Pre-dawn Lessons Learned at the Gym

When I was 43 I got into the best physical shape of my life. No magic tricks. Just eat less, move more and drink water. I got in the habit of going to the gym pre-dawn. I had a love/hate relationship with the gym. I hated the exercise but loved the results more. So I did it.

What I didn’t do was address my mind and my soul. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was in the throws of a nervous breakdown that lasted from 2008 until 2016. I have always been a high functioning neurotic. It is a double edge sword. On the positive side, I can plow through emotional circumstances that most others find debilitating. On the flip side, much to my detriment, my issues would go unaddressed. In 2016 while reentering therapy, I was made aware of my nervous breakdown and began the process of reassembling my mind.

I’ve always been spiritual. Even from the time I was a child. Perhaps that comes from being an only child in a dysfunctional environment trying to figure out if, how and where I belong. But no matter how spiritual I got, no matter how much I learned about different religions and philosophies, it never entirely clicked.

This is why despite feeling and looking great as a result of my physical fitness and maintaining it for 5 years or so, I backslid. Going to the gym less then not at all for months at a time. Eating shitty. Not drinking water. The weight came back on pound by pound. Muscle mass lost. While I didn’t backslide all the way to my physically unhealthiest, I was well on the way there.

Then in late 2019, my spirituality clicked. That got me thru the psychological rigors of 2020. That lead to getting back on track with nutrition and movement. But with the gyms closed and the general state of WTF, I was inconsistent at best.

Then lo and behold… in February 2021, I had the mental ass kicking I needed to put everything into alignment. Finally. Uncoincidentally, this mental ass kicking occurred as I was almost exactly 50 1/2. It hit me that I am not getting any younger. If I’m gonna do it… “it” being anything from getting back into good shape to getting any other long put off shit together, I had to DO IT NOW.

So from that moment on, I did. Hitting the gym a minimum of 4 times a week. Eating clean. Struggling with drinking water but doing better. I noticed something different this go around though. Some of it being the metabolic changes I went through with aging from the last time I was fit making it slower to take off the weight and build back the lost muscle. More of it being that my mind’s restoration to wholeness, my soul finding a home and experiencing the liberty of the “I don’t give a fuck 50s.” I don’t mean being flippant, rude and reckless. I mean being comfortable enough in my own self that I will be ME bo matter who sees vs trying to publicly be who I thought I was supposed to be in my younger (and not so younger) days. I cannot express what a difference having the mind-body-soul connection in alignment makes.

This time I love not only the positive effects but I love the movement itself. I lose myself in exercise. I put my earbuds in, blast the Lady Gaga Pandora station and have conversations with God. I literally feel the Holy Spirit move with me and hear God speak to me as keep the fuckin elliptical from killing me, at time dancing as much as I can on the machine. I am all in. So much so that the week before last, as I was in the final 5 minutes on the elliptical in a half squat, the person at the front desk comes running towards me from across the gym. I thought I heard an odd noise over the music pumping in my ears but didn’t think much of it. Until he stopped dead in front of me with his mouth agape. I pulled out my earbuds as I continued working the elliptical. That was when I heard it. SCREEEEEEAAAMMMM coming from my machine until i stopped moving. The front desk clerk finally saying “I have never heard it make that noise before.” I apologized for breaking the machine as I dismounted.

There are many more ellipticals in the gym and arriving there pre-dawn, I almost always have my pick of them all. The next morning I picked one, got on it and worked it with the same joyful intensity as I connected with God. Which leads me to today and the lessons learned from it.

I am many workouts shy of fully achieving this goal of entirely burning off the crazy… and I learned today that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Once again as I was heading into the homestretch of my half hour on the elliptical, I see someone coming straight at me. I thought “Oh shit. Do not even tell me that I broke another machine.” But the person heading towards me was not the front desk clerk. Rather it was one of the pre-dawn regulars I see several times a week. There aren’t many of us. Only about a dozen in the entire facility. We smile at eachother (as much as we can through our masks) but remain hyper focused on our workout rather than small talk.

I recognized the woman making the bee line towards me, although I didn’t know her name. I pulled my earbuds out bit didn’t pause my workout.

“You know,” she started, “I’ve been seeing you here for months. Every day on this machine, dancing, singing, really workin it. Don’t stop. It looks good on you.” How amazing that you hear just the thing you needed to just when you needed to hear it. Yesterday despite feeling in better health overall, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and my reflection didn’t show me what I believed I should see after the last 3 months of dedication to my fitness regimen. What this stranger said brought me back to my new reality and left me with these lessons:

Never hold back on being yourself. You never know who you inspire. I’ve often thought to myself, it’s a good thing everyone is so wrapped up in their own thing to notice you because you must look so ridiculous dancing, singing and praising while working on breaking elliptical #2. Turns out someone did notice and didn’t think it was a display of foolishness. And instead of being embarrassed and tempted to suppress myself, I felt proud to be me.

Don’t be stingy with your compliments. See something, say something. It might be exactly what they need to hear. I am so glad that this woman whose name I still don’t know understood this and acted on it. She totally made my day and delivered exactly what I needed to hear. I am inspired to be that someone to others. I think it’s a great way to be.

2 thoughts on “Pre-dawn Lessons Learned at the Gym

  1. Ginni Hart May 20, 2021 / 6:49 pm

    Your journey and words inspire me. Thank you. Ginni Hart

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