I go to the gym regularly during the semester, and by regularly, I mean “daily.” It doesn’t get much more regular than that (insert hilarious poop joke here). And when I tell people that I’m gymmin’ it on the daily, they assume that I am a health freak/health nut/fitness guru/shaman. They assume I’m up in the gym, just working on my fitness. He’s my witness. Oh, there’s no one? Awesome. Let’s continue.
I don’t have the heart to tell them that they’re wrong.
Yes, I go to the gym. And yes, I can bench a slightly-above-average amount—which I’m not going to say here because I don’t want to find out that it’s actually a below-average amount. That would crush me. Much like the barbell threatens to. No, I swear I’m strong. But the idea of me being a “gym rat” is so crazily untrue that I want to laugh.
I don’t, because laughing increases wrinkles and I’m shooting for that smooth “Angelina Jolie” flow.
In truth: I started going to the gym because I was feeling a little fat and wanted to impress a boy. Also, I tried on a pair of pants that I was able to fit into a year before and they fit snugly around my upper thighs and refused to budge another inch.
So I went to the gym with my friend and her workout regimen, which wasn’t all that hardcore, completely kicked my ass. And I was prepared to quit. But the only thing stronger than my love of laziness is my fiercely obsessive desire to never be beaten. In fact, that donkey-like fervor led me to doing twelve seasons of high school track, which went basically year-round, a sport which I actively hated, because I was both too lazy and too stubborn to quit.
I can’t emphasize this enough. I was so lazy that I endured running almost three thousand miles rather than walking up to my coach and having a five-minute conversation. Actually, it’s worse than that; I could’ve just not joined a new season. But I refused. So that stubbornness is a blessing and a curse. It’s led me to amazing things and aggressive outbursts during games of Scrabble. One more than the other…
So I kept to the first week, and loudly applauded myself to anyone who would listen that I persevered through seven days of exercise. I was unstoppable, I was incorrigible, I was…fuck this.
I was going to the gym for the wrong reasons.
I was going to the gym because I felt like my body wasn’t good enough for someone else because although I’m skinny, apparently I am dangerously close to the territory of “skinny fat.”
“Skinny fat” is when you look skinny with your clothes on, but when you take your clothes off, apparently it’s a lot like when you take the thin film casing off a sausage and everything ripples like a tidal wave. Skinny fat seems inherently unfair, like I’m being graded an A- for writing an A paper with 1.25 inch margins instead of 1 inch margins.
I couldn’t just be “not fat” or “skinny,” I would have to be completely ripped and shredded and mangled and torn (I’m aggressive about adjectives).
That boy thing didn’t really work out, and I started skipping out on cardio days, and switching around leg days and arm days, until I was looking at the exercise-version of a full-carb buffet.
It wasn’t until three months later, when I was well and thoroughly riding the “Single Shuttle” that I actually took my health into my own hands and committed. Like Kelsey Grammer to a twenty-something, I clung to my fitness plan with all the strength I had*.
*Not that strong
But I realized something about four months into working out. It is impossible to do something like this for so long and not begin to enjoy it. It is impossible to fart in the gym without anyone noticing. And it is impossible to continue to workout solely for the pleasure and approval of someone else.
Somehow, even though I started for narcissistic, insecure—I am possibly the only person who can be both overbearingly narcissistic and cripplingly insecure at the same time—reasons, this wasn’t Track 2.0. I began to enjoy working out, and I realized that labels like “skinny fat” are just falsities.
If you’re being healthy and active and loving your body, no number on the scale or waist size in the store is going to tell you what you should realize: that you are perfect the way you are.
I will never have washboard abs; I love eating midnight ice cream too much. I will never be lithe and supple and tanned; I am a pale, freckly ghost who you can only summon by turning around three times in front of a mirror and chanting “Ron Weasley.” Let’s stop with the “skinny fat” and “obese thin” and “Barbara Walters old” and the “Elle Fanning young.” Let’s stop with weird creepy labels that only depress us (me).