Crying at the Y ... and Speaking Up Again
I went to the gym today to meet with a "fitness coach" to get oriented to the Y—set up my cardio workouts on the various machines, all that sort of stuff—but ended up in tears. I was totally crying, right there in the exercise room, though I didn't feel self-conscious about it at all. I felt aware that this was not "normal" behavior, but I mostly just felt frustrated & upset. The "fitness coach," Kay, seemed frantic in her confusion about what had happened to cause this unexpected calamity and what she should do about it.
The reason I started crying was that I felt like this woman was not hearing anything I was saying, that her ability to understand my needs was being 100% blocked by her assumptions, which—to be fair—are probably based on 99.9% of the other people in the world. I just work differently than other people.
(Note: It reminded me of how the pharmacies dealt with my Tylenol #3 and Tylenol #4 prescriptions. They didn't want to give me both, because—with almost everyone else—this would invite the taking of too much medication. I, on the other hand, wanted to take as little codeine as possible, and so wanted the #4s only for dire circumstances & #3s for the rest of the time. But the pharmacies couldn't understand this, and so I ended up with only the larger pills, which—contrary to their intentions—encourage me to take more medication than if I had both prescriptions & could take the smaller pills when the larger ones aren't necessary.)
Anyway, so I'd started out by telling this woman about my situation:
- I need to lose weight because of the chronic kidney disease, but I can't reduce my caloric intake, and so it has to be through exercise alone.
- I have tried the whole exercise/fitness thing a number of times in the past, but usually became easily discouraged & so am trying to figure out how to prevent that from happening this time.
- Looking back, I see that I have tended to toggle back and forth between two states: massive exercise and no exercise. When I decide to get fit, I tend to try to do everything at once—cardio machines, aerobics/pilates/core classes, weights, yoga, tai chi, etc.—all of it full tilt, and I end up getting burnt out, so this time I want to start slowly, make it easy to start with, and increase my effort only when my body tells me I want to, rather than forcing myself to do what I think I should be able to do and ending up hating the exercise, which is what I've so often done in the past. Let's just start with some mild cardio & I'll increase my efforts slowly.
- I'm interested in using machines that integrate a heart rate monitor, because I think I may tend to exercise too hard in order to feel like I'm exercising "enough," and I think knowing my heart rate would help me figure that out.
Now, I understand that most people starting out at the Y probably need encouragement to work out more than they might think they want to. They might be accustomed to being lazy & need a cheerleader to tell them they can do it! They can do more than they think they can, they should work out harder than their inclination might lead them to do, etc. But I need the opposite of that. I need help moderating my instinctively frenetic pace, so that, rather than taking off at a sprint and wearing myself out right away (which is what I tend to do when I bike—I ride much faster than Shannon when we start out, and then I get so tired I can barely keep going), I can continue improving my fitness over the long term.
But no matter how I tried to explain this, this woman was just not understanding me. She was determined to help me reach my full exercise potential or whatever, and I was feeling increasingly defensive about the fact that I'm not like everyone else & I need something different & YOU JUST AREN'T GETTING ME, LADY! As I said, it was just like the Tylenol situation with the pharmacies. I was trying to tell her that I think differently about this stuff than the average person, and so I need to be treated differently, and she just couldn't see past her assumptions about what "people" need in this situation. I am not "people"—I am ME, and I don't necessarily work like "people." In many things, I don't. But lots of folks have such firm, vivid, engrained pictures in their minds of what "people" are/need/do/want/etc. that they can't see me through the fog of their own expectations.
So I got frustrated & told her that I felt like she wasn't hearing me & was pushing me to approach exercise from a perspective that was actually damaging to me & then I started crying. Her eyes started shifting all around & she looked like a frightened little animal. This woman is crying! In the co-ed cardio room! And she says it's my fault! I did something to make her cry! How can I make her stop?
Luckily, at that point she finally heard me, because I'd made it personal. She asked me what it was she was doing that made me feel like she wasn't hearing me & how it was that she was pushing me in ways that felt wrong. (In my experience, tears make people stop what they're doing & actually look at you & think about what's going on, analyze what has gone wrong. In that sense, they can be useful. I'm not saying that in a manipulative way, but in a sociologically curious way.)
She listened, then took me to set up on one of the exercise bikes, and talked with me about what I'm wanting to do. Unfortunately, she is new to the Y & didn't know how to work the machines very well, so she couldn't really help me with setting things up for me to reach my goals. (She was apparently "filling in" for the fitness coach the front desk had actually given me an appointment with.) So she advised me to go make an appointment with a different fitness coach & that she would just talk to the front desk about erasing this fitness coaching session so that it wouldn't count toward my 3 free sessions, which made sense to me, since she'd been almost no help at all except perhaps in causing a sort of self-aware fitness catharsis.
So I've made an appointment with a different person this Sunday, and we'll see if things go differently. I talked with Shannon when I got home & speculated that it might be wise to sit down and write something beforehand to get straight what I want to say & that it might help if I start out right off with pointing out the assumptions that the fitness coaches probably make about what beginning exercisers need and want, and how I'm different from that. If I point out the assumptions first, maybe he'll be able to see them & realize that they are assumptions & be able to set them aside & hear what I'm actually saying. I don't know if it will work, but it's worth a try.
And, to be honest, I'm quite proud of myself for being aware that I wasn't being listened to & making someone listen to me. Go me!
Other Health Stuff
My headaches still persist, though usually only in the evenings. They feel more like tension headaches, but they still often get very bad. I really need to be better about doing my physical therapy exercises, because they seem to make a real difference, not only in my physical state but also in my emotional state. They make me feel more connected to my body: more aware of its needs & more invested in taking care of it. The physical therapy exercises (and my new physical therapist, Rya) rock. I'm most able to make myself do them when Shannon reads to me, so I've also started doing them while I listen to my audiobook. It's just hard to force myself to take the 30-40 minutes to just take care of myself. I still tend to make my physical health a lower priority than, say, getting to the art room or going to writing group. But I'm working on that.
My feet have been hurting a lot, so I'm trying to walk less. I often forget, though, and head off to go somewhere & then remember halfway along my path that I should have taken the bus. Then my feet hurt later in the day as punishment.
Kimberly, your body requires care. Stop forgetting that.
I have other stuff I wanted to write about (such as the fact that I seem to have lost a pound in the past week, but that my weight fluctuates depending on where I am in my menstrual cycle, so I'm making no assumptions, and I'm trying not to let myself get all het up about weight and dieting and how that affects my self-definition), but my head is killing me & I can't take any more Tylenol/Codeine for 25 more minutes, so I'm going to go rest my brain & play a computer game until I can take 2 Tylenol #4 tablets & try to go to sleep.
Tomorrow: CWC art room, working on collaging the cover of a new writing journal for my own use, beginning work on my new (body/health/fitness) collage project, and lunch with my amazing friend Debbie. I hope my head lets it all happen.