How to (finally) start going to the gym.

How to (finally) start going to the gym.

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A few weekends ago, I went to a baby shower. One of the baby shower games, because you can’t go to a baby shower and not be forced to play baby shower games, involved cutting a piece of yarn to the size you thought the mother-to-be’s belly was. Jokingly, I wrapped the yarn around my stomach and cut it to my exact size.

I won.

All of my weight goes to my stomach. OK, that’s not true that all of my weight goes to my stomach, my weight also goes to my thighs and my arms and my face and my ass too. But, mostly, disproportionately, my stomach. And when all your weight goes to your stomach everyone thinks you’re pregnant. So much so that you get offered seats on the train constantly, so much so that an old lady with no less than 5 grocery bags might reach around another woman to tap you on the shoulder to give up her seat so you can sit down. So much so that you get offered a 15% discount at an antique fair when one of the vendors asks how “far along you are” and you just squeak out, “I’m not.” So much so that a guy looks at you chugging a beer and asks, “should you be drinking in your state?”

And before you start thinking, Val, you’re kind of slutty, maybe you are pregnant and just don’t know it, like my mother fears will happen to me, no, I know the birds and the bees and know how a girl gets pregnant and lets just say that I’m not 12 months pregnant.

Because who would want to have sex with some random girl they think is pregnant?


I try to avoid getting asked about my current state by always having a drink in my hand. And, though not foolproof (see above), if you have a drink in your hand people usually have to assume you’re not pregnant. Or, that you’re a terrible mother. Whatever.

But you can’t drink on the train to work or in the middle of the work day or in the middle of an antique fair. And all those beer calories only contribute to that baby belly. And people start slipping you pamphlets for AA.


In an effort to get people to stop asking me about my impending baby, I decided to join a gym. That was a year ago. And I still look as pregnant as ever. You see, there’s a secret that nobody ever tells you about joining a gym: you actually have to go to the gym if you want to get anything out of it other than credit card debt.

Who knew?

But, lately, after nearly a year of avoiding it, a funny thing started happening. I’ve started going to the gym. Like, obsessively going to the gym. I’ve been going to the gym four times a week. I’ve been going to the gym for an hour and a half at a time. I’ve been going to the gym at the ungodly hour of 7am on a weekend. And, don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure that that’s more time a week at the gym than anyone has ever managed to spend in the history of the world.

Pretty sure.

How, you may ask, have I managed to finally start going to the gym so frequently? Here’s how…


How to start going to the gym…


Step 1: Join a gym.

Joining a gym isn’t hard. In fact, gyms really want you to join them. They especially want you to join them if you look like someone who is going to pay them diligently every month yet never step foot inside the building again. They love those kind of people.


Post gym selfie.  | How to finally start going to the gym

I started going to the gym and here’s a post gym selfie to prove it.


The hard part is picking which gym to join. There are a lot of options out there. There are places that are 100% machines. There are places that are 100% classes. There are yoga studios and personal training studios and barre studios and soul cycling studios and sweating to the oldies studios. And some of them are like $10,000 a month and some of them are like $10 a month.

For me, it was a hard decision. I mean, on one hand, I am totally #firstworldbroke right now so I probably should have gone with the super cheap option offered through my insurance company. But, I kind of live a block and a half away from a super fancy gym. And I kind of pass by super fancy gym at least twice a day. And all of the insurance company gyms are out of my way. And I know me enough to know that if I had to go out of my way to go to a gym I would never go to the gym at all.

Super fancy gym it was.

If you too are thinking of joining a super fancy gym, at least inquire about discount programs before joining. So if, say, your gym offers a discount to performing artists, tell them you’re an opera singer and show them your paycheck from an opera company that totally proves you’re an opera singer.

Not that I’m suggesting lying to save ten bucks a month.

I would never suggest that.


Step 2: Go to the gym.

You should probably wait a few days after joining to go to the gym for the first time. I mean, you don’t want to seem too eager. When you finally start going to the gym for the first time go to the locker room first and then stare at the lockers for a good five minutes before finally breaking down and asking someone else how they work.

Then go to the gym part of the gym where all the gym equipment is. Try three elliptical machines and assume they are all broken because none of them turn on when you press start. Hang your head in shame when a guy takes out his earbuds and tells you, “you have to start pedaling first.”

Wonder how long you’re supposed to stay at the gym.

20 minutes?

Sounds about right.

Get really frustrated that you didn’t lose ten pounds.


