Overcoming an old fear

As I mentioned in a past weight journal entry, I had a rather disconcerting experience in the locker room at the local YMCA once upon a time. I had finished exercising and was in the lockerroom either getting ready to shower, or just getting out of the shower (my memory is hazy on the details, another sign that I need to put this behind me once and for all). Anyway, I was naked, with only a towel around me, and walking towards my locker when this three-year-old boy tells his dad, “Wow! Look at that big fat man!” I was mortified, though I tried laugh it off and act like that didn’t effect me.

But that effected me more than I cared to admit. I felt so embarrassed, and I felt so ashamed that I’ve let myself get as overweight as I am. It was such a horrible feeling that I never wanted to put myself into a situation where that could happen again. And so I’ve steadfastly avoided being even shirtless in a public place ever since. Which means that I haven’t really done a lot of exercise since then.

Of course, neither hiding from my fears nor skipping out on exercise has been healthy for me. The lack of exercise is apparent in my continuous weight gain. Hiding from my fears is apparent in the fact that I can’t even think of going to a swimming pool without breaking out in a cold sweat.

I have had a burst of motivation to get healthy lately, though. And one of the best means of exercise for someone my size is water aerobics. Water aerobics has some amazing benefits for someone my size: it’s low-impact, so it’s easier on my joints and back, water distributes heat very well, so I don’t overheat while exercising, and water offers a lot of resistance, increasing the amount of work and the calories spent per workout. Doing water aerobics is something that I feel I need to do.

Obviously, this is directly at odds with my phobia about being naked in public. Unless I’m planning on wearing a bathing suit to the rec center, then wearing the bathing suit soaking wet home, of course. So I decided that I needed to get over that old fear. I need to pull myself up by the metaphorical bootstraps and realize a couple of things: 1) the little kid wasn’t trying to be mean, 2) even if he was being mean, I’m a grown man. I should have tougher skin than that. And sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me! Who cares if someone makes fun of me, or laughs at me? I’ve had people do that to me all my life. Why be so sensitive about that now?

So this past Sunday night, I decided to take the first step towards changing this. I packed up some swim trunks and a towel, and went to the rec center. I did my standard workout (30 minutes walking on the walking track, followed by a circuit of weights), then I went into the lockerroom and nervously changed into my swim trunks. I then forced myself (and I did have to force myself) to head out to the hot tub (which is on the far side of the swimming pool, as far away from the locker rooms as you can get). I took the tell off, slipped into the hot tub, and then wondered why I had been so silly about this!

One time does not a recovery make, though. So I’ve been trying to get myself to actually go to a water aerobics class this week. We finally decided on going last night. But the rec center only does daycare on Tuesday and Thursday, so Erin and I flipped to see who would take care of Colin, and who would do the class. Erin lost, so she had to take the class. Colin and I hopped into the wading pool and played and played. It was great fun. I still hesitated about going out into the public pool with just swimming trunks on, but after about 10 minutes I just didn’t care. Colin and I splashed and waded and took a walk through the artificial river. In general, we just had a blast. And I realized that I can put the past behind me. Finally.

I will still cling to my new bathrobe for a while, of course. But I won’t be hindered by this fear any more.


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