The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Approaching the gym: A steady journey one rep at a time

4 min read
Two rows of dumbbells racked.

Goolrick gym is located next to the Jepson Science Center and the Hurley Convergence Center. Abbey Magnet | The Weekly Ringer


Staff Writer

Growing up, I was the kid who got in trouble during class for reading yet another book beneath my desk. In elementary school, my friends and I preferred telling stories at recess rather than competing for a spot to play basketball on the blacktop, and as a teenager, I got most of my exercise by taking long walks through my neighborhood or learning whatever choreography I needed to learn for the musical I was in at the time. 

I continued those long walks at the first university I attended, but when I transferred to Mary Washington this year, I decided to try something new. 

For a long time, I used my busy schedule as an excuse not to exercise, but now that I’ve committed to prioritizing my physical health, I’ve found a way to carve out time to work out just about every day. Regularly going to the gym helps keep me balanced—pun intended.

Last autumn, I started to work out at the gym in my subdivision. It’s really just a tiny room in the basement of the neighborhood clubhouse with a few pieces of equipment practically stacked on top of each other, but it gets the job done. As this is my first semester at Mary Washington, when I obtained my EagleOne card at the end of January I also gained access to a bigger gym: Goolrick.

The first time I went, it was a nasty day at the end of January. The air was much too cool and the rain came in spitting bouts. Even though I already knew how to use a couple of the machines, the larger space at Goolrick felt daunting. I managed to do a few exercises but felt self-conscious; everybody around me appeared to be an expert and I didn’t even know how to adjust the machines for my admittedly diminutive height.  

After half an hour, I left, frustrated with myself for not doing more. Maybe the tiny neighborhood gym was my speed after all. 

I didn’t go back to Goolrick for a week. Instead, I went back to exercising at home while I looked up beginner workouts online and watched videos on how to adjust the height and seats on the machines. 

When I went back, I felt more confident and a little less self-conscious—enough so that I convinced myself to try a couple of new machines. After a while, I even found myself watching a girl using one I’d never seen before. I walked closer to try and figure out how she was doing it, but I must have gotten too close because she noticed me standing there and stopped her workout.

Before I could stammer an apology for interrupting, she asked if I wanted to “work in” with her and a friend. 

I looked at her blankly, not knowing how to respond. I was so new to gym culture that I didn’t even know what “working in” meant. She must have realized, though, because she quickly explained, and I took her up on the offer. 

We spent the rest of our time in the gym together that day, and we exchanged contact information before we went our separate ways. She told me that she worked out at the same time nearly every day and that I was more than welcome to join her in the future. We met up again the next day, and she walked me through a few more new machines and exercises. 

Since then, we’ve maintained a near-daily routine, alternating days of upper- and lower-body weight training with a healthy serving of balance and core exercises on the side. After a month of using the leg press machine, I can now press 1.31 times my body weight, which may not sound like much of an accomplishment to someone who’s spent longer in the gym, but I’m pleased.

As a result of going to the gym, not only am I grateful for the improvements I’ve made, but I’m also happy with the increase in endorphins my body’s producing these days that help me control all the stress that comes with taking a heavy load of college classes while finding my way around—and finding my place—at a new school. 

Recently, a good friend of mine told me that he finds people who can motivate themselves to go to the gym impressive—“and a little scary, but that’s unrelated,” he joked. I knew exactly what he was talking about when he said it because I used to feel the same way. 

I’m still not sure where I found my initial motivation to hit the gym, and to keep going day in and day out, but I’m glad I did and am grateful to have met a friend who was willing to help me along the way.