TJ and I have started working out during his lunch break. We've gone twice already! Two days in a row you ask? Absolutely not. Twice in two weeks.
Nothing makes you feel more in shape than still being sore from the last workout that was literally, two weeks prior. We're proud of ourselves, though! Okay, I wouldn't say proud, but I would say we're not not proud of ourselves. We went to the gym and did stuff! We could have easily stood around pretending to look for a machine we wanted to use and then leave not having really done anything. (If you ever go to the gym and feel too overwhelmed to work out, but feel weird walking in to walk out 5 minutes later, take a few laps, pretend to be looking for something you want to do, then splash a little water on your face and clothes in key sweat areas before leaving. It fools them everytime.)
Still having a buildup of lactic acid in our muscles from two weeks before is the worst reminder of how unfit we are. We can barely get our butts to the gym, and when we finally do, we're too sore to do all that we want. We workout sore to be even more sore and to have even a less promising workout next time we find ourselves at the gym, which at this rate will be in another month. Or ten.
Something that I have grown to love from the five times I have gone to the gym in my "adult" life is the women's locker room. Weird, I know.
As a teenager, the locker room has got to be one of the absolute worst and most intimidating places ever. You don't have a choice whether or not you want to change into your PE clothes, you have to change. Or fail for the day. Unless of course you have an ingrown toenail...all year long...that just won't heal and the excuse note from your
mom doctor conveniently has no expiration date. That never happened to me, sadly? Luckily?
The locker room means everyone seeing each other in just their bras and underoos, or less. In middle school this translates as seeing who has gone through puberty, and who hasn't. In other words, the girls that felt very confident and womanly in their padded bras and lacy underwear, and those that still wore the little under tanktops with scallopped straps and white flower patterned panties from a Hanes 6-pack. Every possible physical insecurity that you have as a tween turning teen is exposed, and everyone is looking at only you. Probably not really, but it feels like it.
The social ranking is more solidified in that dreadful, drab, dirty place. Who wears Walmart and who wears PINK (Victoria's Secret that appeals to tweens. Unnecessary). Who is skinny and who might be considered roly poly. Who knows to shave their legs and armpits, and who is completely clueless that shaving is a "thing" until a boy in 8th grade tells you your legs are hairy when you wear shorts one day. (No that didn't happen to me. No, I'm not scarred. No, I didn't go home and shave that weekend.)
All of that to say, things have changed in my fauxdult life. I now, truly, have an affinity for the locker room. The trauma experienced in days of old has disappeared.
Something must shift as people get older and become (hopefully) more comfortable in their skin. The locker room is no longer a place of our most exposed vulnerabilities, but an in-between space. Its only purpose is to get us from one place to another. From the gym to the shower. From the pool to our towels. From work Lindsey***** to workout Lindsey.
As an in-between space, it feels less intimidating. Women feel the freedom to stand around naked, especially the older women. Some older women even choose to bathe in the middle aisle of the shower stalls with their doors open shooting the breeze and sharing shampoo, leaving as little as 3 inches for anyone else to squeeze past them and their wrinkly confidence to access the other showers. (Yes, this happened to me, two weeks ago, during the first lunchtime gym session with TJ).
Honestly, I love it. I love it all. The different ages, the diversity, the shapes and sizes, and especially the lack of inhibition. It seems like one of the few places in the world where a group of strangers can be in the same room and be fully themselves. Literally. It doesn't get more real than standing naked in a room of strangers.
In a culture that places such high value on physical appearance from fashion, fitness, and appeal, it is refreshing to be in the locker room with women much older, more wrinkly, and less fit than myself that demonstrate how fleeting those things are. In the comfort of their skin, they just be.
It is a reminder that there is nothing to prove and beauty can be found in each one of us, our vulnerabilities, quirks, and folds. It is a reminder of what actually matters: the people behind the façade of a physical appearance.
It is a reminder to simply be, especially in relationship with others; maybe even bathing in the middle aisle of the shower stalls shooting the breeze and sharing shampoo.
*I still am currently not working. This is figurative.