Getting dressed is the first step. A pair of stretchy legging with enough substance to hold me in. A sports bra that still fits and a singlet with built-in support. I have boobs now that need restraining.
I put on my socks and sneakers. I look in the mirror and ignore the judging voice that says I look so much bigger than the last time I wore these clothes.
The gym is small and quiet. A resort gym where only the most dedicated fitness enthusiasts leave their holiday pleasure to get in a workout. There’s a woman on the elliptical reading a book and a man lifting free weights.
I put on my gloves and survey the available equipment. The multi-exercise weight machine seems a good place to start. Lat pull-downs were always my favourite exercise so I start there. The weights only have numbers so I take a guess at what I can handle. My guess is correct.
My body responds quickly to the familiarity of the exercise. I tighten my core and grip the metal bar that is like every other bar in every other gym. My breath synchronises with the effort and the release.
Cable rows, bench press with just the bar and pec dec are all completed with the burn setting in on the last three reps. As I pause between sets I try not to think the thoughts that used to accompany every trip to the gym. I avoid the mirrors on the wall. It doesn’t matter how I look — it’s no longer the point.
I finish on the treadmill. A power walk on an incline seems a good place to start. I have no idea how far or how long I will stay on this machine. My breath gets faster and sweat breaks out on my face. I turn up the music and enjoy moving with the beat.
Here I think about what I’ve eaten that day. My mind starts to tell me the adjustments I should be making to ensure this workout ‘matters’. I push the thoughts away. This is not about losing weight. This is not about looking better. I’m here to improve my strength and endurance so I can enjoy kayaking, beach swimming and hiking with less effort and for longer. After seeing my dad struggle to walk in his seventies I’m determined to be physically fit for as long as I can. It’s time to invest in my body so it works for years to come.
The number of calories flashes at me from the console. There is no way this machine knows what I’m burning. But I no longer care. I walk for twenty-five minutes without tiring. I’m surprised that I’m still quite aerobically fit.
As I leave the gym and head back to my room I wonder — not if I can keep this up — but how I can keep from obsessing about exercise all over again. Going back to the gym feels like the first hit of nicotine after not smoking for months. It’s a drug that whispers that more is better, that working harder will transform my body, that cutting back on my food will give me the body I once had.
But the body I once had belongs to the life I once had. A life I never want to live again. I am a different person now. I can go to the gym just to get fit and strong and resist the urge to overdo it.
I know I can.
But it’s still there calling to me at the back of my mind …