Making a Good Impression at the Gym

Magic Shoes

The magic shoes that make me WANT to go to the gym . . . and that carried me up 8 flights of stairs in Rome!

Six months ago, I joined a gym, for the first time in my life. It was a courageous move, and I knew I needed to treat myself with kindness in order to develop habits of using the gym.  I knew the types of physical and emotional hurdles I might face in becoming more active in a new way. Like many women, like many human beings, I have a long history of trying to please other people . . . or trying to make myself into someone I think “they” would approve, admire, and love. It makes me tired just thinking about it.  This year, I decided to impress MYSELF.

I went to the initial fitness assessment after developing very specific goals: improved cardiovascular health, improvement in steady energy throughout the day, preventing shin splints, and being able to climb 8 flights of stairs for an upcoming trip. I felt good about these goals. They were specific, measurable, and meaningful to me. The trainer said yes, yes, yes, we can do that, followed quickly by “How much weight do you want to lose? When do you want to lose it by?” It’s not that I didn’t want to lose weight, but weight loss was not one of my stated goals. Was he listening? I impressed MYSELF by clarifying my own goals, by showing up for the appointment, and by choosing continued gym activity whether or not someone else was impressed by me, or even heard me.

It took a while to find a trainer who was a good fit for me. In my second session, the trainer pushed and pushed. I could tell I would have to be my own advocate in the care of my vulnerable knee. I worked very hard in our session, near tears and with my arms shaking so badly afterward that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to drive home. I appreciated her enthusiasm and presence, but wasn’t sure how to take her parting comment, “You did better than I thought you would.” Good thing I was practicing impressing MYSELF, and not her!

Like a kid in a candy shop, it was so cool to have such an array of options in this gym. I tried yoga. I swam laps. I learned to use the recumbent bike, and then the treadmill. I still can’t use the elliptical, although that may come. I notice my coordination on the equipment improves as my endurance improves. I learned to use different machines, and other kinds of equipment. Each new thing I tried was an opportunity to be impressed by myself. And because it is ME I am impressing, my parameters are uniquely my own, taking into consideration the whole of my experiences and my desires.

I am in the business of impressing myself. It’s not about whether someone else at the club might think this is stupid clothing to wear to the gym, that’s a stupid way to use that machine, that’s a weird way to stretch on that exercise ball, that’s too long/too short of a time to spend at the gym/on the bike/on the treadmill . .  you get the picture. Instead, in the business of impressing myself, I learn how to use another machine, I do another set of exercises, I stop an activity when my body needs me to stop, I come to the gym when I am emotionally stressed, I leave early if I realize that emotional nurturing is a higher priority than pushing through fatigue.

It’s so fun to go home and say to my young adult daughter, “I impressed myself today!”

I’d love to hear your comments, and for you to join me on my new “art, healing & life” Facebook page.


  1. Love it!! I can so relate. What a great and different perspective on the experience. I love the comment about being your own advocate. This is promoted so much around Dr’s visits, etc but I hadn’t thought about it in these terms. So great!

  2. Thanks, Noelle. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only who needs to take herself by the hand, and treat herself with lovingkindness as she explores new territory!

  3. First of all I LOVE your shoes, they are super cute! I just joined a gym for the 1st time myself and had my assessment today. Luckily the trainer did listen to what my goals were and the plan that was set up seems to fit perfect for me, but Im so glad I read your post today. It reminds me that I need to make sure I am doing what is right for me and to listen to my own body. Im excited to try all they have to offer and see what best fits me.

    • Amie, Got these shoes at DSW, & I saw they were also available online. They are Dr. Scholl’s, which to me are “old lady shoes,” but they don’t look like old lady shoes, do they? I’d love to hear how your gym adventure goes.

  4. the other Janet says:

    I love your point of view. Definitely something I need to work on. I gave up trying to find a trainer simply because I kept ending up back in therapy. I need to work on being my own advocate a little more.

    • The “other Janet,” I love it. Thank you for checking out my new blog! You deserve an advocate as kind as yourself, Janet.

  5. “I leave early if I realize that emotional nurturing is a higher priority than pushing through fatigue.” What a great line! Recently I’ve struggled with very low energy, and it has been challenging to sort through — Is this depression? vs Am I exhausted? For me, it’s important to make a distinction, because if it’s depression, sometimes pushing through makes sense; if it’s exhaustion, resting is the best thing I can do for myself. I finally figured out that in my case, it was a situation of depression brought on by chronic exhaustion. As I have been kinder to my body, letting it be my guide, rather than holding myself up to somebody else’s standard of “how much I should be able to do”, I find my energy returning, and I am forming the new habit of including my body in the discussion of how much to do today. Janet, I love your magic shoes.

  6. I really enjoyed reading your blog post. You express such a great level of self-care, self-respect and self-love for yourself. I really enjoyed reading this since I need to get in shape and will more than likely need to reach out to trainer and a fit is so important. Great tips.
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