When I joined the River Valley Club (RVC) in 2001 I was at my highest weight and lowest fitness level. I hadn’t seen the inside of a gym in at least a year and the most exercise I got was an occasional walk at lunch time. At 5’2”, over 150 pounds, and sedentary, I finally decided it was time to get back on track.
I drove by RVC every day on my way to and from work as an administrator at Dartmouth College and I knew I wouldn’t have a good excuse not to go. It took me several years to take full advantage of what the club had to offer. I spent most of my time on the treadmills and elliptical machines and only every so often ventured onto the weight machines. I didn’t take advantage of the classes because I was intimidated. It was much easier to talk myself out of going to a class than to get up the nerve to participate. For example, I really wanted to try Spinning but I was deterred by the presence of a sign up sheet and the fear that I’d walk in and not have the right shoes, not to mention not knowing whether or not I could make it through a whole hour on the bike.
One day, I finally decided to take the 15-minute Abs Class. I’d been watching it from my safe perch on the treadmills and although it looked tough I knew it targeted an area of my body that needed the extra help. I took the class once, felt sore for days, but managed to show up again the next time they offered it. I started attending consistently on Mondays and Wednesdays. It got me to the club, into my gym clothes, and ready to tackle the rest of my body. (It didn’t hurt that the instructor at the time was super cute. Whatever motivates you, right?)
I started taking other classes. I loved the classes that mixed cardio with weights, bands, bars, balls, and every other fitness accessory available. I was never bored and it gave me the confidence to use the free weights in what I’d previously defined as the scary area of the club. Next, a friend of mine forced me to take the Boot Camp class that was being offered. It was brutal, but all of a sudden I could do push-ups. Real ones! I found myself going to the class even when my friend couldn’t make it. Another friend of mine hired a trainer to get her ready for an all-female sprint length triathlon which included a half mile swim, a 12 mile bike ride, and a 5K run. I couldn’t do any of those by themselves never mind all at once but when I saw that my friend, a “normal” person whom I considered a peer physically, had successfully completed a triathlon, I had to try it. When I first started training I couldn’t swim one length of the pool without having to stop and catch my breath for several minutes. I couldn’t go half a mile at a slow jog. I could bike but certainly not quickly, and definitely not up hills. What the RVC was able to offer me while I was training were all three activities in the same place. If I was tired of running alone I could take a Spinning class. If I wanted to give my legs a rest I could jump in the pool (and bribe myself with hot tub time afterward.) I even used the climbing wall for a complete change of pace.
I didn’t discover the joy of gym going (yes, there is such a thing) until I stepped out of my comfort zone. From my first admittedly terrifying experiences, I discovered that I had it in me to challenge myself physically, and more importantly, that I actually enjoyed exercise. Who knew?
A few years ago, when the Abs Class instructor left he suggested I take over for him. I was shocked and terrified but I said yes. All of a sudden, I was a fitness professional. Me! Since then, I have completed 4 triathlons and taken on new challenges such as the Covered Bridges Half Marathon.
In 2007, I took all my personal experiences and channeled them into becoming a certified personal trainer. I’ve gone from being a member hiding in the corner to being a mentor to members like myself. I still can’t believe this is my life. I spent my first 30 years “slightly overweight” and under-exercised. I’m now 25 pounds lighter and an infinite number of times fitter. I had no idea that life would lead me down such an exciting and worthwhile path. I’m loving every minute of it.