When I was 16, I started one of many diets I’ve been on throughout my life. It was, of course, about a boy. A friend worked with a guy who had a friend and thought we should all go see Aliens together. Immediately, I sprang into action, eating granola bars and frozen meals so that I could shed some pounds before the big day. Whether I did or not was mostly irrelevant because it didn’t work out anyway, but that was the first time I distinctly recall trying to lose weight… and it wasn’t even for myself. Perhaps that’s why it didn’t stick. One good thing that came of it though was that I decided to join a gym. Planet Fitness was opening in our area, and for only $10 a month with zero down, I had nothing to lose.
My gym usage went in waves for the next 12 years. For months, I’d neglect it, paying a monthly fee for absolutely nothing. For years, I’d have a love affair where I’d go nearly every day (when I was on my first major weight loss journey in 2012 and 2013). The phases I went through where I wasn’t using it, I didn’t mind much because it was only $10 a month, directly withdrawn from my account so I hardly had to think about it. I never canceled because I knew that if I decided I ever wanted to sign up again, I’d have to pay a sign up fee.
When Jerry moved here in 2012, one of the first things we did was sign him up for a membership. Remember now, we met on MyFitnessPal and were at the prime of our weight loss journeys and fitness levels. Working out was extremely vital to us and what initially bonded us together. We worked out quite often and were passionate about it. The other great thing about my gym membership was that most of my family members had memberships too, so I could almost always find a work out buddy.
A lot of changes happened over the years, including changing owners, changing staff, changing location, and changing vibes… though maybe that part was all in my head. Despite these changes, the gym held a lot of good memories for me that I was hesitant to give up anytime we considered canceling. I literally changed my life in that gym. For two years, I spent hours and hours of my life in there transforming my body, building my confidence, and learning to run. I met with a trainer there once a week, Scott, whom I found on Craigslist. Eventually, he became a friend, a supporter, and the person who forced me to run, fueling a passion I never knew I could have. He ran my first race with me, came to my wedding, and gave me cards when I reached new milestones. In his own free time, he took me shopping to pick out healthy foods and responded to texts I had whenever I messed up or simply had a question. I shared many laughs in there with him, with Jerry, with friends, with family. I learned to do planks with Scott laughing beside me as he encouraged me to build up my time, and I did – from 5 seconds, to 10, to a minute then more. I even beat my dad once. I ran on the treadmill, and hated every minute of it, while I trained for my half-marathon and it snowed outside. Without that gym, perhaps none of that would have happened. Perhaps I would have never lost any weight to begin with, meaning perhaps I would have never met Jerry, had Caleb, bought a house.
I’m a nostalgic person. Though I haven’t used the gym regularly in years, I clung to those long gone memories, fearing that if I left the gym, I’d leave them all behind. What I wasn’t thinking about was that those memories aren’t inside that building, they are inside of ME. I can leave a place but take the memories with me. I often cite 2012 and 2013 as being the happiest years of my life, and that gym played a HUGE role in that. Those were the years I changed my life, lost the weight, fell in love, ran a half-marathon. Those were the years I proved to myself that I could be anything I wanted to be and do anything I wanted to do. The gym helped me with those things — it’s true — but ultimately I did them on my own. I had tools and people who helped me and pushed me along the way – the gym, my trainer, my friends, my family, Jerry, MyFitnessPal, of course. But they didn’t MAKE me do it. I did it because I wanted to. I had the strength in ME and without that, none of those things would have happened.
Last weekend, I finally said goodbye to the gym that shaped me. It was time. Though fitness and weight loss are becoming a huge priority in my life again, I don’t need that gym anymore. It seems like a strange time to quit, now that I’m getting back into fitness, but we’d been thinking about it for awhile. The final push was that for the last few years, we’ve had some issues each year where they were charging us annual fees that we weren’t supposed to pay. They would always fix it but it was a pain. It happened again last week, and I finally decided it wasn’t worth it because we haven’t been using it at all since we had Caleb, anyway. Now we’re saving $20 a month, which isn’t a lot, but will certainly help us on our journey to financial freedom. No need to pay money to a place that we’re not using.
Another factor in our decision is that we’ve been looking into joining the Y. Because we want fitness to play a role in our lives again, we thought the Y would be a better fit, most especially because they offer childcare. Jerry and I have a hard time getting to the gym at all because he’s alone with Cal during the day and I’m alone with him during the night. With the childcare option, we can now go to the gym as we please and Caleb can have fun at the same time. The Y offers classes, which is something I’d like to do, and has two pools, a hot tub, a play area for kids, and family programs. I think it’s simply a better fit for our family at this stage in our lives. It costs a lot more, so we’re waiting a few months while we work on getting our debt down some more. Next year, we’ll strongly begin considering it again.
Other things to consider are that when I AM being active, running is my exercise of choice. Why pay for a gym when I can run for free, and with runner friends who push and encourage me? While it’s true that I probably won’t run outside in the winter time, I can always do exercises at home after Caleb goes to bed, which is basically my only free time, anyway.
All that to say… I still feel a little sad when I think about what I’m leaving behind. I get teary eyed because I feel like I am finally closing a chapter of my life that was once so important to me. I’m in a new chapter though, one that can be even better than the last if I choose to make it so. I can run again. I can feel good about myself again. I can (and am) losing the weight once more, but the way I go about it just might look different this time around. And it’s okay!
Despite the sad feelings and pangs of nostalgia I am feeling, I do feel strongly that we made the best decision for our family at this time in our lives. While we wait to join the Y, we can use the extra money each month to repay debt, and work out at home or on runs or walks outside.
For so long, I felt that if I quit that gym, I’d be losing everything I found when I was there, namely… myself. But the truth of the matter is, we say goodbye to places and people all the time. Just because we leave them, or they leave us, doesn’t mean we have to say goodbye to the memories or the lessons learned. I will never forget the person I became in that gym and the people who helped me find her… but I’m a better and stronger person for those experiences, and because of that, now I know I can do it again on my own. The strength was always in me… I just had some help finding it along the way.