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Confessions From the Past

The Chapter That's Not Really About Working Out


A few years ago, senior year of high school I believe, you and your best friend decided it was time to get in shape for, wait for it, PROM. Of course. As any 18 year old obsessing over the pictures and videos to come would do.

Usually, the two of you liked the treadmills. You’d run/walk a mile or two to get your heartrate going before heading off to the other machines for a while and then jumping in a tanning bed for 15 minutes. But on one day in particular, you decided to hop on an elliptical.

“I should be working more on my butt,” I remember saying, meaning the lack thereof.

So, you hopped on, set your resistance, and were off. After about 15 minutes, you were feeling pretty good. And really tired. But just as you were about to get off and wipe the machine down, someone walked into that cardio room.
With her clear skin, silky hair, and toned arms and legs, she looked as if she might as well have owned the gym. But it wasn’t until she walked over to the elliptical next to yours, looked you up and down, swung her long perfect ponytail out of her face, and set her resistance two steps higher than yours, that something in you snapped.

Who did she think she was?! She was OBVIOUSLY asking for a challenge; who could stay on the longest at the highest resistance? HA. BRING. IT. ON.

And I had already been on for 15 MINUTES! Take THAT! (You obviously didn’t realize that this was not perk, but a rather strenuous setback. Ah, retrospect.)

I punched a few buttons on my machine and felt the burn in my legs grow hotter. I could’ve sworn she’d looked over a few times and laughed.

I pushed harder and went faster.

She wasn’t. Even. Breaking a. Sweat.

I wiped my face with a towel and pressed on. It’d only been five minutes! She’d be outta here in nooooo time.

I stared at the clock on the wall. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. Piece of CAKE, my friend! This was NOTHING!

After about 15 minutes you were damn sure you were going to die. You’d started seeing big black dots everywhere you looked and couldn’t even feel your body anymore. But there she was, right next to you, that toned, beautiful, evil girl, just running merrily along, ponytail swinging back and forth. I’m pretty sure I looked like a sweaty zombie at that point. I mean, who was the real winner here?

“GET OFF,” your best friend said after coming back into the cardio room from lifting weights. She’d already done her full workout.

“I, feel, good,” I said between breaths.

She looked at the amount of time I’d been on. Nearly 45 minutes at almost the highest resistance.

“You don’t need an ambulance coming in here and taking your ass home when I drove.” Before I could stop her, she shut off the machine and that was it. I’d lost. I’d failed. I might as well never show up to the gym AGAIN.

I’d all but collapsed by the time we’d gotten in the car.

“I was fine!” I insisted.

“You cannot measure your own strength and stamina by comparing it to someone else’s. That was your own personal best and you didn’t even realize it because you were too busy racing the chick next to you!”

Of course, she was right. And, of course, this is the part where I use this story as a metaphor for your life. Ready?

First off, let me update you on where you’re at right now. You’re still (yes, STILL) working your Boring Ass Job along with two others and although things are going well and you enjoy them all, most of the time you’re batting the feeling of being stuck in one place. It seems like everyone around you is taking major steps in their lives. They’re getting married, they’re having babies, they’re getting their dream jobs. They’re getting out of the dinky little towns that do nothing but hold people back. I worked hard in school, I’ve saved money up, and built up some good credit. Aren’t I doing everything right?! Aren’t I ahead of the game? Lately, the only topic of conversation I ever want to have with anyone new is how much they make in a year.

It’s getting a little bit out of hand.

Basically, you feel like you’ve been on an elliptical for a long time next to a perfect human who has it all together.

But you cannot measure your own strength and stamina by comparing it to someone else’s. You cannot compare your life and worth to anyone that you’re intimidated by. And your accomplishments and achievements are still worth just as much as theirs are.

I think the smart thing to say would be, “Hey Self, get off that elliptical. You’re worth more than that!” But it’s not what I think you should do. I think you should keep pushing and using that bitch next to you to motivate you to do better and better. To achieve another personal best. To keep you on your toes and not just be stuck in time watching someone else work for what they want.

Just get off before you pass out though, okay?