To the girl on the next treadmill


To the girl on the next treadmill,

When I walked into the main gym today, I instantly wanted to be on the treadmill next to yours. It was like looking into a time-lapsed mirror. I recognized so much of myself in you. I recognized the baggy T-shirt with the unflattering sweats, which you chose because they don’t make cute workout clothes in your size. I recognized your determined gait, as if with each step you were walking further and further from all the times you failed, as if the each percussive step was the foundation of your mantra: This time is different.

Or maybe you were thinking none of those things. Maybe you aren’t like me at all and don’t need to constantly take stock of your negative feelings and find a way to run away, far, far away from them. But I suspect that we have at least some shared experiences, as there is no hiding the fact that you are right around the weight where I started.

I feel connected to you because when I picture myself in my head, I still picture myself as your shape. I still catch glimpses of myself in the mirror, even today, even 140 pounds and 15 months later, and find myself shocked to see someone I wasn’t expecting staring back at me in the mirror. I have to constantly remind myself that now I can fit there, I might not have that barrier, or that maybe I will fit into that top.

I recognize something else too. You are on Day 1 of the Couch to 5K program. I can recognize it quickly, as I have attempted Day 1 three different times in the past, and three times I have had the wind pulled from my lungs until they ache too hard to continue. I’ll try again in 50 pounds, I tell myself with a sigh. Maybe it will be easier then.

That’s what inspired me to stand next to you. You are doing it, actually doing it, at a weight where I failed. You are pushing through. You are winning the battle. And I am fiercely proud of you. I am inspired by you, and because of you I choose to push myself harder. You are someone I want to stand beside.
And as I push my pace faster and sweat harder than I had intended, I think to myself I need to tell you that you are amazing. I need to tell you that you are so much stronger and better than I ever was at that stage, or even now. But there is no good way to tell you. So I decide that I will strike up a casual conversation with you when you finish about the C25K program, and hopefully I can slip those sentiments into our casual interaction.

When your boyfriend came over, I wanted to scream at him. With his exasperated, flippant “How much longer you got? I don’t want to be here all day,” I wanted to scream “Don’t you understand what it takes for her to take this step? To take every step? To keep putting one foot in front of the other when your body tells you ‘no’? Don’t you care that this woman you supposedly love is trying to change her life?”

And when he sees the 9 minutes and 58 seconds glowing on the face of the treadmill and says “You’ve got 10 minutes still? Come on. I’ve got shit to do,” all I can wonder is what ‘shit’ he has to do with such immediacy that he cannot spare 10 more minutes to make sure the woman he cares about gets to feel the satisfaction of knowing that she did it, that she completed something, and that she said she would, so she did. In short, those 10 minutes may have been the 10 minutes where you discovered you were powerful beyond what you had ever dreamed.  But you were robbed of that.

Girl on the next treadmill, I tried to stalk you down in the locker room a minute after you left so I could awkwardly tell you some of this, probably stammering stupidly to find the right words and getting redder in the face than even my workout made me. Because I suspect you might need to hear it from someone. But I couldn’t find you. You had gone. So I decided to write this, because if you are the mirror of my past, it can only follow that I am the mirror of your future, and you need to know.  I wish I had known that I wouldn’t fail, and that every challenge was an opportunity to triumph.

You need to know your future is inside of you. You need to know that every mile will be worth it, even though it feels impossible and incomprehensibly far away. You need to know that you are worth loving, completely regardless of your weight. You need to know that the people who love you, I mean truly love you, will be your greatest fans.  You need to know that you can get tougher and stronger every day.

I hope that you come back. I hope his selfish comments don’t make you quit. I hope nothing makes you quit. I hope that someone with the determination I witnessed in just a short amount of time gets the chance to reap the rewards of that determination. Because you deserve it.


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elayne (1 year ago)

Ugh, this is the saddest story ever. I think it makes me mostly sad because this is so common. We as women commit our time to so many different people and places and things. We always leave ourselves to the last, when we don’t have much left to give ourselves and finding the will to invest time into ourselves is difficult. When we try I think it we’re holding on by threads and it’s so easy to let go of those threads when we feel it’s invonveniencing those around us.
My ex husband told me after we seperated that he would intentionally sabbatage my weight loss efforts because he thought that if I was fat no one else would want me, and if I lost weight, I would be out of his league. Insecure men, keep their women insecure as well. Real men, good men, love a woman who can love herself.

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