Cathy goes to the gym... how did she do?


Sure, I make New Year’s Resolutions. But year after year, a friend told me I never did that right.


I once wrote that my New Year’s Resolution was to visit New York City. “That is a bucket list,” I was told.


Another year, I wrote a four-page well-written list. “Cathy, that is your to do list.”   


One time, I said I wanted to be a magazine writer. “Nope. That is your career.”  


Then one year, I went all out. My resolution was to meet famous people. “Not realistic.”


Not the point, but that one, I surprisingly kept. 


I met Phillip Zimbardo (famous for the Stanford Prison Experiment), Barbara Ehrenreich (author of Nickel and Dimed), and Elliot Aaronson (second favorite social psychologist).


Each year, it was politely hinted that a New Year’s Resolution should include exercising.  


It took until this year for me to really get onboard with that concept.


I will exercise, I vowed. My plan was to join a gym to workout aerobically. This was to be done on the cheap, meaning I will not sign up for additional classes or hire a personal trainer to achieve my goal.


How hard will this be? 


Let’s do a SWOT Analysis and find out.



I have a high humiliation tolerance. 



I weigh too much. Have lymphedema. My shoulder is smashed from a 2010 car wreck. My feet are too fat to wear anything but my father’s old crocs. Have not been to the gym for a while. No flexibility. Am physical awkward. Struggle with steps. Mobility issues. Not mechanical. Fat ankles. Fat arms. Fat shoulders. Fat thigh, hips and knees. A klutz. Out of shape.


Did I miss anything?



I may win a prize. 


Most improved fitness club member, perhaps?  




I can die.


That is one reason why I am opting for the gym. Someone can call an ambulance if the situation presents itself.


I have gone to the gym intermittently a few years ago, and I did have a good run (not literally, of course) at it.   


But, why didn’t I stick it out?  All a gym involves would be moving my feet on one of those gym devices while going on YouTube or Facebook on my phone. Easy. 


So, again, why did I stop?


As I enter the gym, things are coming back to me.


I remember clearly my exact weight the last time I went. This is because when I met with a personal trainer, he told me to weigh myself so progress can be measured. This created a bit of a problem because when I stepped on their scale, nothing really happened. 


That is because scales only go to 250 pounds, I was told, and that I needed to use a medical scale that the gym did not have, I was also told.


This created a big to do because when I called nearly every clinic and asked, Can I please use your scale for a minute? I was not allowed to because I was not a patient nor did I have the insurance to become one. But I was persistent until one person finally relented.


When I returned to the gym, my trainer called out “You remembered!” as I walked in. 


I, however, thought he meant, Did you remember to weigh yourself like I asked you to? So, I shouted across the crowded lobby,


“Yes!  I weigh 402 pounds!”


He told me later he said was just pleased I came back after the first meeting, and he apologized I felt the need to shout my weight to the crowded lobby of people waiting for their spin class to begin.




I also remember I stored my flip phone in a locker at the gym. It was only used for talking and nothing else.  


Then, this must have been before I was on Facebook or You Tube? But I am guessing so because I did not have internet on my phone until 2010 when I got my blackberry. Was my last time at the gym 2009, maybe? Before I knew about social media? 


But I cannot even fathom how my life was before social media.




I was living in a one-bedroom apartment in Waukesha. Before I had my cats. 


Oh my. I adopted my two lovable cats in 2006.


That long?


Well, at least I can say that this should be easy now. I can go on You Tube and Facebook with my phone and move my feet on a workout device and look forward to cuddling with my cats when I get home.


I also am not going to have too high of expectations. If I use the bike for a minute, get tired, take a 15-minute break, go back on the bike, take another break. I am okay with that. 


Even if it takes me three hours to do 30-minute workout (not consecutively, of course), it will be a start, and that is all that matters. 


Good, I have a plan.   


Now let’s get started.


I meet a fitness staff person at the front desk who said he would show me around and help me use the equipment. We will call him Hebert because when he introduced himself to me, I promptly forgot his name.


Hebert and I begin walking towards the treadmill. And I am immediately struggling to keep up Hebert’s pace.


I am also starting to feel a tad bit self-conscious about my outfit. I had on comfortable black, velvet pants paired with my dad’s beloved crocs. I am wearing a boring tank top with a black, stretchy blazer. In other words, I came straight from work.


But it does not matter, I am comfortable and that is all that is important. As we approach the treadmill, I notice I am in a bit of a sweat. 


Did I mention that I am not the best at steps anymore? I try to step on the treadmill but can’t seem to pull myself up. As I grab on the rail on the other side, the treadmill begins to wobble, and I am afraid that I will tip it over creating an avalanche with the other walkers or runners on their treadmills.


If I can’t get on, I shudder to think of the safety hazards which may occur once I am on the thing.




We go to the exercise bicycles, about 30 feet away. What I need to do is to fit my foot in the pedal. Which it kind of does, but my foot still seems too fat.  


But how am I going to balance myself on the pedal and put my other leg around to the other pedal? 


I am not sure I can figure out how to swing my body around to sit on the seat. And the seat seems too narrow for my behind. 


