I want to tell you about this amazing place.
It’s a gym – sort of. Only, not really. I mean, you go there to work out, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. It’s really a place where you go to transform your life, whether it’s because you’re overweight, because you’re out of shape, because you’re tired all the time, because you are sick of taking care of the whole world and no one taking care of you…whatever your issue. It’s a place to take back your life, your health, and your self-love. It’s about the Total You.
When you go the first time, you meet with a coach who asks you all these different questions about your lifestyle and about what you like. She’ll ask you about how you eat, and how you like to eat; about how you exercise or don’t exercise. That’s not all that unusual. But she’ll also ask you a bunch of other stuff about what you like to do, how you spend your time, and what your life is like. Like…do you have a family? How much of your time is spent caring for them? How do they react when you take time for yourself? More importantly, how do you think they will react when you take time for yourself?
If you are there to lose weight, she’ll talk to you about the reasons you feel you are overweight. She’ll discuss with you the obstacles you perceive in your weight loss path. She’ll ask you some questions to find out how much you know about nutrition and fitness. Depending on your reason for being there, you’ll have a whole different set of questions – or you might get the whole gamut, if you’re not really sure what your reason is. Either way, you get to spend a whole hour or so just talking about you – and your level of comfort or discomfort with that procedure will be a piece of the puzzle. But you won’t be judged for it. You’ll never be judged at this place.
You’ll be weighed – but only if you want to be – and/or measured. Your coach will discuss your body type with you (“discuss” meaning you will talk too, because there are always going to be things you know about your body that no professional can tell you), and why you shouldn’t rely on the scale, the measuring tape, or your BMI to tell you if you’re healthy. You’ll learn about the waist-to-hip ratio, and why that’s not necessarily the answer either. You’ll talk about how you feel in your body, about what your personal goals are. Do you want to lose weight, or do you just want to be healthy? Because they’re not the same thing. Are you trying to get off your maintenance meds? Are you tired of being tired all the time? Do you want to get in shape so you can keep up with your kids? Do you want to get in marathon-running shape? Or are you just looking for an improvement in your appearance? That’s fine, too – there’s no shame in that, and there’s no “right” reason to make this change – at least not at this place. But it is important to know why you’re making a change, because that will tell you what you need to do, and that’s how you’ll know if it’s succeeding. If you really are all about the numbers on the scale, no one’s going to judge you for that either. You can sign up for the regular weigh-ins and/or measurings, and they’ll be totally cool with that. Most people, in fact, will probably opt for this.
You’ll get an overview of everything the place offers, from classes to personal training sessions to design-your-own routines. You’ll get a complete tour of the place, which has several separate rooms. One of them is a little room with nothing in it but a climbing wall and a huge billboard with pictures all over it. You’ll eye that for a little while, wondering, and eventually you’ll ask. Your coach will smile and explain that the wall is a rite of passage. See, this place has a pretty specific target clientele. When most of them come in, they could no more climb that wall than they could fly. But eventually, they all climb it. And when they do, their picture goes up on the board (if they want it to. You always have options here.) You can practice on the wall any time you want, and when you’re ready, you let your coach know and she watches you make that transition from want-er to do-er. There’s a similar board in the cardio room, for when you reach cardio goals like, say, walking 5 miles or running one. There’s another board in the strength room. You pick the goals…and you don’t have to pick any of them. But if you do, the board is there, and you can triumphantly add your picture to it.
That’s really what this place is all about. It’s all about making the decision to stop wanting something different, and start being something different. You get as little or as much help and coaching as you want. If you’re in pretty good shape and just want a place that’s a little different to go and hang and work out, that’s cool, and you’re still part of the family even if you have no goals and just wander in aimlessly every week or so. (I’m thinking of the already-fit here, because we need some of you there to show us what we’re shooting for. Just, you know, be encouraging, not smug.) But if you’re someone who’s struggled for years and never managed to make a real change, but you’re determined not to live that way anymore…this place is perfect for you.
They offer classes – everything from Zoomba to yoga to Pilates to meditation and relaxation. There is a child care facility where kids are actively engaged with games, activities, and close supervision – but it also has a reading room if they just want to study, do homework, or read a book. There are workshops and classes offered weekly about nutrition, body image, alternative health techniques, women’s health issues, various fitness options, and even things like mommy guilt. Guest speakers come in about once a month to talk about these things and a lot of others. There’s a library full of volumes about nutrition, fitness, general wellness, self-awareness, and every other health or wellness subject you could possibly imagine – and really comfortable chairs and sofas on which to read. There’s a website where you can food-journal and log outside exercise, and connect with your coach if you’re out of town or can’t get in for some reason. There are several personal trainers/life coaches on staff, and you choose one through a questionnaire and interview process to be sure you have the right match, both in personality and in training style. There’s a wide range of equipment and there’s always someone there ready and willing to show you how to use it. The hours are amazing – something like 5 a.m. to midnight – and the parking lot is well-lit and monitored by closed-circuit camera. There is a security guard always on duty to walk you to your car, if you want, whether it’s midnight or 10 a.m.
