When I was in my 20s, fitness was a large part of my life; in fact, it virtually monopolized my life. At that time I was in a relationship (and later, a marriage) with someone who insisted that I work out regularly. I did exercise on my own initiative, at Winnipeg’s first women-only bodybuilding gym in Osborne Village, but one day my partner literally grabbed my hand, pulled me off the bed where I was resting after a long day at work, and insisted that I accompany him to a martial arts studio that he wanted to check out.
If that were not bad enough (and it certainly was bad enough, an egregious violation of personal boundaries), things got worse. Along the way we got talked into buying into the school, which torpedoed my finances for most of the 1980s. The school never brought in a lot of money, and in fact I had to fork out tens of thousands of dollars in loan payments and business expenses to keep it afloat. I had no money for things I wanted, and in many cases had no money for things I needed, like pantyhose for work or cash to run a load of clothes at the laundromat.
Worst of all, though, I had no time. The school monopolized my evenings and Saturday afternoons, then my Sunday afternoons, and then there was all the time I spent keeping up with my weight training.
It took a while, but I did put a stop to it — and to the relationship as well. I still refer to the date of the separation as Liberation Day, nearly two decades later.
Unfortunately I didn’t escape unscathed. The stress of the divorce shook me up emotionally, mentally and physically. It also broke something in my relationship with fitness: Seething with resentment at all the lost hours, all the wasted money and at my struggle to live up to someone else’s expectation of what I should look like, I just stopped caring.
It took another 5-6 years before I started to care again. I went back into the martial arts for a while, this time in Shotokan karate, and before knee problems forced me to withdraw I earned my purple belt. I’ve tried other things, too: Hot yoga, Pilates, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, swimming, tap dancing.
I even go to the gym and lift weights. I went this evening, in fact.
It’s still a struggle. I continue to have an aversion to spending precious time exercising when I could be doing something else. Anything else. There have been days when I would rather wash the dishes, do my taxes or go to the dentist than change into workout gear. (Not surprisingly, my kitchen, my taxes and my teeth are all in pretty good shape.)
I finally did hit on something that’s starting to work: Saying, out loud, “I’m going to the gym tonight.” And then I just go, because slugging it out with a roomful of clanking and whirring machinery is a lot less painful than lying to oneself.