Baby We Were Born to Run

Remember that insane gym-going scheme my friend Adrienne and I cooked up in January?

It totally worked.

It turns out shame is an even better motivator than uplifting cat posters. My goal was to be able to run a 10K with ease on Memorial Day, and I DID IT.

Thing No One Tells You About Working Out #1: Sometimes they give you free beer after athletic events. Isn’t that cool?

I RAN SIX MILES. If a zombie was chasing me, I could start running now and not get tired/eaten for at least SIX MILES. (Unless it’s one of those athletic Resident Evil zombies. If that’s the case, I’m in trouble.) That’s about six more miles than I ever thought I’d make it in a zombie apocalypse.

There are some things regular gym-goers don’t tell you about exercise, though. Maybe they’ve repressed their woes beneath all those extra endorphins. Maybe their metabolisms are so fast that they absorb awkwardness before they even have a chance to recognize it. Maybe I just didn’t research physical fitness well enough before I started. Whatever the reason, someone needs to break the silence.

Things No One Tells You About Going to the Gym

2) You gain weight when you start exercising.

For the first month, I would morosely pick at my tiny salad bowl during dinner. Friends would ask what was wrong and I’d say, “Have you noticed anything different about me? No? I’M FATTER THAN I WAS BEFORE I STARTED WORKING OUT.”

People gave me a lot of explanations: exercising makes you retain water, you have to build muscle before you lose weight, muscle weighs more than fat, etc., etc., on and on. Every new piece of advice I got conflicted with something someone else told me. The good news is, there’s a lot to be said for visualization during work outs. Whenever I got discouraged, I’d just imagine punching one of my stupid friends for giving me those dumb explanations. It was a real motivator.

3) It takes FOR.EV.ER to see results. FORRREEVVVVVEERRRRR. FFFFFFFOOOORRRREEEVVVVVVERRRRR. (It takes a really long time, is what I’m saying.)

In January, my friend Dillon said, “You have to work out for at least three months before you see results.” It’s easy for him to say things like that because Dillon is secretly Captain America.

His pecs are made of science and strong morals.

Three months is a long time. When you’re working your butt off six days a week, it’s hard to understand why your butt is still, you know, there. You were supposed to have worked it off by now. Other people could see the difference before I could, but it took me about 12 weeks to notice any significant change.

STEPH HATE WHEN DILLON RIGHT!

4) When you finally do start to get in shape, you spend a lot of time asking friends to poke your various muscle groups. This is a good way to alienate the people you love.

I don’t know how many times I’ve caught myself saying, “No, seriously. Poke my stomach. Now poke my arm. Poke my thigh! I KNOW, RIGHT?!” in the last month, but the number is embarrassingly high.

5) Important body parts may disappear, and you’ll be forced to confront some facts about your shape.

I don’t know where my boobs went. I didn’t have a lot happening up top to begin with, and my chest has always had commitment issues, but at least I could fill a sweater. No more. Now I have to adjust to the idea that I’ll never be shaped like Lara Croft without some major surgical adjustments.

6) There will always be someone stronger, faster, or more flexible than you, and they will always work out annoyingly nearby.

Say you’re running on the treadmill. Chances are, some guy is going to hop onto the treadmill next to you and start running 10 mph faster than you are without breaking a sweat. He’ll probably look over at your calorie count and smirk a little. You have to resist the urge to unplug his treadmill suddenly. If you’re lifting weights, someone across the gym is lifting more and doing more reps, too. Even when you’re stretching, the girl on the mat beside you will have her left foot behind her right ear while you’re struggling to touch your toes. Going to gym will either keep your ego in check or completely crush your spirit.

Thing No One Tells You #7: Every gym in America plays “Sexy and I Know It”. The more you hate it, the more it will get stuck in your head.

8) The gym makes you really gross, but people hit on you anyway.

Workout clothes give you wedgies. Every body part, including parts you didn’t even know have sweat glands, sweats. All that sweat makes you break out and forces you to do laundry way more often because all your gym clothes are really smelly. On top of all that, exercise makes you fart. So while you’re at the gym, you’re picking wedgies and zits, sweating on everything, and stinking up the place. For some reason, people will try to pick you up anyway.

My roommate developed The Headphone Strategy for exactly this reason. Before you walk into the gym, put your headphones on. If you must interact with someone, take out one earbud to talk to them, but otherwise keep those suckers in your ears. Even when if your iPod is completely dead, keep the headphones on and sort of wave vaguely or smile when anyone tries to talk to you. I haven’t figured out what I’ll do if I forget my iPod. Maybe that’s where the ability to run six miles will come in handy.

