I call it a Lady’s gym but no one there would call it a Lady’s gym. They’d just call it a gym. Of course, most of the people there are ladies so this would make sense. To them it’s just “the gym”. It’s the same with the weightlifters at all the dude gyms I’ve been to over the years. None of them would call their gym a “dude gym” but it is.
So, I’m calling it a Lady’s gym even though it’s not all ladies. Let’s be clear, it’s mostly women and it’s all group classes, something I absolutely have been snobby about in the past. Who wants to do something in a group according to other people’s rules and on their schedule? I need to lift weights and grunt. I need squats and deadlifts.
Well, you see, things have changed. After being basically sedentary for two years I weigh 184 pounds which is the heaviest I have ever been. That weight has gone two places, my stomach and my face. I don’t look that good. I look sloppy.
So, a month ago I agreed to go to my girlfriend’s gym which offers mostly cycling but also calisthenics, all in a group setting. It’s very cardio heavy and since I quit smoking over a year ago I need that.
I figured this would all be very easy, honestly. I thought that it would be very much about feeling good and giving effort that was mostly half hearted, and then collecting your cucumber washcloth on your way out the door. You see, I’ve done “flow” yoga and know how unimpressive it is, meant mostly for people who want a lifestyle experience more than a workout. From that, I got the impression this was how many women work out, pathetically.
Oh dear reader, I was a sexist fool.
The first day I went to class we did a full hour of cycling which is standard. It was hard and I sweated a lot even though the room was well air-conditioned. The exercises weren’t limited to simple bike sprints or increased difficulties. There were also very light weights, child’s weights you might call them, two and three pounds and pink or purple. Weights for weaklings.
But when we got to the part where you are riding your stationary bike on a high difficulty while, at the same time, doing various lifts and presses with these petite weights I quickly found that while I started strong (oh it was so easy) I was soon left in the dust. My arms drooped and before long I was bent over the handle bars gasping, my shoulders very possibly actually combusting into flame.
It was amazing and after the first two times I had trouble walking. I went three more times over the next week or so.
But I wasn’t convinced this stuff was hard. “Sure,” I thought, “biking is hard but it’s hard for everyone. I bet I’m doing more than the others here anyway.”
You see, I’m competitive and also a fool. I’d also ridden 100 miles in one day at the age of 15 with no prior preparation so I had preconceived notions. This toxic combination made me believe, truly, that going to the Fusion Pro class toward the end of last week would be so easy, unbelievably easy. Calisthenics? That’s just moving your body around without resistance. No problem. Famous last words.
I arrived for the class a few minutes early just as people were trickling in. Then I saw the instructor. She stood about 5’6 and had a strong build but more eye catching than that was that she was pregnant and I don’t mean a little pregnant. She was very pregnant to be teaching a class. She was seven months pregnant if she was a day.
“This class is going to be cake,” I said to myself. Already I was regretting even coming. A pregnant teacher? How hard could the class be if a pregnant woman could teach it? I almost, almost went to the cycling class instead where I knew I could control the intensity but I decided it would be rude and stuck it out.
It started off easily enough, some air squats, a few jump and clap and dips, a few burpies. Then I looked up at the clock. We were seven minutes in. Behind the instructor some remixed pop song was playing on the stereo and it blared through speakers around the room. The atmosphere was light. “Let’s go,” she yelled, cheerily.
Ten minutes passed and just like that I wanted to die. My legs and shoulders were on fire. I could not breath anymore and in fact, at that point, I was no longer sure I had ever taken a full and satisfying breath in my entire life.
“It’s okay to take breaks, just keep moving,” she said to everyone, encouragingly.
But I knew she was talking to me. I looked around at all the others in the class, all women of different shapes and sizes, all moving in unison in their leotards and tights and loose t-shirts. All of them were sweating but none were gasping. Their legs weren’t twitching.
Twenty minutes into the class I was sure that it must be nearly over until I look at the clock on the wall and saw I had 40 more minutes of this. Forty more minutes for this pregnant mother-to-be to destroy me body and mind. My head was pounding and hurt, it swam a bit. I was having trouble staying upright and nearly fell over a couple of times but I was determined. This was harder than cross fit by far.
She. Will. Not. Break. Me.
I. Am. Man.
I didn’t actually think these things but I know I felt them.
Five minutes later and I was sitting on the floor. The instructor, glowing with exertion and happiness skipped over to where I was sitting. “I need to leave,” I gasped. I couldn’t look at her but not because I was ashamed. It was just that I could barely life my head.
“It’s fine,” she said. “Take care of yourself and drink a lot of water.”
I leave. The next day I could barely walk and the day after that. This, despite the stretching and water and electrolytes. On the third day things were more normal. I was unable to go to other classes because of this, because I thought these classes were for the weaker. The women ran free while I sat on my couch massaging my cramping legs.
Because of these experiences I have a completely different outlook on “lady gyms” now and, thanks to the women teaching going to these classes, in a few months of working out I’ll be more of a man than ever, body and mind.
Thank God for that.