Confessions of a gym lightweight

Snakes and extreme heights ? those two things really scare me and have for as long as I can remember. But it wasn?t until I moved to college a few years ago that I realized another fear of mine.

No, it wasn?t the intimidating, stoic college wrestlers that filled my government classes, or the dreaded 7 a.m. class held on the far end of campus that had me shaking in my boots. It was, in fact, the gym. Yes, gyms were, I thought, my kryptonite.

In college, I had this one particularly athletic friend. She played for our university?s softball team, and participated in marathons and triathlon races for fun. As our friendship progressed over the years, she started to push me to join her at the local YMCA to swim laps in the pool, but I, out of fear, turned her down many a time.

Now, as much as I would like to say differently, I admit I?m not much of an athlete. I didn?t take gym classes in high school or play sports, and my idea of physical competition looks a lot like me showing a horse. When it comes to operating even the most basic of exercise equipment, I?m a danger to myself and others.

To me, the thought of going to the gym was horrifying. I felt like all those gym regulars would be able to smell my lack of coordination and lackluster athleticism. I could just picture a bunch of gym groupies eating me alive while simultaneously downing protein shakes and grunting out 20 more barbell squats.

Now, as fate would have it, my friend finally pulled a rather reluctant Bryce to the Hannibal YMCA halfway through our senior year of college. And yes, I was very much living in a state of panic during those first few days of swimming laps. I couldn?t help but compare myself to the Michael Phelps wannabe that always seemed to be in the next lane, or the lady who was never out of breath even after the most intense water aerobics class.

Those first few gym visits had me way outside of my comfort zone for sure. But, I am here to tell all you Mt. Pleasant News readers that I survived to swim another lap. What I thought would be the most foolish, humiliating thing I ever allowed a friend to talk me into actually turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made for my overall health.

Fast forward a year or so, and I am still at it. And although my college swimming partner lives several hours away from me, I now have my cousin, Kaitlyn, to join me in the pool several times a week at the Mt. Pleasant Rec Center. And what started out as a time to unwind, laugh, and squeeze in a few laps after we both get off work has turned into a couple games of racquetball here and there when the courts are free.

After some time of regular gym membership, I?m still not some sort of reformed fitness buff. Even to this day, it?s not a good idea to put me anywhere near a treadmill without proper adult supervision. And sadly, I still don?t really know how to properly lift weights.

What I have learned, however, is that anyone can get serious about living an active lifestyle while still having fun. Living with a disability, there are certain parts of the gym that are always going to be off-limits to me. But, when I find something I can do, I try to do it with gusto.

I no longer believe those common preconceptions about gyms and fitness centers. Even the most athletic gym member was an exercise novice at one point in their life. And you know what, I may not fit the mold of an athlete, but I am okay with that. I do what I can do, and I have fun doing it.

So, to all the fitness pros out there, give us gym lightweights some room to find our bearings. If you see us about to drop a dumbbell on our foot, lend us a few of your finely sculpted muscles and perhaps a few helpful pointers.

And finally, to my fellow novice gym members, keep calm and exercise on.