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I Went to the Gym for the First Time Ever and Didn’t Spontaneously Combust

Let’s face it––it’s hard to ignore the “workout culture” we see everywhere on a day to day basis.  These days, it seems like everyone is making regular fitness a priority. It floods our sidewalks, our Instagram feeds, and for people like me, our guilty consciences as well.

This isn’t a bad thing, of course.  Many active people that I know of have found nearby gyms that suit their needs and are relatively cheap (that must be why everyone seems to be going).  And if they’re not at the gym, they’re running through the neighborhood with their earbuds in, or they’re at Trader Joe’s buying their kale, trail mix, etc.


All healthy habits, like I said.  It’s no secret that it’s way better to have a social trend that encourages an active lifestyle than one that pushes for more fast food and Juul pods.

Yet for people like me––who rely on three servings of dinner a night and could never be caught dead inside a gym––seeing everyone getting their cardio on in their Lulu Lemon leggings can be somewhat intimidating.  I’ve always wanted to get in shape, but never quite had the courage to start.

In my eyes, everyone on social media seems to know exactly how to use the dumbbells and other equipment they have at the gym.  They know exactly how many times a week to work out, and when they get home they know exactly what to eat and when. That kind of confidence intimidated me to no end.  How could they make it look so easy? How can one speed up the treadmill they’re on and not fall right on their face?

I spent my whole life a little pudgy because of this fear, yet for the sake of this very online magazine, I decided to bite the bullet.  I set just two simple goals for myself this summer:

1.  Step foot inside a gym and actually figure out how to use the equipment.

2. Go back to the gym a few times after that.

I knew that setting these goals and attempting them would be a great laugh, and that was pretty much enough reason to convince me to start.  Yet a little voice in the back of my head was also telling me that it’s about time I start getting in shape and living my best life.

Thankfully for me, Planet Fitness actually offers a completely free “summer challenge” for teens ages 15-18, which I encourage you all to try out if you haven’t already.  All they need is your driver’s license and your phone number and you’re all set for the season.

As it turns out, Planet Fitness is actually a pretty reasonable gym to start out at if you happen to be a beginner.  Last week, I stepped inside their gym for the first time and surprisingly I didn’t melt to the ground as a result. Seriously––I really thought it was going to be a Satan-meets-holy-water kind of situation.

But it wasn’t at all like that.  In fact, because I signed up for their “orientation”, the gym had one of their guys walk me around and teach me how to use all the different pieces of equipment.  The guy they assigned to me was about six feet tall, built like the Hulk, and was covered in tattoos, and I sheepishly stood behind him as he showed me how to turn on the treadmill and the elliptical machine.

After about a half hour of showing me around, he was finished with the tour, and with that I grabbed my purse and ran back out to my car (water bottle, running shoes and all).


I didn’t die, but I was a little mortified.

Yet I didn’t allow that to stop me from going.  Two days later, I was back at the gym. I locked up my things and headed over to the treadmill with my head down––because Heaven forbid someone I knew caught me exercising!

Ironically enough, someone as klutzy as me did manage to operate the treadmill OK, and after that I made my way around the room and tried out a bunch of different machines.  I twisted my torso, lifted some weights, hung out for a little bit and finished up feeling pretty accomplished. I’m not 100% sure if I was doing everything right, but hey, at the very least I gave it a shot.

I got back in my car, blasted the air conditioning, and dry heaved.  I hadn’t worked out like that since I ran my famous 14-minute mile run in the fifth grade.

Yet what I learned by going was that my pathetic little workout was nothing to be ashamed of. Although I wasn’t the spitting image of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, I had to remind myself that he was a beginner once, too.



What I learned this past week was that the world of healthy living is not entirely black and white.  What works for one person will not necessarily work for another, and we can’t trick ourselves into believing that all workouts and diet plans are the same.  They’re just not!

We all have different goals, and for me, working up the nerve to step into that godforsaken gym was enough of an achievement.  My main goal is to be healthy and to be happy. And if I can get myself into a somewhat-regular exercise routine and cut back on a few of the donuts this summer, I’ll be really proud.

I challenged myself, and now I’m challenging you: Look into the mirror and ask yourself, what healthy choice can you make for yourself today?



Kelly Donohue is currently sophomore at Arizona State University, pursing a B.A. in Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. She loves dogs, Mexican food, reading and writing, classic rock and the season of autumn. She also hopes to one day pursue a career in journalism, television or politics.
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