A Positive Comment and Paying it Forward
The gym can be an intimidating place for a morbidly obese person like me. Most people working out when I do look like they have been working out forever. Then there is me, the large round peg trying to squeeze into the small triangular hole. You may appreciate how I feel out of place in this environment. You may even recognize how difficult it is for a person like me to not only join a gym but continue working towards a healthy life when they feel so out of place just by being there.
It was shortly after 6:00 this morning and I had just spent an hour on the elliptical going as hard as 382 pounds can go. I was soaked with sweat and trying to catch my breath in-between swigs of water before going into the locker room. It was then that a gym member, who judging by his build has been going for a quite a while, walked by and said “you are looking great man, keep it up.”
I stood there for a few more moments, partly because I was still trying to catch my breath, but mainly because I was enjoying the moment. That comment was like flipping a switch in me that changed my fears of being an obvious outsider to a certain assurance that I belonged.
I am sure that I don’t look any different today than I did 4 weeks ago when I showed up as a gym “newbie” but that single comment was much more powerful than the man who said it, which is saying a lot.
Did he say it just to be nice? Did he say it with the knowledge that it would make me feel like I belonged? While being new to the gym I am not new to the journey. I have been working on a healthier lifestyle for three months before joining a gym and I wasn’t going to be the guy who stopped showing up in February regardless of how uncomfortable it was to be there - but he did not know that.
I don’t know why he said what he did but I do know that I am still amazed at how good those simple words made me feel. I told this man thank you, with what little breath I had, but I don’t believe there is anything I can say that would make him feel as good as I did this morning.Legendary college football coach Woody Hayes once said, “You can never pay back, but you can always pay forward.”
I made a promise to myself this morning that one day I will pay forward the good feeling I have now. When I am the guy who looks like he belongs, and one day I will be, then I promise to offer similar comments to people working hard to change. That simple comment may be the difference between that gym "newbie" continuing their path to a healthy lifestyle or them starting over again the next year.
If a simple comment can be that powerful then it is the least I can do.