Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Losing It [Not My Weight—My Composure]

We all know that exercise is good for us. A few of us actually like to do it. And I think I might be the only one who cries over it. [Let me explain…]

I was training for an ultra-marathon relay race. [Yeah.] One where you have a team of 10 runners and you run, around the clock, for 242km (150mi.). [Yes. I’m totally intense like that. And so are my friends.] Well, you’ve seen how well I do running outside and with it being [a freezing] rainy season, I actually bought a gym membership. I picked a really nice ladies’ gym near my work with great machines, a sauna and belly dancing classes. [I guess they’re not all born with this gift already perfected.] Now, I don’t know if you know this about me or not, but… I was a college athlete. I wasn’t the star of the team, I didn’t break any records, but I learned how to work out hard and lift heavy. Our motto was “Why run and puke when you can eat and throw?” Yes. I threw the hammer. [YouTube ‘hammer throw.’ It’s beautiful.] And so, running has always been punishment for me… until I lived in a society where I had no control and, what I perceived to be, “freedom.”

Some days the “emotional whiplash,” shebab [youth males] on the streets and just a bad day at work, where no one actually speaks to you in English, wears on you. And you have all this pent up “frustration-and-sadness-and-hurt-and-you-wanna-go-home-but-not-really-but-actually-you-just-want-to-hit-someone-and-there’s-no-ocean-to-go-scream-at” going on inside of you. You should run. You need to get it out, make some endorphins. As my friend Jayme would point out: You need some serotonin on the brain. Shahtra, ya Jayme—gym membership purchased. I only had about 2 weeks of exercise bliss until this happened…

Me (to my “trainer” while I did some leg extensions): “I’m having a really bad day. Can I do this alone? I want to just work out and lift heavy things.”

Trainer (who has some certificate, but I’m sure has never lifted anything but a baby brother in her life): Well, not that much. (She moved my weights from 85 pounds down to 40.)

Me: Why’d you do that? I can’t even control 40 pounds it’s so light. (I put it back on 85.)

Trainer (replaces the weight at 40): Your file says that you should be lifting this much and that’s the plan you’re going to follow. You will do leg extension, 40 pounds.

Me (laughing, trying not to be mad): Girl. Look at my legs. I can clearly, without any effort, lift 40 pounds. Look! I can even do one-leg extensions with that. Maybe it’s a typo?

Trainer: No. It’s not a “typo.” This is your program and you will follow it.

[Oh, no, she dih-int. She just bossed me and told me what I was going to do. Last thing I wanted was for one more person, that day, to tell me what I was going to do.]

Me (standing up): Friend, I was a college athlete in America. You have my name—Google me. [Yeah, I really said that….] I’m doing your little program because your boss said if I did it, I could lift any weights I wanted. You can clearly see that I am capable of lifting more than double that amount. Why won’t you let me?

Trainer (getting very embarrassed and apologetic… because maybe I started to cry): Ok. Ok, my love. You can do it. Don’t cry…

Me: All I wanted to do was come in here and be with women and not be on the streets. It’s hard. I have no control and they’re mean. They’re mean to me. And now you won’t let me. I just… wanted… to… lift… weights… and… beeee….. happppppppY!

At this point, I had most of the gym watching and listening. I took my little chart, filed it back under the S’s, went to the locker room, collected my things and left.

I tried going back a few times, but I had ruined my safe space. They left me alone and the “scary” trainer “supervised” me [let me do what I wanted]. But after another week or so, I couldn’t go back. I had totally lost it. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I was confused. Why I couldn’t communicate myself in a polite, grown-up manner was just beyond me.

I wanted to write that trainer an apology note for my blow-up/breakdown, but nothing ever came out right. So, I paid for a three month gym membership and only used 5 weeks of it. And I forced myself to train outside in the cold and the rain.

[The ultra-marathon went well. And it didn’t rain.]


  1. I've laughed/cried just reading this one. I can def relate.

  2. Thanks, Leah. It's nice to know that others can relate to a totally ridiculous experience like this. It's amazing, isn't? You never think these things will happen to you or that you'll react in a sad, sad way like this... but... I did.
    Thanks for reading, girl. :)))
    Love, Sarah.


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