working out – and working it out

Eric and I joined the gym. He needs an outlet since it’s too cold to ride his bike or run, and I need physical activity to keep me from being mopey in the winter. Plus I hear it’s good for me.

Eric used to be really into going to the gym. Throughout his first few years of college, I think he was in the gym more than in class. He knows his way around the weight machines and knows how much weight to work with.

Me? I played sports at a small high school. We didn’t have a weight training gym, but boy did we run. Sprints, laps, line drills, suicides… my work out involved alternating sprinting, sprinting with a basketball in my hand, and crouching in a defensive position and shuffling in patterns around the court. When we messed up, we did push ups until we collapsed. I had actually never worked out in a gym until college, save maybe goofing around once or twice in high school with friends who had memberships to local fitness clubs.

In college, I went to the gym for social reasons. If my friends went, I didn’t want to be left out, so I tagged along. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I went alone and of my own initiative in four years of college. I normally would go with two or three girls and follow them around, doing whatever they did with however much for however long. I was a copy cat, and going with friends meant I had the security of knowing what to do since they would do it before me.

If I were ever forced to go alone, I stuck to cardio. The elliptical and the bike are fairly safe bets – no matter the brand, no matter the location, they are going to work pretty much the same. I don’t do any of those pre-set programs, either; quick start all the way. Easy. Embarrassment-free.

And that has kind of been my philosophy the first couple of times Eric and I have gone to the gym. I let him do weight training, and I’ll stick to my cardio, thank you very much. I hate feeling clueless, especially in a gym where it feels like everything is common sense to everyone else. It’s a trendy gym with brand new equipment, iPod chargers and TV screens at each cardio machine, and quotes over the walls describing the different ways they are doing things “green.” I always feel a little like I don’t belong, like I’m a few dri-fit shirts short of being legit.

One morning, I was pedaling along, by myself, until some guy came and sat on the machine next to me. I know people say it doesn’t matter what you are doing on your own machine because no one is looking, but I am one of those people that looks. I’ll admit it – just don’t tell anyone at my gym. I am not ready for any sort of a reputation.

I just have this tendency to compare my work out with the person next to me. I really should stop, because it never makes me feel better. I was going at a resistance of three, thinking I was doing good, then noticed that this guy was up to eight. I didn’t even know the numbers went that high! And he was going the same speed as me, maybe faster. I hoped he wasn’t looking at my screen, but I still wanted to scream, “I just joined the gym! Give me time! Don’t judge me based on this!”

But, that’s the thing – I just joined the gym. I have to work up to that level – which, at the rate we are going, might take a very long time. However, it’s a process. I can’t go once and all of a sudden be in shape. I am going to have to go more frequently and try new things and not care what other people think.

And my level is going to look very different from the person next to me. There are guys in there who look like they probably rip deer apart with their bare hands and eat the meat raw – my little 10- or 15-pound weights are going to look puny next to the amount they are lifting, but that’s (obviously) not the direction I am headed in.

I should probably remember that mindset in life outside the gym, too. It’s easy to compare where the Lord has taken me and what He has given me to another person’s and be embarrassed because it’s no where near the “status” I think they have attained.

Just like working out, though, it’s a process – I am not going to simply “arrive” without the effort and the discipline it takes to build my spiritual muscles, as well as make it a habit to “work out” more than once a week.

The Lord is growing something in me, but I know it’s going to require action and perseverance on my part. It’s not about trying to get to the same stage as someone else, but figuring out what stage the Lord has designed me for and how He has wired me, where He has put me. And when I compare my job, my car, or my wallet to the next person’s, I will always come up short. Because I’m not supposed to measure up to them. I am supposed to grow and measure my growth by the Lord.

Because I will never reach anywhere near lifting the same weight category as a body builder. And I’m okay with that. I will have my own measures of success. Like being able to do more than ten pushups at a time. (Hey, it’s been awhile since high school basketball practice!)

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