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We CAN’T work it out: Mind your own business!

A woman at the gym interrupts Leslie with unsolicited advice

Between defending my dissertation and moving to New York to start a new chapter of my life, my workout schedule went totally down the tubes. 

Before, I was working out three times a week; I was doing a two mile (half hour) and three mile (45 minutes) walk aerobics DVD, and I was doing one hour of private kickboxing training. 

For the first four months of living in New York, I probably worked out in total for what I would have in a month normally.  Acclimating to a new place is difficult, especially when you have multiple chronic illnesses that don’t handle change well.

Since the new semester started, however, I have made a concentrated effort to work out twice a week.  I do 45 minutes on the treadmill at the gym and that ends up being about two and a half miles. 

I do feel better, and feel like I have more energy. 

But I don’t have the energy for well-meaning people saying things to me while I’m working out.  I get in the zone and I don’t want to be bothered, especially when someone is trying to tell me how I should do my workout. 

A woman came up to me who was way older but in better shape than me.   I had to take out my ear buds because she clearly wanted to have a conversation with me, and I didn’t want to be completely rude. 

She proceeded to tell me that I should run for 30 seconds every so often, and eventually I’ll be able to run for a significant amount of time.  Some people might say to just ignore the woman, but her comment hit me to the core.

She looks at me, and I see she has a certain expectation because of my age.  But her expectations, or anyone else’s, for that matter, do not take into account that I have physical challenges. 

This woman doesn’t know my life story, I don’t think she would have wanted to hear it, and I didn’t feel like getting into with a total stranger.  I wanted to do my workout, on my terms.   

I know that she wasn’t purposefully trying to be cruel.  She doesn’t even know me.  Even so, I wanted to slug her.  And I could, given my training in kickboxing, but I only use those skills for good and not for evil. 

I have never been a runner.  I give credit to people who are, especially those with chronic illnesses, but running has never been my thing; it wasn’t pre-illness and it certainly isn’t now.

Lately I’m all about teachable moments, and using opportunities as they present themselves to educate the general public about what it’s like to live with multiple chronic illnesses.  But in this situation, I was stupefied.  I just smiled and nodded at the woman, while inside I seethed. 

I don’t know why I took this particular incident so hard other than to say that here was this woman, probably at least 40 years my senior, and she was working the gym better than me.  It’s a reminder that I don’t look sick, especially in the context of the gym, where I use the same equipment everyone else does.  And because I don’t look sick, I should be rocking it out at the gym. 

Like I say, I think that had this woman had any inclination about how her comment would make me feel, she never would have said it in the first place.  But people need to butt out and mind their own business.  It’s not necessary to critique my athletic prowess.  I’m doing the best I can with what my body will realistically allow.  I’m pushing myself, and I don’t need some stranger to tell me I need to push harder.  That’s what my kickboxing instructor was for, and I paid for that advice. 

So if I haven’t asked for advice, I probably don’t want it, so just leave me alone.      

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