My friends had been talking about this cool sounding gym for a year before I even asked them serious questions about it. Not surprising, since I’d conditioned my brain to filter out all athletic talk. I just couldn’t picture myself doing it. And never having stepped foot in a gym before, I pictured the 7th circle of Dante’s Inferno (the one with all the sadistic, torture-happy demons).
Rewind to about a year and a half ago:
We’re at Cleo’s on Chicago for happy hour. My coworker is evangelizing about That Gym in a particularly powerful way. (A gym situation that’s friendly? Empowering? No mirrors? No Trixies in head-to-toe Lulu?). I’m intrigued, but when prodded I struggle to articulate my goals. Sure, who doesn’t have some pounds they wouldn’t mind ditching? But for me it’s, ” I want… I just want to be FIT. Or something.”
Fit or something. It was enough to get me to sign up for my first rowing class. I scheduled it for Thanksgiving Eve, not knowing that this holiday prep workout would be the first step in a life changing (YES, LIFE CHANGING. STICK WITH ME HERE) journey.
I think too much in general, and my brain didn’t accept this new input easily. (GYM? WHAT THE…DO YOU HAVE SHORTS? DO PEOPLE WEAR SHORTS? DO YOU HAVE TO INTRODUCE YOURSELF? WHAT IF YOU CAN’T DO IT? EVERYONE IS PROBABLY GOING TO NOTICE HOW MUCH YOU SUCK. UGH. YOU DON’T EVEN DO SPORTS!)
(Want to skip to the need-to-know stuff? Check out First Timer’s Cheat Sheet.)
It’s 6PM and I’m walking down this sketchy dark street to a building that totally does NOT look like a gym. But there’s the RowFit logo on the door, so in I go. I’m struck at first by the minimal amount of equipment. Some pull up bars, racks of heavy-looking stuff but no torture devices. Watching the class before mine sweatily finish hoisting bar bells over their heads is enough to keep the nerves raging.
I’m standing there awkwardly, when a big guy comes up. “Hey, I like your tattoos. Are you new? Cool. You’ll like it. It’s fun…” as he rambles on I’m already beginning to feel more at ease. I feel sort of… accepted.
The rowing class itself is a blur. The gym’s owner is leading the class and takes time to walk me through all the basics. I hear her tell people what “split” they should try for and when I ask her what that means, she says, “Don’t worry about numbers today. Just think about the motion.”
It’s kind of liberating. And fun. And doesn’t feel hard at all. Maybe I’m really good at this, I think as I see everyone around me huffing and puffing and looking like they’re about to fall off their ergs.
I made it through that class, and I didn’t need to know anything beforehand. I watched other people and picked up the rules. And two classes later I realized OMG ROWING IS INCREDIBLY HARD. I’d just been paddling before. As my more experienced friend said, “It’s as hard as you want it to be.”
I’ve been going ever since. Swallowing my apprehension and just believing as I walk in that door that I’ll figure it out with the help of my coaches. Or just get through the damn workout.
That said, if I’d had a list of things to consider before my first time I would’ve walked in a lot easier. If you’re like me and research is your crutch du jour, check out the First Timer’s Cheat Sheet.