Body image is a hard topic for me to discuss. I never got into sports as a kid and only took dance lessons for a couple years. Even then, I was never the best one at the ballet recital and always messed up the footwork. I tried at least, but sports just weren’t my thing. Working out was never a big part of my life. In high school, none of my friends had gym memberships and we all just ate whatever we wanted. I think we took our fast metabolisms for granted because once I got to college, everything changed.
My roommates started asking me if I wanted to go on a run with them or if I’d join them for spin class. I never went because I was afraid to embarrass myself. They’ve been going to the gym for years and I know I would not be able to last five minutes on a treadmill.
Sophomore year, I told myself I would do some workouts in the privacy of my room. Nobody would be around to judge me if I didn’t squat low enough or raise my leg high enough. I could workout in comfort and on my own. I bought my own yoga mat and dumbbells to keep in my closet. This method worked for a couple months, but I eventually forgot about it and my yoga mat has been rolled up for a year now.
When I look in the mirror right now, I don’t love what I see. My thighs are bigger than they used to be and my love handles are more prominent. It’s time for me to fight my fear and to make a change for the better. I made a promise to myself to try out the school gym. They offer various workout classes and I figured if I just tried one, I would be okay. “Maybe if I go to an early class, I won’t run into anyone,” I thought to myself.
Friday’s at 8:15 in the morning, FGCU Campus Rec offers a Barre Fitness class at the school gym. I figured since I used to do ballet for a little I would be comfortable doing barre. I wore black leggings and a blue FGCU tank top.
I parked outside the gym and walked to the door. The pit in my stomach was huge. I kept telling myself it is just a barre class, there are worse things in the world than a barre class. I walked into the gym and was surrounded by a group of guys in Pike working out. “Thank God I didn’t wear a zeta tank to this,” I mumbled to myself.
I scanned the room quickly to find where the door to the fitness class room was. The fitness class room is in the middle of the gym, but you can’t see in it because the walls are covered with mirrors so that guys working out can stare at themselves shirtless. One day I hope to be able to have that kind of confidence, but until then I will be fully-clothed.
I got inside the room and was greeted by a group of six other girls who seemed to all know each other and I immediately felt like an outsider. They all turned their heads when I walked in, quickly scanned me and probably judged my Nike sneakers that I’ve had for five years. Who knew fitness classes had cliques? Yikes.
Luckily, another girl walked in by herself. The group of girls gave her the same glare they gave me. I turned to the new girl and smiled, hoping she would feel comfortable. I wish someone would have smiled at me when I walked in. The new girl came over to me but we didn’t talk. Even though we didn’t exchange any words, there was this unspoken “thank-you-for-making-me-feel-included” sense in the air.
Have you ever been to a barre class? I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it kicked my ass. It is a lot more than ballet plie’s and first position, it’s barely like ballet at all. We started with a small stretching session and then got into the workouts. I could feel my knees shaking in some exercises and prayed nobody else noticed. I felt overcome with nerves and tried to focus on what I was doing to distract my brain, but it didn’t really work. I kept feeling the eyes of the other girls staring at me while I did the movement wrong. I wanted to go home so badly.
The instructor was motivating and seemed to be pretty young, maybe even in college still. She had short brown hair and a petite figure. Maybe if I kept doing barre, I’d look like that one day. Whenever I started to get discouraged, I think she noticed and would say something encouraging to keep me going. She didn’t directly call me out but I think we both knew I wasn’t the best at this. My nauseous feeling in my stomach eventually went away and I slowly got more confident with every move. I was by no means a pro, but I wasn’t as nervous as I was when I first started and that is enough progress to make me happy. Even with my imperfect form, I persevered through the class with her and made it to the end.
She ended the 45-minute long class with a stretching session on the ground and thanked everyone for coming with sincerity in her voice. After everyone had left the room, I went up to the instructor and thanked her for the class. I told her I haven’t been in a gym in years and expressed how much I enjoyed doing barre with her. “I would have never known, you did great for a first-timer,” she said.
I didn’t completely believe her, but her words did make me feel better. I wasn’t totally confident in myself but hearing her say she thought I did great was an instant mood booster. I left the gym that day with a completely different mindset on working out. It wasn’t as scary as I made it out to be. Maybe I could come more often and actually love the love handles.
It wasn’t that bad after all. I realized I’m not scared of working out in public, I’m scared of what people would think of me. When I got the positive reaffirmation from the instructor, it made me wonder what I was so nervous about to begin with. If I keep a confident mindset, I can do whatever I set my mind to.