Me, Myself and the Gym!

"I'm not going to the gym!" How one man's refusal to exercise suddenly changed and why he now can't stop.

By Ricardo Hernandez

OK! OK! I must admit, I was never the type to step foot in any gym! I created so many excuses that I actually convinced myself I had better things to do! For many years, my family had been persuading me to go, but I would tell them, "I have no time," "I'm too busy," or my favorite-just to make them stop asking, "Yeah, I'll go soon!" In reality, I think I was too self-conscious. I would say, "I'm too fat," "Everyone will look at me," "If I go, I'll be the only one that's not in shape," and "If I go, I won't know how to use any of the machines; I'll look foolish." My success in avoiding the gym worked for many, many years until...

I met a guy at the Long Beach QV Pride Festival last year. His name was Ernesto. He was tall, tanned, had a muscular body, short hair, wore green/blue Levis and a white tank-top that showed off his well-defined muscular arms. Wow, was I impressed! We talked a bit, and the whole time I kept noticing his smile and looked at his well-toned facial features.

After we talked, I went home, and I couldn't stop thinking about him! I didn't get a number, but I wanted to see him again. I remembered that he told me he worked out at a North Hollywood gym near where I live. And so the idea of joining a gym popped up. Hhhmm? No, that's too crazy! But maybe I should? Well, I didn't think I would ever join, but something in me was telling me to just "go for it." The thought of being in a new atmosphere where people seemed goal-oriented and in-shape was frightening, but that was outweighed by the thought of running into Ernesto again. I knew I couldn't go to the gym alone because I was too self-conscious, so I asked a friend to come along. He came and we both joined the gym where Ernesto worked out.

At the gym, I kept thinking, "I wonder if he's here!" but just being in the same place-where he could possibly be-was good enough. Then, I saw him lifting some weights, and I became nervous. I tried to think of what I would say if he came up to talk to me. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to come up with anything to say and I couldn't envision myself telling him, "Umm, I decided to join because of...you!" so I quickly turned the other way and left. Needless to say, I never have spoken to Ernesto since.

And that is what led me into the wonderful world of exercising. Initially, going there began as a "What am I doing here?" "I wonder if I'll see Ernesto?" routine, but soon enough, I slowly started to appreciate the benefits of exercising! I found out there was more to working out than what I thought.

Going to the gym has taught me to set goals! This was so shocking to me. At first, my goal was just to go to the gym, and I achieved that-even though I had to be motivated by a guy. Then I created new goals. My next goal was to do a simple 15 minute workout on the stairmaster, and I achieved that! Soon enough, my goals changed to 30 minutes, 45 minutes, then to 60 minutes on the stairmaster. Wow, I felt great! And you know what? Achieving goals became easier, and now, if I'm super motivated, I'll do two hours on the stairmaster! I never imagined that working out took so much discipline and goal-setting. Setting those goals was very empowering, but achieving them was even more so!

Working out at the gym has also allowed me to enhance my mind in many ways.I'm able to think clearly and concentrate more precisely. I feel so good afterwards, too-like a superhero, with great confidence and ability. Sometimes, I feel like I'm on top of the world-that I can handle anything. And from just one simple work-out!

Now here's a secret that I usually don't tell a lot of people. Another way I empower my mind is through audio tapes. Instead of listening to music as I work out, I listen to educational books on tapes. It's something that I enjoy, and it stimulates my mind. For those of you who want to know, some of my favorites are, "The Magic of Thinking Big," "How to Think Like a CEO," and "Brain Power." I try to maximize the use of my time, so learning while I do my exercises makes good sense.

The next benefit of working out was, of course, body enhancement. I started getting fit! Wow, that was new for me! It took a while to see a change, but suddenly, it happened! My love handles-that I've had lived with for so long-slowly disappeared, and my chest, arms, and legs became more muscular. My stomach had packs-well, only two to be exact, but on my way to six. I also noticed the reactions from other people. It seemed like I got more stares than before, and that people initiated more conversations with me. This never used to happened before, and it was a new and pleasant experience. But throughout my changes, I always reminded myself, that I was exercising because I enjoyed it!

Now, this is the part that I have to admit I like! Another motivating aspect of going to the gym was seeing those cute Latino guys. For some reason, and I know I'm only human, it was like going to a club-but instead of seeing people dancing to beat of house music, they'd be working out to the tunes of the radio. And instead of seeing people drinking beer, margaritas, and other alcoholic beverages, they'd be drinking purified water, fat burner juice, and Gatorade! Whenever I saw a fine guy, I'd say to myself, "Wow, he's cute!" It would motivate me to work harder. Even though I'm a strong man, whenever I see a fine Latino guy, my heart just melts-and damn, that's a good feeling!

Overall, I never realized the many benefits of joining a gym. I guess I use to concentrate on what seemed to be the downside-just getting motivated to go- but after experiencing all the benefits, I now can't wait to go there. I feel good all day, I develop my mind and body, I inspire myself to work harder, I set goals, I achieve goals, and on the lighter side, I get to see some cute Latino guys. The whole atmosphere is so motivating.

And to Ernesto: You may not know it, but for 26 years, nobody had been able to inspire me to exercise, but you made the difference and really helped me out a lot! You jumped-started my heart, and that was enough to set me on a new path that, ultimately, led me to empower my mind, body, and even, my soul. Thanks for the motivation, Ernesto.

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