9) You become the thing you hate.

The other day, I caught myself running around the track because I was feeling angsty. Yes, the thing that I promised myself would never happen happened: I’ve started running to relieve stress and manage anger. Somehow that makes me even angrier, which makes me want to run more. I miss the days when I could just eat an entire box of Girl Scout cookies in front of the TV and feel better, but even worse… I DON’T REALLY MISS THOSE DAYS THAT MUCH. Gah! I have to go run or something.

P.S.: Look at this. Awwww. It’s so cute I’m gonna puke.

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19 comments

    • Stephanie

      I love your blog! I think it’s a really good representation of what working out is like if you’re not a crazy person who lives and breathes fitness. Good luck with your goals!

  1. Danielle

    congrats on your race! and I read somewhere that it takes 8 weeks for others to notice changes and 12 for us to notice the changes in ourselves :)

    • Stephanie

      Thanks! That sounds about right. I know I spent the first couple of months staring sadly at my noodle arms and wondering what my problem was, and now I’m developing a weird case of… confidence.

      • Danielle

        Good for you! It’s always a bonus to have self-confidence and that is usually something people notice, even if they can’t quite put their finger on it right away :)

    • Stephanie

      When I read this comment I imagined a woman literally trying to pick you up in the gym because she was way too enthusiastic about lifting weights. I know that’s not what you meant… but that’s how I’m choosing to picture it. :)

  2. Go Jules Go

    Stephanie! You really have changed, but thankfully you’re still as hilarious as ever. Although maybe not the best person to have around during the zombie apocalypse, because you could totally outrun me and my Thin Mints.

    You are my hero! (Oh and my sister gave me the heads-up about the beer a few months ago after her first triathlon. If that doesn’t motivate someone, I don’t know what would!)

    • Stephanie

      Honestly, my zombie apocalypse plan is to stay still and maybe let them eat my brain first so that it’s all over sooner. It might be negative, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to live in a world that’s been overrun by the walking dead. It’s just not my scene. So can we still hang out in the zombie apocalypse?
      You’re MY hero! (Freshly Pressed again, I see! Nice job, you!) I kind of think establishing a beer prize system would motivate me in a lot of areas. Oh, you wrote a blog post this week? YOU GET A DRINK!

  3. eavelectriclove

    Runners seriously have more cheesy, motivational nonsense than anyone, but it works. And when it doesn’t, you can always just run til you get dizzy & chug that post-race beer. Plus all the other snacks & free stuff they give you!
    And personally, I only run at the gym when it’s freezing out. The rest of the time I’ll go to a trail or less busy neighborhoods with fewer people to gawk at me while I’m all sweaty & flailing around.

    • Stephanie

      So many free snacks! I ran into the hall thing at the end and they were like, “Bagel? Soy milk? Granola bar? Pistachios? Alcohol?” It was like Halloween, only I didn’t even have to ask. People just handed me food. It was AWESOME. I’m trying to get brave enough to run through neighborhoods instead of in the gym, but I have this weird fear of getting so lost that the only solution is to keep running, Forest Gump-style, until I find an ocean and figure out where I am. (I didn’t say it was a rational fear.) Also, on an unrelated note: I miss yo’ face.

  4. sarahnsh

    I can totally relate to this post because I myself have started exercising religiously. Now, I can’t run, I am a swimmer, not a runner, so if the zombie apocalypse happens I will hop in the ocean, swim until they drowned and get eaten hopefully by sharks. :-)
    But, I think it’s awesome about running six miles! I could never do it, but I can bust it out on an elliptical!

    • Stephanie

      I’m really impressed by swimmers. Every time I get in a pool, I’m like, “Yeah! Swimming! Zero-gravity! This is fun!” and then five minutes later they have to pull me out of the pool because my arms are so tired they’re about to fall off. I like your shark-zombie plan a lot. Why not pit two awful things against each other and escape while they’re distracted? You have the Godzilla vs. Megalon of zombie contingency plans.

  5. mybakingempire

    I’ll tell ya, I have some of the same feelings. First off, I also want to punch everyone who tells me muscle weighs more than fat. Also, why do people insist on talking to me at the gym? I usually go at 5:30am, and there’s really no excuse for someone trying to be social a) while I’m working out and b) at that hour anyway!

    • Stephanie

      Agh! Super social gym-goers are the worst. I’m in a really good mood AFTER the gym, once the endorphins hit, but DURING the gym I do not want to have a nice chat with anyone. Even if it was my long-lost sibling who I hadn’t seen in 15 years, I would NOT talk to them at 5:30 AM in a gym.

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