My gym shoes and gym schedule. | How to finally start going to the gym

My gym shoes and gym schedule.


Step 3: Make every excuse not to go to the gym.

You stayed at work ten minutes late? Guess there’s no time for the gym. You forgot your gym bag at home? Can’t go back to get it. Someone mistook you for being pregnant again? Cupcakes are the real solution. The gym is ten steps in the opposite direction? Nope. You’re still feeling kind of full from lunch? Probably should skip the gym. Still feeling kind of drunk from lunch? Definitely should skip the gym.


Step 4: Throw out your back.

If you’re anything like me, and have chronic back problems, you’ll probably, at some point, find yourself hunched over in so much pain you’re pretty sure you’ll never stand upright again. At that point you need to retreat home to rest up with some Tylenol and a heating pad and ice cream.

Maybe you’ll feel better in about five days. But you better take a three month break from the gym. Just to be safe.


Step 5: Eventually go back to the gym.

20 minutes?

Sounds about right.

Get really frustrated that you didn’t lose ten pounds.


Step 6: Contract tuberculosis.

Contract bronchitis that won’t go away. Spend three months of your life coughing. Constantly coughing. Not just coughing, hacking so badly that everyone thinks you’re about to die. Hacking so badly you can hardly breathe. Hacking so badly that coworkers start calling you Mimi, which is totally opera humor guys.

Obviously, don’t go to the gym at this time.


Step 7: Tell yourself that you have to go back to the gym before January 1 so you’re not one of those people who just starts going back to the gym on January 1.

Don’t go to the gym.


Step 8: Give it a couple more weeks after January 1 because you don’t want to look like one of those people who just starts going back to the gym on January 1.

Don’t go to the gym.


Step 9: Announce to the world that you’re going to the gym.

This is an important step. If you don’t announce to the world that you’re going to the gym you can skip the gym and no one will be the wiser. If you do announce to the world that you’re going to the gym, you have the whole world to account to. So post it to Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat. Tell everyone at work. Ask them all to check in with you later that night to ask if you went to the gym. Because if you tell that many people to ask you if you went to the gym you pretty much have to go to the gym.


I've had bronchitis for approximately a million years now. So I haven't been back to the gym in a long time. But I am forcing myself to go back tonight. So I need everyone to message me at about 7:30 CST to ask if I went so I will feel massive amounts of shame if I didn't go. Deal?  | How to finally start going to the gym


Step 10: Meet a cute guy.

Sure, maybe you’ve been cruising Tinder and finding cute travel-loving bearded hipster boys to swipe right on left and right. But maybe you then have hesitated to actually talk, let alone meet, any of them because you don’t want anyone to see you naked right now. And you don’t even have a Netflix account anymore because you can’t afford it. So you can’t Netflix nor chill so instead you eat cupcakes and cry because that totally solves that problem.

But then maybe you meet a cute guy in the real world. Someone you could actually kind of see yourself with. And you develop an instant crush, your first in a long time, even though there would be no chance of anything developing.

But you kind of wish you were your cute, thin, self and not overweight and uncomfortable. And you kind of wish you could fit into all those cute size four dresses in your closet and not just those four in larger sizes that you do fit into that you rotate through every week. And you kind of wish you were just happy with how you looked. You know, in that totally feminist kind of way.

And so you start going to the gym a little more. Maybe two times a week. Maybe three. And maybe you start pushing yourself a little more. Maybe you try to stay more than twenty minutes.

No, not for that guy. Not for any guy, really. But just because you want to feel cute. Because you want to like how you look. Because you can’t afford a new wardrobe and haven’t worn pants in a year because you don’t own pants that fit. Because you want to feel happy with yourself if you finally meet someone.

You know, in that totally feminist kind of way.


So we can't Netflix and chill. But maybe we can opera and chill. Maybe.

So we can’t Netflix and chill. But maybe we can opera and chill. Maybe.


Step 11: Get a Fitbit.

Maybe you don’t really get the concept of a Fitbit (affiliate link, bitches). I mean, who needs a bracelet that tells them that they both spend too much time in bed and yet, never sleep? I don’t need a bracelet to tell me that.

So when, say, your mom offers to buy you a Fitbit (still an affiliate link) you should probably decline.

But then, one morning, maybe you discover a photo on your phone that you definitely didn’t take and you definitely weren’t awake for when your phone says you took it and so you can only assume that you either have a ghost or a sleeping disorder and aren’t sure which is worse. So you tell your mom that maybe she should get you that Fitbit (yup, affiliate link) so you can track your sleep.


