45. Something Different

45. Something Different

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Something Different

Even if you fall flat on your face at least you are moving forward.
 ~Sue Luke

For years, I belonged to a health club and never got near the exercise machines. I went straight to the pool and swam laps, as I’d been doing since I was a teenager. I didn’t understand the machines. I didn’t know how to use them. They looked boring to me.

Then I took a class in creativity. “Each week do something you aren’t good at,” the teacher challenged. I had carefully orchestrated my weeks to be filled with things I was reasonably good at. Was I short-circuiting my own creative spirit?

I decided to start working out. I went to the upper floor of my health club, where the variety of machines and weights intimidated me. I didn’t know where to start, so I hired a personal trainer to show me what to do.

“You’re going to love this,” the perky blonde told me. “You’ll get used to it quickly and you’ll love the results.”

I bounced right into her enthusiasm, envisioning myself with subtly muscled arms and calves, a washboard belly and a narrower waist. I would get a pair of those leathery fingerless gloves the serious lifters wear: I would get a new workout outfit, something sexier than my XL T-shirt and ancient blue sweatpants. She showed me a series of machines sprinkled throughout the room.

“You adjust the weight here. You sit like this, make sure your arms move like this, keep your back straight, put your seat all the way back to get the maximum benefit.” She instructed me on each machine and I wrote down everything she said.

“Yes!” I thought when we finished. I already felt stronger and more creative.

“No!” I thought the next morning, when I arrived at the health club, ready to whisk through my transformational routine alone. I did not recognize my machines among the multitudes. I couldn’t adjust the weights. I couldn’t move the seats. I couldn’t remember when I kept my back straight and when I arched.

Then I remembered my creativity assignment: try something you are not good at.

Well, at least I was doing something right.

I showed a woman my instructions and she pointed me to one of my machines. A man stopped and showed me how to press in a knob so I could easily change the weights. Another woman showed me how to get the seat the right height. After 10 minutes, I was exhausted, as much from stress as from physical exertion.

“Ten more minutes,” I told myself. I did 15 and felt enormously proud.

I had found five of the 12 machines and I still felt good about myself.

Patience, humility, a willingness to display below average competency and an openness to asking for help—those are just a few of the life lessons I learned those first months from working out. Plus, I got slightly firmer arms and legs.

Now I am learning free weights. My arms ache. My form is laughable. I take my puny five-pound weights over to a far corner of the gym, so the muscle men lifting barbells won’t see me. I lift each weight awkwardly and as I practice I feel strong, inside and out.

~Deborah Shouse

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