Start of the year and the pressure to go to the gym
I don’t love exercising. I know the theory around it (apparently, exercise is good for you) but as a person with a disability exercise can be hard. Especially when the start of a new year brings a wave of fatphobic resolutions and pressure to go to the gym and “get fit”. The mentality shifts from Holiday fun to marathon runners saying, “Wake up at 5:00 AM and I show your body who is boss!”. I tend to roll my eyes and think, “I’m more in a constant negotiation with my body”. The idea of ‘making’ my body do anything is so far from my experience that I just have to laugh. I have Osteogenesis Imperfecta or brittle bone disease, that makes my bones very fragile and easy to fracture. Most days I am juggling with different versions of my body depending on the amount of pain I have. Still, excising is one of the best things anyone can do for their health, so I try my best to keep active. Because of the reality of my condition, I can’t go to a fun Kickboxing class or take arial aerobics like some of my friends do. But I apply the same method I have for other things in my life, and I adapt exercise to what works for me. During the lockdown period of the pandemic, I did yoga videos from home and adapted the poses to do them sitting down or without applying pressure to my knees and legs. Now I mostly walk around my neighborhood with my dog. I love to be outside and that makes the excising experience a more positive one. I comes with its challenges, for example I have to be careful the ground isn’t wet so that I don’t fall and get injured. But I like it so much more than going to a gym. When I walk outside it is a chance to go at my own pace, to really think about things and observe the trees and world around me. It’s not fast, because I can’t walk fast and that is ok. Recently a friend invited to me to go with her to her gym and try a yoga class. Last year I got a pass to my local gym and tried two classes. Just walking in the bright lighting, I was a little uneasy, gyms are spaces mostly occupied by able-bodied people, and the kind of people that want to perfect their bodies. These gym-goers tend to be comfortable in tight clothing, sweaty and showing off their pecks… and I’m more on the “give me the stenchiest leggings available to mankind” team. Nevertheless, armed with my pass and rolling in with my blue walker, I went to two different yoga classes so I could get the feeling of each one. The first class was wonderful. The second, not so much. The big difference was in the instructors. I chatted with each one a few minutes before the class and told them a resumed version of my health condition and that I wanted to adapt the class. They both agreed but the dynamics of the class where very different. The first instructor would pass by my mat and offer suggestions of poses or nod encouragingly when he looked up from his poses at the front of the room. The second teacher barely looked my direction the whole class and while she walked around the room full of mirrors, she purposely avoided my corner. I knew right then and there that that class was not a good fit for me. Luckily, I had a more positive experience with the first class, if not I might have left the gym very disappointed. In the end, I decided that gym was not the one for me. If I decide to try a gym again, I know what I am looking for: eye contact is important, feeling welcomed is important and I will not be going to a class where anyone wants me to be invisible.