It’s Saturday, and up until now I have had an unspoken personal rule about not using the cable machines on the weekends or if I practice in the evenings. The gym is much busier at those times than it is at 5:30 weekday mornings, and if they opened at 4:30 on weekends I’d probably arrive by 5:30 on weekends, too. But they don’t open until 7, so I have to pick my activities based on the tolerances of my nervous system.

Fresh off a bracing pep talks from friends in other countries, I had my shoulders squared this morning and was prepared to overcome this latest Very Big Deal in the gym. And while I have broken out with anxiety rash on my arms and legs, I left my little room and went out to the main floor to use the cable machine. On a Saturday morning. I even asked some muscle-y young man if he was using the rope attachment, since I could not find another one yet again.

Yep, definitely huffing from the courage pipe. I have no idea what I might have done if he had said he continued to need it. Possibly run to the locker room and scoot on outta there, never to be seen again. Or not. Probably I would have gone upstairs to seek out the damn rope and if I again could not find one, I would be drafting a bitchy email to both the club and fitness managers about why I am paying an annual maintenance fee and routinely cannot find the attachments I need to complete the workouts written by the trainer I am paying to work with me twice a week. I am a walking revenue stream; do they REALLY want to exasperate me just because they can? I blog! I have Facebook! I even occasionally write Yelp reviews!

Apparently a downside of huffing from the courage pipe is being fully prepared to go from zero to bitchy if I cannot get my shit done.

For the most part, it was a successful endeavor. I got through 4 sets of everything, because I again lost track of my set counts. The cable machine I typically use has 4 stacks for 4 different piece of equipment. About halfway through the second set (I think), a young man started using the arm machine next to me … and continually dropped the weight stack when he was done, which made my cable machine sort of jiggle and shake. Then he went to the other arm machine on the opposite column and did it again when he was done with that set. Back and forth, back and forth, clang clang, jiggle jiggle, shake shake.

No wonder I lost track of my sets.

Anyway, I was tense and on edge because it’s really difficult for me to get into my zone and stay focused on exercise when my anxiety flares and distracts me. But I’m proud of myself today, because I did it and I did well. I can feel the work in my shoulders and upper back, and I am rather excited about returning tomorrow. My only regret is that I did not have enough time to go through my entire mini band routine – I had promised M to be home and ready to clear off our deck by 9:30. But tomorrow is his run day with friends and my day to either choose a rest day or a do whatever I feel like at the gym.

The hives have mostly faded now. Only the itching on my palms continues, and right now I am typing with my fingerless rowing gloves on to keep myself from wanting to scratch it.

This many hours later, I feel silly about my phobic gym crazy. But as they say, it is what it is. I am presently very happy that it only flares at random, specific moments. Anymore anyway. I will just keep my head in the game and not let my gym crazy overwhelm me.

My quest for better health continues, and I have promised myself to keep moving along in life’s 1-step-forward, 2-steps-back dance. Right now I’m cooking chicken in the crockpot for the week, have a basket full of fruit, a fridge and freezer with all sorts of vegetables, so the “eat more protein” campaign continues. M plans to smoke a brisket tomorrow, as our contractor is starting work on the deck on Monday and he and his crew appreciate good smoked beef for lunch.

Because I continually eat the same things, I am not sure what RD is going to say about my whole meal planning and balanced diet. Yep, eating more protein, fruits, and vegetables. I miss bread, lots and lots and lots of bread. And cold cereal. And pasta. It’s not that I don’t eat those things, more that I am a lot more mindful of when I eat them and the portions. Vegetables? Quantities seem endless and lots more than I did before all this started, and most of the time I really like it. Fruit? A few servings every day. Protein? Way more than I ever imagined.

So things are mostly going okay, today’s gym missteps with the clanging and banging weight plates aside. But typing in fingerless gloves is not quite so fabulous.

Work is busy, hectic, crazy today, and I am glad my evening is winding to a close. Laundry is done, household chores tomorrow along with the gym. And of course, work.

