By Jaimie Marzullo
There are videos. They exist in an bizarre alternate universe known as YouTube and in them, a fat lady with my face is hip hop clogging to the likes of Flo Rida.
Her jiggly ass is the reason why, 2.5 months ago, I got it in my head that I needed to try Crossfit.
Crossfit: (noun) High intensity strength training and total body conditioning workout, preferred by military special ops units and masochists. Synonyms: Pain, vomit.Antonyms: Olivia Newton John, Jane Fonda.
I told my husband, “I think I’m going to join Crossfit.” He said, “Cool, that’s great,” without batting an eye. Because he’s used to me talking crazy sometimes.
I told my kids, “I think I’m going to join an exercise place.” They said, “Oh, because of your belly?” Because kids are assholes sometimes.
They’re also right sometimes. Yes. Yes, you evil little truth-monsters. That’s exactly why.
I’ve tried gym-type-places before. A long time ago I made several months’ worth of donations to a big box gym before canceling on account of having never actually been inside. I gave Curves a good go, but as I was sitting comfortably with my elbows on the armrests of my favorite machine, lackadaisically raising and lowering my forearms, I couldn’t help but think that I could do this same thing at home, for free, while watching Doctor Who. And at home, I could put a drink in one hand and a snack in the other, call ‘em weights, and probably actually break a sweat.
Plus, I never did figure out the whole “equipment set up in a circle” thing. What’s up with that, Curves? Where are you supposed to look? I haven’t had to work so hard at not stalker-staring at people since going to dances in seventh grade. At least then there were cute boys getting down to Milli Vanilli to check out. At Curves it was just more fat ladies, and I see quite enough of that at home, thankyouverymuch.
I’d heard great things about the quality and amount of one-on-one coaching you get in Crossfit (all true, by the way) and I thought, That’s what I need. So I looked up my local affiliate and, after a brief telephone conversation with one of the owners, oh-so-casually started psyching myself out, obsessively driving past the place, and then agonizing in the parking lot for ten minutes, before working up the nerve to go in. Across the parking lot I could hear metal-on-metal, the clunks and bangs of the welding shop from Flashdance, only without the singing and dancing.
It was terrifying.
Inside was even worse. Because I walked in and saw one person – then another – then another another another another – and every one of them looked like a walking advertisement for Crossfit. And just to rub some salt in the wound, at least two-thirds of them were too young to get a single of my 80′s pop culture references. (Seriously, millennials, I am so sad for you.)
I had made a mistake. Clearly. I was just about to break for the door, when I saw… A man. Not right out of a fitness magazine, but about my grandfather’s age. And he was raising and lowering himself on gymnastics rings, with the support of a wooden box under his feet. He was working hard, he looked confident and strong, and I mentally cheered him on, “Man, you go. That is awesome.”
And thought, “If he can do this, so can I.”
Followed immediately by, “No, I can’t. Fuck this, I’m so outta here.”
Only that happened to be the precise moment that Dave, the co-owner I’d spoken to on the phone, came over and sucked me into that social nonsense known asintroducing yourself and not running away screaming and crying. Like all uncomfortable people who don’t want you to know what they’re really thinking, I immediately blurted out what I was really thinking: “I have a long way to go.”
“It’s not that bad,” Dave said. Which taught me that Dave is a nice man who deals in well-intentioned lies.
And that totally works for me.
As does the fact that I was offered coffee and then informed that the refrigerator always has bottled water and beer in it.
“I’m in,” I said. “Where do I sign up?”
2.5 months later, I have perpetual bruises on my collarbone and knees, and callouses on both hands. I’ve discovered that I am both stronger and weaker than I expected, that I can jump rope precisely 43 times before I start to pee a little (kids ruin more than your social life), and that when something really begins to burn I am capable of producing spectacles of profanity that rival the great masters for their artistry.
I’ve dropped a size but, according to the abusive bastard scale, not lost a single pound. Considering that I fully expected to look like Jessica Alba after my second workout, both of these results are slower than I’d prefer; living a fit-person lifestyle inside a fat-person body is uncomfortable and sucky. It was much easier to be living a fat-person lifestyle inside a fat-person body, and at least back then there were jellybeans. But I can see and feel my muscles now and I like that, even if my husband did tell me one night that he is “jealous of [my] muscular forearms.” (Note to men: The path to sexytime is not the one that includes telling your wife she’s hot like Popeye.)
After trying too hard and wrecking my quads in my first session, followed by two weeks in which I was forced to scuttle up and down stairs like that insane spider-walk scene from The Exorcist, I learned the value of pacing myself and being okay with looking undignified. Which is a discipline I’m trying to use to appreciate my gains, as small and slow as they may be, and not focus the fact that I had it right from the first words I spoke: I have a long way to go.
But not quite as long as I did 2.5 months ago.