1/3 or 1/2 my size and work out near them.

The killer of it all is that I actually like working out. I have always been athletic, I played baseball, took dance classes, played softball in high school, was a cheerleader (hush, now). I loved going to the gym, I lived for cardio kickboxing and lifting weights and occasionally running on the treadmill. But the second I got away from it, and into the downward spiral of irresponsibility, frustration and overeating, I fell down into that hole and seemingly found every excuse not to climb out of it.

Until my brother told me about a trainer/business woman who started her own fitness center, SLS Fitness. My brother knew the owner, and had given me her contact information. I sheepishly emailed her, and she invited me to the center. Now I had no excuse, I had to go. With much trepidation, and the largest tshirt I could find, I met up with her for a tour and a workout at SLS. And my world has never been the same.

I’ve held different gym memberships since I was 10. Never have I experienced the kind of support and understanding such as what has been given to me in the last few months, particularly the last few weeks at SLS Fitness. Sherri is dedicated to getting people into her facility to give them the right tools, motivation, and training to become healthy. Sherri doesn’t care if you have ripped abs. She cares if you can pick your children up without back pain. Sherri doesn’t care if you lose 5 pounds or 25 pounds. She wants your heart rate up, your blood pressure down and your mind and body working together. Sherri wants you on a path to health.

Sherri and her staff hold beginner classes for those who have never been in a gym, or for those who have been away, struggling with weight, or been injured and need time to ramp up. She and her staff teach these classes with respect, patience, and understanding. She encourages, explains every technique, and emphasizes 100% exertion followed by rest. Sherri lets people know when they can move on to the regular classes and start challenging themselves even more. That is where I started in May.

I did a stadium run at 8am on Sunday in July. It involved running up stadium steps, doing some boot camp type exercises, running down the steps, and starting again in timed intervals. Sherri asked me how I was doing, I admitted mentally I was fighting leaving because I felt like I didn’t belong. She told me to knock it off and remember how many people were still sleeping, wouldn’t work out that day, and were getting unhealthier because of it. It dawned on me that I was the better person that morning because I went, and I pushed myself – and finished and no one could take that from me.

At the end, Sherri told me she was proud of me, that she was seeing a fire in my eyes. I looked at everyone around me and realized that at one time or another, they were out of shape too, and they had to work for what they had. And I knew that slowly but surely, I would be able to run longer and jump higher so long as I kept going. I have come to understand that I need to be patient, trust the process and accept I’m in a marathon for my health, not a sprint.

Being given the support from Sherri, and every single one of her trainers, has been a revelation. I’ve never had this kind of positive reinforcement blended with understanding, compassion and ridiculous levels of energetic encouragement. They inspire me to be in class and work multiple times a week. Now, I get upset if something in my personal life affects my workout schedule. I want to be there and keep this up. I realize now that crossing the threshold into the gym in May was the first of many victories. And it all started with one simple step.