Saturday, August 28, 2010
When I rounded the corner towards my locker it all came home to me. He was sitting on the bench trying to get one of his shoes off the floor. In his mid-twenties, he would have made me look small at my largest. His face was red and when he turned to look at me he became redder from the embarrassment of the situation.
“What’s up?” I asked in that conversational locker room lingo sort of voice.
“Just finished swimming in the therapy pool.” He answered. They won’t let me in the regular pool because there is no ramp to get in and out. They’re afraid I’ll have a heart attack.”
“You got heart trouble?” I asked him.
“No, it’s this.” He grabbed his belly and pulled.
He struggled to get his shoes on while I got undressed in front of my locker. I was going back in forth in my mind whether I should say something to him or not. Then I remembered that was me not to very long ago. That was me, alone on the bench, struggling to get my shoes on, feeling huge and absolutely intimidated in this locker room loaded with alleged buff studs.
“Hang in there, okay?” I said to him.
He just looked at me.
“I know it might not mean much to ya, but I lost seventy four pounds in about nine months. I’m not saying it’s easy but you have to be here every day and you have to wanna be healthy. But you can do it.”
“You lost that much?” he asked me.
“Yeah and I’m fifty seven dude. You’re younger and so it may come off quicker for you. Do you ever walk?” I asked him.
He said no. He told me he ran out of breath to easy. I told him to start with one lap upstairs and he said he couldn’t make it up the stairs. I told him they had an elevator. He grinned at me.
“You got an answer for everything don’t you” he said laughing.
“That’s because I have had an excuse for everything.” I laughed back at him.
I told him to check with the people at the front desk to see if I was there when he checked in and if I was have them page me and I’d walk with him. I told him it goes a lot easier when you have someone else with you. Joan walked with me when I first started exercising and I know she had to slow down but she walked with me and it made those first few weeks bearable.
We forget. We forget in our joy over running 5k’s and half marathons. We forget because we drop a pants size or a dress size. We forget because we have the confidence and courage to do things we never did before.
We forget that we sat on that bench struggling to put our shoes on. We forget the shame of obesity at times and mostly we forget there are still people out there who haven’t found the right combination, YET, to start on the road to being healthier. We forget we were once them.
Yeah, you are who you hang around with. Yeah, I want to be challenged by people healthier than I to be better but not at the price of losing the compassion I have that someone once had for me.
So as I get ready to run this morning, I take a print a piece of paper and put it in my pocket. It has the Spark names of friends who either are struggling to exercise or who for physical reasons can’t exercise right now. It has the names of those who have encouraged me to run and told me I could do it. I have to print it out every time I run because it gets all sweaty. I run for me and I run for them. It helps motivate me.
I challenge myself to never forget that in all my success I sat on that bench once, huffing and puffing, hoping no one noticed. Of all the challenges, I wish they whole world would remember this one.