My Third First Time in the Gym

There were two rows of treadmills and two rows of stationary bikes. I jumped on the bike in the back of the farthest corner I could find. It was about 9:30 pm on a weekday and I felt a sea of emotions at once: shame, fear, and disappointment for letting my fitness deteriorate to the point it did.

This was in April 2008 and I had just come off a three year hiatus from working out. I was 25 years old and had gained 50 of the 100 pounds that I had lost in 2004. My name is Travis Purdy and I am a 300 pound smoking alcoholic. Well, former 300 pound smoking alcoholic. I stopped smoking in February 2004 and finally quit drinking on August 1, 2014. I’m a lifelong athlete and weigh about 215 pounds as of this publication.

Depending on where you attended school, your first time in the weight room or gym was probably in middle or high school. I was introduced to the weight room for the first time in the 8th grade. And like a lot of young boys, I was eager to bench press! To be fair, that’s something guys carry around well into adulthood. The first time in the gym was exciting for a young athlete like myself. It brought out the friendly competition between students by seeing who could lift more. In high school, I learned how to use free weights. That’s where my love of working out truly began. I wasn’t the strongest kid in my class, but I enjoyed the camaraderie of hanging out with my friends and lifting weights. During football season, we did a ton of conditioning so I didn’t need to worry about cardio or watching my weight. I had a nice strength spurt when I was a junior so by the time I was a senior, I was one of the strongest guys in school. It was a very nice ego boost for a shy kid with low self-esteem. However, by the end of my senior year of football, the conditioning ended, but my weight lifting and eating practices did not. I was 275 pounds at my high school graduation.

Instead of going to college like a lot of my classmates, I started selling cars six months after graduation. Initially, it was a blast. I was making more money than all my friends and even some of my family members. I had fun drinking with my co-workers and then I started smoking, stopped working out, and started eating fast food multiple times a day. In no time, I was over 300 pounds.

After getting out of the car business two years later, I felt physically old. I had to hold my breath to tie my shoes and felt super winded after walking up a single flight of stairs. I became alarmed when I started coughing up blood every other morning. I wasn’t even 21. Well, the inner athlete kicked in and I felt like it was time to get back in the gym. I remember going right back to the bench press that first day for “chest day.” Yes, it was Monday. You can’t start working out or dieting on any other day, can you? At the end of my lifting session with my friends, I got onto the treadmill. I walked. For about a mile. I was at the gym with my friend, my brother, and a couple of my brother’s friends and I’ll never forget one of them saying, “What are you doing walking?!! C’mon man!” I told them all, “I’m just starting, but watch.” And they saw…by mid 2004, I had cleaned up my eating, worked out five times a week and had gotten down to 240 pounds. I felt amazing! I had not been that weight in about three years. By the end of summer that year, I moved to Wisconsin and had such great momentum that I followed a strict nutrition regimen while sustaining my exercise habits and by New Year’s, I was down to 195 pounds.

Then I had another three year drop off from the gym. In spring 2005, I started selling Kirby vacuum cleaners door-to-door and the job was very time consuming. I wasn’t able to maintain the healthy habits that I had worked so hard to create in my daily life. By the time I was left Kirby in 2008, I was living in California and I weighed 245 pounds. I hadn’t seen the inside of a gym in about three years and instead of eating eggs, chicken, fish, and veggies daily, I was living off fast food, chips (Cheetos were one of my favorite!), beer, and vodka. I moved back home with these same unhealthy habits in February 2008.

And this takes us back to where we started in the beginning of this post. It was April 2008 and I returned for day one at the gym for the third time in my life. The difference was I was alone. No friends to cheer me on or give me crap, it was just me. Now I know you already read about how I got there at 9:30 pm on a weekday to start back in the gym for the third time, but what I didn’t tell you is that I went there at 8:00 pm first. I checked into the gym and made my way to the treadmills which were on the right as you walked in and I thought I was ready to begin my fitness transformation. I walked around the first few rows to see where there was an open spot and I saw one smack dab in the middle of other people working out. That was way too intimidating, so I walked to the back of the gym to jump on one of the stationary bikes, but half of them were taken. I got super nervous and felt extremely self-conscious so I left. I remember my heart racing as I got out of the gym as quickly as I could. I sat in my car, looked at the clock and told myself that I would be back in about an hour or so when there were less people in there. I drove away feeling defeated but determined to come back. So now it was 9:30 pm. The crowd had thinned by at least half and I almost left again. But I knew that I couldn’t because I had told myself that this was day one! Again. For the third time.

Thankfully, since that day I have not had a hiatus from working out. I got back into the car business which kept me pretty busy but this time, I was able to attain a healthy balance in my life. Blood work, energy level, body fat are pretty good. Sometimes I think that my body fat percentage could always improve, but that’s just the crazy person talking within me. I’m super grateful to have gone through these experiences but I will NEVER forget how self-conscious, intimidated, disappointed, anxious, unsure, and nervous I was my third first time back in the gym.

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Travis PurdyComment