Tomorrow is a special day, not only is it my birthday, but it also marks an important milestone in my life. Six years ago, I took my driver's test and passed. With my drivers license, I received a sense of freedom that I had never experienced before while living in Utah. In New York, it was easy to get to places, public transporation is phenomenal there, but not the case in good old Cache Valley, Utah. But on my birthday, six years ago, I was schedulet to take my test and thankfully I didn't crash and was able to parallel park! I got my driver's license, and, with that came freedom! But this post is not about my driver's license. It is about what I decided to do starting that very same day.
I decided six years ago that I was going to join the gym and become healthy by exercising everyday. The very next morning, I was up by 5:30am to attend the 6am spin class. I was nervous and afraid of what the people there would think of me. I was a fat rolly polly and didn't even know how to ride a bike. I was sure that I was going to manage to fall out of the seat and make a fool of myself. I arrived to the gym 15 minutes early and went upstairs to the spin room. Most of the bikes were already taken and some people were already riding. I was sure I had missed the start of the class but there was no instructor there yet, so shyly, I made my way to the back of the room and found an empty bike. I was so chuby and so self-consious of myself. As class time approached more people started showing up, I was there with my baggy boy shorts and a big tshirt, something to hide the big body that I was carrying around. I knew the instructor as soon as he came in, he looked so happy to be there and greeted everyone in the front row and smiled around the room. I tried to make myself smaller so he wouldn't see me, the intruder in his perfect class, but it didn't work. He spotted me right away and as soon as he placed his stuff down, he made his way to my bike and introduced himself. I felt so ashamed for being there. I was not in shape, what was I going to do in his class other than warm up the seat! He told me that I was going to be ok and just to go slow and rest when I needed. His name was Rod and he helped get my bike set up that first day and a few extra times when I forgot how to do it. This stranger, with spiky blonde hair became one of my favorite people to be around for the next two years! He inspired me in ways that he will probably never know--he had ridden the Lotoja various times and had biked up and down mountains and had so much energy to drive a room full of hard-core cyclists for 50 minutes straight! Every single one of them, rode harder, climbed faster just by him saying so. Did I mention that they were all hard core outdoor cyclists?! Yeah, I happened to decide to join the class where all the outdoor cyclist went to stay in shape during the off-season. The guys with the fancy jerseys and the clip-on shoes and calves the size of big boulders! Yeah! I joined that class...the chubby, rolly, polly amidst the greatest of Cache Valley. Thank goodness I didn't know all this when I joined up, it took me a few months to realize who I was "rubbing shoulders with", hahaha, otherwise, I would have stayed in my warm bed all those winter nights.
Back to my story of my first day; boy was that an eye opener! I died about 5 minutes into the class. I felt weak and wanted to puke. My heart for sure was having a heart attack and I was sweating burgers by the drops! I was heaving and pouring sweat from every pore in my body. Rod, the instructor, would look at me from his bike, up on the pedestal, and he would yell my name and say that I was doing great. Hahaha, I would laugh and say in my head "good thing, you can't see me all the way back here". The fact that he took a second every now and then to look at me and tell me those words was the only reason why I stayed the entire time that first class. I wanted to die! When the class was over, my legs were shaking, my arms were shaking, but my heart was racing! I wanted to crawl out of that room and get in my car and never come back! Yet, Rod stopped me before leaving the room and reassured me that things would get easier, to not give up. So, I did, I showed up to the next class, and the next, and the next.
I stayed in his class for two years straight, 3 times a week, at 6am. He and his motivational class was the first venue that got me in shape. I lost 15 lbs that first year, not counting all the muscle that I gained in my legs. But more than getting in shape and getting a bit of muscle. His class gave me the confidence I needed. I didn't feel like an "odd person" anymore. I belonged somewhere and I knew I belonged in his class. About 3 months into the class, I moved from the back row to my permanent seat, not in the front row, no, I wanted to be in the middle, right in front of the coach, where I could see the coach and see his riding style, my bike was number 23 and after awhile everyone knew it and they left it open for me. I made friends who would save my bike for me. Friends who would ask me where I was when I missed class. I became one of the group--complete with cycling jerseys, cycling shorts, and clip on shoes, and, wait for it--a real road bike!!!
A year after I started spin, I decided to put my 1 swim class in college to use, and I began my swimming journey. Instead of getting up at 5:30am, I was up at 4:30am and I would swim before attending spin class. Of course, I would first go upstairs and "save my bike" my putting my towel and spin shoes by the bike.
I would swim for 1 hour and then hit my spin class. At first, I would only complete about 1,000 yards of swimming in one hour but as time progressed, I got better at it, who whould have thought?! I made friends with swimmers at the pool and I found another place where I "belonged".
It has been six years now and I still love a hard spin class. It was my spin instructor, Rod, who first planted the seed in my head to become a spin instructor. I laughed and said that I was too fat to be anyone's role model. I am glad he saw the potential in me that I couldn't see in myself.
A lot of the time, I feel left out, like I don't belong, but then I go to the gym or to my box, and I feel like I "belong" there, it just feels right.
Making the decision to get healthy and in shape was the best gift I have ever given myself--the gift of finding a place where I belong.
In the past six years, I have accomplished so much that I never thought I would have done in a lifetime.
15 marathons (Including the Boston Marathon and next month ING NYC Marathon-both for which I had to run a qualifying time!)
23 half marathons
2 olympic triathlons
4 sprint triathlons
1 half ironman (70.3)
Various other little races
In addition, I did become a spin instructor, and a group fitness instructor, and a Zumba instructor. I am now leading my own classes, trying to inspire in others what Rod inspired in me my first day in spin class. It has been a lovely six years!!!