I do not feel especially brave. I mean, who else complains about being afraid of their own gym when they have been going daily for several months? When I started this post earlier today, I was still riding the waves of jangled nerves and emotions from this morning’s practice. Now after a busy and full day, I wonder what it takes to overcome the anxiety when it strikes. M, in his current push to prepare for spring training and racing season, tells me snippets of tales from his racing days, about running every day and keeping his mileage up, working so single-mindedly to push toward being a champion. His discipline and determination are a dual-edge sword, yet the message soaks in more than he realizes, particularly now that I am on my own quest.

Maybe courage is not facing down your fears once and done; maybe it’s facing them down as often and for as long as it takes to be in control of your fears. I have no idea who I would be if this were not part of me and my personality make-up, but she would not be me.

Just for today, I think me is a better than average person. Just for today, I think I am doing okay. And I will get up tomorrow and go practice again. Because I am a person who goes to the gym now.

If I repeat that often enough inside my own head I will believe it. Eventually. I did well and overcame the obstacles I myself laid down in front of me. It was a good Saturday.


10 thoughts on “Huffing from the courage pipe

  1. I think you did great. I hate those clanging weights!!! Seriously guys learn to put them down quietly, we know your working out we can see you. I am still terrified of the gym. I do the treadmill and yoga but next week I have a trainer day scheduled(I get 4 with my membership) and I am praying its not my daughters boyfriend or I will be mortified. I get nervous every time I go in and one of the gym bunnies is on the treadmill next to me, or when I can really keep those yoga positions up. Seriously “sitting dog on taco” or whatever. Your still kicking ass though and your right if you are paying for the equipment you shouldn’t have to hunt for it.

  2. Oh and lets not forget the business you have sent there way. I would def be bitching away. I get annoyed when people don’t wipe off the equipment. I am like excuse me but you left all your DNA on the arm thingy(ok I don’t know names) could you go wipe it off so the rest of us don’t have to clean up after you.

  3. ‘Maybe courage is not facing down your fears once and done; maybe it’s facing them down as often and for as long as it takes to be in control of your fears.”


  4. Ummm…I have been going to my gym for four years…5 am, using the co-ed weight room …but let me tell you, on an evening and weekend I am terrified! It’s seriously like a different world at different times, so I completely understand the fear you are speaking of! You are doing so awesome..have you written much about your meal plan?? I need more meal ideas…lol.

    1. Thanks, Sassy! I know I’m not the only one who suffers from my particular brand of gym phobia, therefore I will view this as my calling in life to bring attention to the issue facing millions … yes, that’s my reasoning. 🙂

      Not much for a meal planner, but I’ll probably be talking about in on Tuesday when I meet with RD. It’s truly boring – same thing, day after day – but I am trying to add some variety.

  5. Hi j,

    I know it’s not easy when there are things that make us have a level of discomfort and dis ease and I having started gym again get your angst, it’s not any easier but you know your there at gym doing the thing that gets you in a groove and whilst there are things in that environment that are not quite as you need at the moment you are the greatest sum of yourself because you have the resources deep with in you to go beyond the angst you feel at the time you feel it and yes you mantra just for today or just for now (excuse my largesse) is exactly what gets you through the courage pipe

    Take care


    1. Thanks, Char. I have been feeling more and more in-charge of my exercise life, then get a little set-back like this. It just reminds me to keep pushing, keep trying to the best of my ability. And what keeps sneaking up and surprising me? I am a lot more able than I think. 🙂

  6. Yay! A new milestone! I totally get the anxiety/fear. If I am at gym without D I won’t use the bigger free weights or workout in certain areas if there are lots of people. I’m too self conscious. The funny thing is I went in the other day to do cardio at a different time than I when I worked out with D. And another trainer was like you are here a lot – are you here all the time? I said no – just every day I’m in town. Left his mouth hanging open!

    1. If I didn’t know better, I’d say J put a bug in a few ears for other members to be nice to me when I’m in the gym. On Sunday a man spontaneously said hello to me while I was walking by, and another gent walked out with me and commented that he sees me there every day. It was nice. I’m getting it, slowly, but I’m making my way.

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