I am not going to give up. I am red-faced and struggling, but now I have two folks who work at the center helping me. And another wanders over to spot me with two more people looking at me with unabashed curiosity.


“I think I know something that may work out better for you,” Hebert finally said. 


He then leads me to a mat where he instructs me to lay down. This part sounds promising.


He has me lift a heavy ball. I think I got this! But halfway up, my hands are a bit slippery, the ball falls, and I twist around to prevent the ball from falling on my well-padded tummy.  What if it fell on my face? I am thinking I need to try my hand at something else.


But the tiny problem with laying on a slippery, but comfortable mat is that, well, I am not sure how to get up. 


I can’t just get up like a normal person because of my weight. Hebert extends his hand, but I fear I may pull him down with me.


I have a better idea. The carpet about ten feet away is not slippery.


I kind of slither ten over to it where I have a better grip. This is good. I then turn on my stomach, hoist myself up on all four limbs and get up. 


At the same, I alternate between subtly pulling up my pants that are sliding down so Hebert nor anyone else staring at me does not see any part of my crack.


And after I unsteadily get up, Hebert and I, head to more pieces of equipment. He explains the machine, I gawk at it and try to envision what can happen to me and to everyone around me if I try to use it. And then I venture on it.


Remember the movie Grease? 


Danny Zuko wandered around the athletic field with a coach, in hopes that he can find a sport for him. They try baseball and wrestling and those are not the sports for him. But finally, he tries the track team and after a rough start, he finds success.


If Danny Zuko can do it, so can I!


Spoiler Alert.


I can’t.


I am now sprawled in an overstuffed chair feeling defeated. My hair is all frizzy, and my face is all blotchy.  I am sweaty and out of breath. And I have a piece of sweat that keeps flickering around in my noise every time I breathe.


How attractive.


I am so defeated I cannot even smile at people who are walking by me with encouraging words. But why should I smile at them anyway?


To be frank, their kind words are kind of rude. I mean if a toned person is sitting here, people would not go past him or her saying, “You have guts,” Keep it up” or “Don’t give up” or quote something from the Bible like one well-meaning person did.


How can I get in shape if I cannot even get on the equipment? How? How? I did not even come close to doing any kind of measly workout. Twelve years ago, I, in no way, was out of shape like this.


I was able to do the treadmill for 30 to 40 minutes, but I just thought it was painful and boring. I was out of shape, but I pushed myself through. I even did the elliptical machine, that in no way, would be an option now.


I would warm up or cool down shooting baskets, remembering making 100 three-pointers in 45 minutes. And that was on a bad day.


Now, any one of these goals seem miraculous.   


This is hugely pathetic. I am actually nostalgic of those days when I weighed 402 lbs.


For me, those were the good times I would now love to go back to.


Really? I am thinking, as I impatiently wipe away sweat on my forehead before it gets into my eye and blinds me.




Wait a minute. 


Now, I can’t help stopping that little dorky smile that is creeping up on my face.   

Is that, um, sweat? It is! Which, I think means…


I. Have. Worked out.


On that joyous note, let’s recap my progress, shall we?


Goal One: I will find workout equipment to do an aerobic workout customized for me.

What transpired: I trailed behind my trainer, gawking in horror at different equipment and nearly hurting myself and others in the process. And, while I did not know it at the time, this was my workout. 


Result: Goal achieved!


Goal Two: This will be a workout that can only be done in a gym.

What transpired: I thought I accomplished nothing, but gained quite a workout by trailing Hebert, walking in confusion, with various machines, which are not at my home, around me.


I wish my workout was more gymish, but I will take it.   


Result: Goal achieved!


Goal Three: I will do this on the cheap. Not buying extra classes. Not using a personal trainer.


What transpired: I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I am proud of myself here.

When I was done with “my workout”, Hebert did not approach me about any joining fees, personal training or classes. In fact, he seemed a bit evasive and brushed off the question when I asked about joining. He just said I am welcome to come back and have a look around.


For no charge, he said.


Result: Goal exceeded!


We all have different starting points when we work to change our lives. Our paths are different. 


Through our College STILL Achievable program, many of our students attended college many times and stopped. On the average, our students will have gone through three other colleges before coming to us.


Many of the reasons are that our students do not know what kind of prior preparation is needed. Kind of like me not thinking of what I needed to do first before going to the gym. Like buying appropriate attire. Planning my meals accordingly so I am not starving.  Bringing a water bottle.


When going back to school, our students may think they have the technology skills, as they use technology all the time. But Power Point? Moodle? Excel? Maybe not so much. 


Or some don’t know everything they need to know until they are in that unfamiliar environment. And then, it seems overwhelming , and we stop trying new things.


For me, I thought I could do more than I could, but did not realize, I struggled in basic climbing, lifting my legs and balancing among many other things.  


So, yes, I still want to go to the gym. But I need to stick with it my making more attainable goals. If I take Hebert’s advice, I can come to the gym (for free!) walk around, get a feel of the equipment and then, that can be my workout. Until I lose some weight that I can climb on the machines.


So, I will try my new customized aerobic workout at the gym. Until I progress to a more challenging activity.


My exercise will be called Gawking while Walking.   


It is a start, and I have to start somewhere.



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