It was not picture day, it was not testing day, and it was not Salisbury steak day. It was the week that the rope would come down in gym class.
- Theresa Christensen
I remember it like it was yesterday…
Waking up and dreading the fact that I had to go to school that day. I had tried everything…a hot towel on my head to fake a fever, perfecting my cough, hunching over, and pretending I had a stomach cramp. “You’re going!” my mom would insist. This was back in the ’80s, when a limb could be hanging off and your mother would make you go to school.
It was not picture day, it was not testing day, and it was not Salisbury steak day. It was the week that the rope would come down in gym class. I had never been an athletic child, which was strange because I come from a very athletic family. My parents were military veterans. My mother broke records in high school track, and my father played several sports. My brother was the best player on his baseball, soccer, and basketball teams. They put me in every sport you could think of: soccer, softball, track, cheerleading, gymnastics, even baton twirling. I lasted a day in some cases. I stuck with it for one season at most. So here I was, walking into the gymnasium at Deer Park Avenue Elementary completely riddled with anxiety. I watched the other kids scoot up that rope in record time. I would always try to go last, hoping that the other kids would be too preoccupied to watch. Every year the outcome was the same. I would finally manage to grab onto that rope, and…nothing. I would swing back and forth. Maybe next year.
Many Next Years Later…
As an adult, not much had changed. I still had no interest in sports or fitness. I would joke that if you ever saw me running to please help because someone was surely chasing me. If you had asked me back in my twenties if I would ever consider a career in fitness, I would have laughed and told you it would take a miracle for that to happen.
A miracle did happen. I found an amazing gym that actually made me enjoy working out. In fact, I would actually get upset if I missed a day. I was a member at Fitness Incentive from 2006 to 2011. I religiously took the cycle classes. In fact, I loved them so much I never gave anything else a shot. Then, in 2011, a health setback made me freeze and eventually cancel my membership. Fast forward to November 2016, when I had a surgical procedure done on my heart. I was finally cleared to go back to strenuous physical activity. Unfortunately, that five-year hiatus left me 70 pounds heavier and in no shape to jump back into indoor cycling. I had so many reservations. I was embarrassed first and foremost. How could I walk in there when I had gained so much weight? All of a sudden, my whole body was flooded with that feeling of walking into the gymnasium to climb the rope in elementary school. I won’t know what to do, I thought. I couldn’t just jump back into spin. I had never done much strength training. This was going to be another instance of grabbing the rope and swinging back and forth in disappointment. Or so I thought.
Five Years Later
It’s now been almost five years since I made the decision to walk back through FI’s doors. I restarted my membership on 2/15/2017 despite my complete lack of physical activity, two babies at home, and the 70 pounds I had acquired. I know that date because it was life-changing. I was greeted by Cathy Peacock, who was so welcoming to me. I told her all about my surgery and how I wasn’t sure if I would last very long at the gym. I was already talking myself out of going before I signed the paperwork. There was no judgment. She put me at ease and gave me lots of options for trying the gym and testing my limitations without any long-term commitment. As it turned out, there were new color-changing bikes that made it easy to do a cycle class at any fitness level. I was able to jump right back into spin class. In fact, within seven months, I lost the extra 70 pounds and was cycling five times a week. Cor and Carmella talked me into getting certified so that I could help out and sub some classes. I got my level 1 Spinning certification the following month, in October 2017. I got my own class that winter. I took various classes, worked with a personal trainer, and learned more about the benefits of strength training. I was fit and strong for the first time ever. Was this real life?
It’s Not Just a Gym
Fitness Incentive and Cor, the superwoman who started it all, have a magical effect on people. It’s not just a gym. When you walk through the door, you are treated like family. I needed that type of environment to get past the anxieties that I had as an unathletic kid. Coming back from the pandemic and being closed down for six months, I came to the realization that fitness meant more to me. I missed the gym and the people so much during that time. Shortly after reopening in September 2020, I signed up for the Certified Personal Training course through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. In April of 2021, I officially became a personal trainer. In five years, I went from being a member who was afraid to come back to the gym to a level 3 Advanced Spinning Instructor, the Director of the Cycling department, a certified personal trainer, and now ViPR certified instructor. I still don’t know if I could climb that rope in gym class, but I’m no longer afraid to give it a try. If you are still on the fence about going back to your gym, take my advice and take the plunge. It may be just as life-changing for you as it was for me.
About the Author
Theresa Christensen is a certified Group Cycling Instructor and Certified Personal Trainer. She manages the Cycling program at Fitness Incentive.