Creepy photo I took while I was sleeping.

Creepy photo I took while I was sleeping.


Luckily for you, your mom neither has a smartphone nor an updated enough computer to synch a Fitbit (you guess it, affiliate link) to, so she just gives you the one she bought for herself.

So you put it on thinking, this is stupid.

But then you remember how competitive you are. So, say, when three separate friends challenge you to three separate step challenges you then have to get all the steps to beat everyone in steps and you start walking everywhere and running in place in your bathroom and doing laps around your apartment to make sure you meet your goals.

And you go to the gym. And you run on the elliptical forever to get all the steps. And pretty soon you’re running for an hour at a time which you didn’t even know was physically possible for anyone to do.


My fitbit - I got a bracelet that tells me I spend too much time sitting down. | How to finally start going to the gym

I got a bracelet that tells me I spend too much time sitting down.


Step 12: Realize you can check Pinterest at the gym.

You guys, I’m going to let you in on the gym’s biggest secret: the recumbent exercise bike. Here’s how the recumbent exercise bike works: you sit there and put your headphones in so you can watch Food Network on your individual TV and you stare at your phone. Oh, and I guess you pedal too. Whatever.

But seriously, you can check your Snapchat, pin everything on Pinterest, scroll through your Facebook feed, and watch TV while on that damned recumbent exercise bike. It’s just like you’d be doing at home except you’re moving your feet a little bit more. It might not burn as many calories as some of the other equipment, but it’s kind of like sitting on your couch. And, seriously, you can easily get lost in 20 minutes of Pinterest and hardly even remember you’re working out.

(Just remember, you are working out and don’t forget to pedal…)


That time I got to the gym just as it opened and I was the only one there... | How to finally start going to the gym

That time I got to the gym just as it opened and I was the only one there…


Step 13: Become totally obsessed with going to the gym.

Start going to the gym four times a week. Start going for half an hour, an hour, an hour and a half. Go to Zumba classes that totally remind you of your time in Cali. Run on the elliptical past the point you want to quit. Stay that extra half hour to check Pinterest, I mean, pedal on that recumbent exercise bike. Wake up at 7 am on the weekends and go to the gym as soon as it opens (not because you’re that dedicated, but to get it over with for the day). Go even on the days you don’t feel like it. Go even on the days you’re at work late. Go on the days you forgot your headphones at home even though it means you have to go home first and then back out. Go, even if the scale doesn’t seem to be wavering.

How do you finally start going to the gym? I guess, just stop making excuses…


Don't get me wrong. Just because I'm going to the gym regularly doesn't mean I don't still look like this on the treadmill... | How to finally start going to the gym

Don’t get me wrong. Just because I’m going to the gym regularly doesn’t mean I don’t still look like this on the treadmill… GIF Source


p.s. If you’re living in Chicago and want to join any of the Chicago Athletics Clubs you should probably mention me as your referrer. And, if they ask, I’m totally an opera singer.

p.p.s. You really should get a Fitbit (one more affiliate link…) and challenge me too…

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Do you belong to a gym? What motivates you to go?

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Ali
    May 9, 2016at1:50 pm

    I love you, Val! You are HILARIOUS!!!

    I am still shocked and horrified every single time you mention how someone thought you were pregnant. HORRIFIED. I mean, it’s bad enough if they’re thinking it, but to say it to you? Ugh. RUDE.

    Your opera singer discount is wonderful. Totally laughed at that.

    I’m glad you found the motivation to go to the gym. Andy and I totally joined the cheap gym here (also because it allows you to hit pause on the membership for up to 3 months, which works well for us when we travel) but yeah, it’s 25-30 minutes and 2 trams away, so we haven’t been in months. Oops.

  • Jen Plecki
    May 9, 2016at9:14 pm

    OK, I know we’ve talked about how it’s important to feel good in your body. And it totally is. However, shut up, you’re totally cute at any size.

  • Cassidy
    May 9, 2016at9:51 pm

    I legitimately could not stop laughing through this, it reminded me of Esquire’s “Four Easy Steps To Join A Gym” video as told by a guy (I think yours is better FYI.) The struggle can be so very real to get back into shape, I’ve definitely been using the mystery pain in my hip as an excuse to skip out on working out for the past month (or so), and this has inspired me to just stop being a baby about it.

  • My Gym Family
    March 15, 2018at6:59 pm

    I feel so embarrassed when people asked me that are you pregnant. I used to work for a gym and I’ve changed my eating habits. Thanks for posting.

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