Lost Puppy at the Gym 3


When I graduated high school, I weighed 140 lbs. At six feet tall, that’s really skinny. By some standards it’s considered underweight. I did manage to bulk up for a time to 165 with a lot of exercise, but I never kept up a good habit.

I was what some places on the Internet would refer to as a “skinnyfat.”

Facts: Doesn’t even lift. Has cute puppy.

Flash forward a couple years of not working out and I reached the 180s. Honestly, it was right around the ideal weight for me, since I needed to fill out a bit, but I wouldn’t say I was “in shape.”

When I moved in with my dad for a short time I decided not to keep alcohol around the house out of courtesy. This along with the fact that he kept salad around the house and I discovered I actually like salad resulted in dropping to about 170.

Now I’m about 200, and it feels bad, man. I did reach 215 at one point, but only for like a week. It wasn’t a great week.

I took up running, and I’ve already talked about how well that went.

I’ve never gone to the gym alone. It always scared the crap out of me. There are other people there. I didn’t like gym class because it highlighted my inadequacies, especially on the days where we had to go into the weight room and do a certain number of exercises on a certain number of machines.

I’ve done P90X but I was younger and dumber then. Honestly, though, it actually worked out for me in the end because that was how I reached 165. I looked pretty sexy if I may say so myself and I only did half the program. I got my first taste of what being in shape both looked and felt like.

So a while back, a friend and I both wanted to get back in shape. I proposed that we get a membership at Planet Fitness because it was cheap. He went along with it and we worked out together. One night I even worked out so much that it hurt to turn my steering wheel after. It probably wasn’t actually safe for me to drive…

But that only lasted about two weeks. I bailed. Not only did I have a hard time meeting up with him at a pre-decided time, I felt like I was following him around like a lost puppy. He would pick a workout and I would do the same thing. We would alternate on machines or work out at the same time if the option was available.

But something clicked inside me recently. It really sank in, finally, what it means to live life in the present, to deal with things as they come at you, to go day-by-day and worry only about today, not tomorrow.

In short, I realized that all I have to do is show up.

It’s the same philosophy I’ve come to for my writing. Wanna be a writer? Start writing. Don’t think you feel like writing? Just go ahead and open your editing program and see what happens.

I decided to take up a new membership at Planet Fitness, only this time there’s a 12 month obligation or I have to pay about $60 to get out of it. That’s three months of membership dues, and I like keeping as much of my money as possible.

So I got paid, and I bit the bullet. I made myself get up and go to the gym. While I was in the parking lot I did dawdle for a bit. There might have been some heavy breathing. It went a little something like this:

Pull in, turn the car off. Oh I shouldn’t have done that, now the A/C is off and it’s hot out. Well, I’m here. Might as well go in. But the radio is still on. Funny how my car does that. Hey this is an interesting story. Maybe I’ll keep listening. She looks like she’s wearing workout clothes. Must have just gotten out of the gym. Crap I’m staring, look somewhere else. I should text someone. No, got a limit on that, it can wait. Man, it’s getting hot in here. Okay fine I’ll go.

Get inside, someone busy at the desk. Girl asks if I’m just checking in. Nope. Person at the desk done doing what she was doing. Okay, I’m doing this. What can I help you with? I need to sign up for a membership.

Yeah, I said need. It was the most honest thing I could say, I think. The only thing I didn’t know was whether I was going to run or throw weights around. I ended up running, because comfort zone and all that. Plus, I had a much better idea of how long I would work out if I ran on a treadmill.

I was there for about a half-hour. The whole time I was highly conscious of the fact that I was at the gym by myself. In my head I kept thinking, “Am I doing this? I’m doing this. This is a thing that is happening right now. I’m at the gym. By myself. And it’s okay.”

And after doing it for a few days, I’ve realized that most other people at the gym are just as self-conscious as I am. We’re all just minding our own business doing our own thing, giving each other exactly as much attention as we want at the gym. Which is to say, little to none.

Granted, I still look a little like a lost puppy when it comes to all the machines. But even puppies can learn.

How about you? Are you an awkward person like me? Do you like being alone but need a buffer person when you’re out in public? Have you ever conquered your fears? My fears are still heights and underwater creatures in video games (don’t ask), but at least I’ve overcome my fear of going to the gym alone. And that’s worth celebrating.


Photo by Luiza Sayfullina on Unsplash


About David Shank

David T. Shank is a writer, runner, and musician, in that order. His blog is hopefully an oasis among the vast ocean of negativity that is the Internet. He lives in Cleveland studying how to write good.


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3 thoughts on “Lost Puppy at the Gym

  • A.S. Akkalon

    Gyms are terrifying places. Well done on sucking it up and going – I’m sure after a while you’ll feel more comfortable there. I was a gym member once. It didn’t last. Thankfully there are a lot of exercises you can do at home with minimal equipment.

    I laughed when you said you’re scared of underwater creatures in video games. I’m scared of going underwater in video games. I can’t breathe underwater, you know, and it’s easy to get disorientated or stuck underneath something and not be able to come up for air. This is a totally rational fear, I tell you.

    • David Shank Post author

      Someone gets my fear of underwater creatures in video games! I mean, it’s like their niche. I don’t care how big and slow they are, there’s no way I can get out of the way if they want to eat me. It’s seriously scary stuff.

      And I’ve tried the whole home workout thing. I think it’s just too easy to say “nah never mind” five minutes in. But if I actually make myself go to the gym, then I actually want to make it worthwhile. Gas ain’t cheap.