• LJK

We just want to pump ... you up.

Tennis. That's the exercise that was fun for me as a kid. Playing basketball was okay ... just okay ... but tennis was the thing. I could run around the court at the peak of the blazing Florida heat for hours during the day, completely dehydrated and loving every minute of it {and I still do. Got a new racquet recently through a friend here in the Netherlands and, before the curfew was put in place back in the Fall, we were able to play from 9 PM to 11 PM one night and it was awesome}.

Going to the gym and working out, however? No. Just no. Not for me as a kid and not even after I was technically considered an adult. I specifically remember being in Atlanta with my family for Thanksgiving one year when I was in high school visiting my aunt and uncle. Friday morning, everyone got up and went to the gym ... except me. I stayed at the house and read comic books. Had no interest in being in a gym.

My history with fitness and working out was pretty spotty through most of my life. Being in P.E. class in middle school / junior high school was awful -- bad instructors, feeling the need to act tougher than I actually was to appease the bullies and keep their attention off of me. I distinctly remember counting off jumping jacks and push-ups during P.E. class and intentionally dropping my voice as low as it would go to exude some machismo that I definitely didn't possess. What a relief it was that, when I finally escaped the nightmare of junior high school that I could actually choose what sport I would play (tennis. always tennis).

Even when my family and I would get up super early in the morning on the weekdays to go workout before school, I was reluctant and felt more like a pretender when I would be in the gym trying to build muscle. I never had a clear vision of what I wanted - I was there because my family invited me to go. I didn't question it -- of course, there were mornings where I was like "5:30 AM, are you kidding me?" but even then, we all managed to muster the energy to get into the gym for an hour. More than once, I definitely fell asleep on one of the benches in the workout area. Staying in shape felt more like a chore, didn't hold my interest and, aside from laughing with our friends that we'd made who also frequented the gym before the crack of dawn, I could NOT get into it. It felt depressing to me somehow that we would walk into the gym in nearly pitch black conditions outside and then, by the time the workout was done, it would be bright, sunny and already blazing hot. So, while my brother made physical gains and started to really put on muscle as he ventured through high school, that was not my path.

Same story on moving to New York -- I would go to the gym in spurts alone or with friends, but mostly found as many excuses as I could muster to avoid spending time in the gym, for which I was making monthly payments. That sentence conjures images from the classic Friends episode where Ross and Chandler try to quit the gym and got bullied into keeping their membership. I remember finally admitting to myself that I wasn't making use of my gym membership in the early 00's -- being in that office trying to quit the gym isn't easy or comfortable. But I persevered ... and quit.

That is, until I discovered my sixth-grade journal in 2011, which as many of you know, led me directly to writing Bully, my solo theater play. While I often discuss the journey to writing the play, I find myself talking less frequently about the paradigm shift I made around that time with regard to my relationship with exercise, working out and challenging myself. I knew I wanted to perform the show as a boxer and I knew I didn't want to fake it. I wanted to put myself through the paces, learn how to legitimately throw a punch and -- as I phrased it in my early written musings about the journey -- get into the best shape of my life.

It scared the crap out of me ... which is how I knew I had to do it.

I hadn't the slightest idea what would be involved, but I knew it would be one of the most difficult things I'd ever done. So, before I could back out, I called up the best two gym trainers I'd met in New York (shout out, Antoni & Berto), took them out for lunch and told them exactly what I was aiming at doing. This was before the play had even been accepted to its first festival, so for all I knew, I was about to engage in a six-month, three-times-a-week gym regimen for which the results might only be known to me. I remember feeling thrilled and daunted by what we discussed that day and inspired that these two in-demand trainers wanted to make the time to help me along this path.

For me, that was the day that everything changed. I committed myself to making physical fitness a priority ... like my highest priority ... for the first time in my life. When I picked up a jump rope for the first time, I could barely get past the first swing. I didn't have the upper body strength to string together more than two pull-ups. I learned that consistency and dedication are how we achieve our goals. Incremental and steady progress is the key. I don't know if I'll ever have the opportunity to train like I did back then with trainers like Antoni and Berto who wanted to make sure I achieved my goals and succeeded in my pursuits. What I do know is that I'm left with this inextinguishable flame in my gut that gets me up out of the bed at 6 AM or stops me from what I'm doing in the middle of the day and says it's time to train.

I'd never experienced that before taking that leap of faith as I prepared for the premiere of my theater play ... and it's a gift that keeps on giving.

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