There’s a pool, and no one takes swim lessons at it. You can’t take your kids there, which sort of sucks, but hey, you’re not wading through anyone else’s kids when you want to swim laps, either. You can take water aerobics, or you can swim laps, or you can just go and float around aimlessly and relax after your workout. It’s divided, so no one swims over you while you’re floating around.
There is no scale in the locker room. None. The only scale in the place is in the coaches’ office area, where you go for your regular weigh-in if you’ve chosen that option.
There are some things that are verboten at this place. For instance, it is grounds for immediate dismissal if any staff member ever says to you, “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels!” or “Feel the burn!”. You will almost certainly get a stern look, and probably a talking-to, if you are overheard saying, “God, I’m so fat,” or “I’m never going to (get thin, look better, feel better, be able to do this exercise – insert your choice of negative self-talk).” Of course, you might just get a hug instead. It depends – this is one of the areas where your choice of trainer/coach is pretty important. Do you need the talking to? Or just the hug? (NOT what makes things “easier” for you, but what gets you out of that self-decimating place in your head.)
One thing this place has that is super cool is a coffee shop. Yep, coffee. Real coffee. Lots of it. Whatever kind you could possibly want, and it’s all fair trade. It’s sharing space with the tea – an enormous variety, and it’s prepared by people who know about tea, not just people who know coffee and think tea is similar. (It’s not.) There’s also juice, of course, and a selection of other menu items, but the coffee and the tea are the real draw. Free Wi-Fi, and a spacious area where you can just hang out and talk, surf the Net, write your blog, or just drink your latte and watch people on the street. This is a place where people will meet up regularly, because if you come here for long, you’re going to be family. Some days you’ll stop by just to have coffee with your girls. And that’s completely okay. But you do have to be a registered member to hang here. No outsiders smirking at the fat girls who think they’re cool. Just non-judgmental family.
Another fairly unique feature is the on-staff counselor. A real, licensed therapist. Someone to talk to if you’re having problems integrating your self-care into your normal lifestyle…or just if you’ve had a bad day at work and it’s interfering with your focus. Someone to ask those questions about how you learn to live with the new you – whether it’s because you can’t stop feeling like the “fat girl” after you’ve lost 100 pounds, or because your friends are complaining that you don’t party with them enough anymore. No matter what your question is, or your issue, she’s there. She’ll also help you with those hairy “why am I fat?” questions. And it’s all included in the price.
And about the price. That’s pretty cool, too, because it’s cheap. Not just “cheap for a gym” but cheap. As in, if you can’t afford it, there are scholarships and financial aid. As in, you don’t have to stop buying shoes for Junior so you can go there. As in, if you’re a single mom working two jobs, you can still go. (Finding the time will be a problem, but darn it, this place will move heaven and earth to make it happen for you, from the free child care to the mondo-long hours to whatever else they can do.)
This place isn’t a gym. It’s not about just providing a place for you to work out. It’s about providing a safe, comfortable, nurturing area where you can go to truly care for yourself, and where other people will help you do that. It’s about the mind, the body, and the spirit, in equal measure, and about really knowing, feeling, and working with the connection between the three. It’s about being the best you that you can be, in all ways. It’s about knowing that in the end, we’re all supposed to help each other, and if we don’t, we’re monkeys.
As far as I know, this place doesn’t exist. It’s just a pipe dream. It certainly doesn’t exist around here. At least, not yet. But if I could be said to have a dream…if you asked me “If you won the lottery, what would you do?”…this would be it. This is what I want. This is what I’d like to do. Some day.
I talk about this a lot; probably more than I should. A friend asked me if I wasn’t worried about someone “stealing my idea”. I’m not, for several reasons.
First, I don’t know that’s it’s a great money-making idea. To be honest, with all the features I’ve dreamed into it, it’s going to cost a mint to run. You’d almost have to win the lottery, because you’re not going to be making enough from your clientele to keep it open. Maybe you could do sponsorships – clients who can afford it could contribute to the cost for clients who can’t – but I’m not sure how that would work.
Secondly, for all I know, someone really has done this, somewhere. So it might not be my idea to steal anyway. I really hope this is the case – I’d love to think there really is somewhere like this, somewhere where you are accepted and loved and encouraged to be your very best self in a supportive, non-judgmental atmosphere, where all the tools you need are to hand, and the mind and spirit are as important as the body and vice versa, and all at a price that Suzy SingleMom can afford.
Thirdly…if it doesn’t exist, and if you have the time and money to make it a reality – for God’s sake, feel free to steal my idea! Just make sure you steal all of it, because the hardest parts to make happen are the most important ones. The price…the counseling…the fact that, like a really good relationship, it’s way more than just physical…these are the sticking points, but they’re definitely the most important part.
And last…even if it exists somewhere, it doesn’t exist here. So even if every person who reads this goes out and makes it a reality (hah!), there’s still and always going to be room for one more. 🙂
Anyway, what’s life without dreams, right?
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