Exercise is Like Underwear, and I’m Not Wearing Any


Every year, Jason’s mom sent him underwear for Christmas. A fact I did not know until we were already married. A fact I discovered when a little brown package arrived on our doorstep December 20, 2000. I tore into it, anxious to see the treasures inside . . . the treasures we would cherish as symbols of our first christmas together. What I found was sparkly and green, but it was not gems, not even a tree ornament with “couples first christmas” inscribed on the bottom. It was, in fact, a pair of men’s sparkly green bikini briefs with a “Merry Christmas from mom” note attatched. Jason, always sympathetic to the things that disturb me, immediately put them on and marched around the house singing his High School fight song — which included lyrics about the Fighting Irish. The moment, still surreal nine years later, is one that I have burned into my memory despite all efforts to erase it.

The truth is, there is something about underwear that is both highly personal and totally disturbing. We have all had those moments in the undergarment department when we come across a pair of panties that leaves us a little concerned about the rest of the world. That one pair of underwear that makes us shudder just thinking about the kind of person who not only wears it, but pays to wear it. The crazy thing: someone out there is shuddering at your underwear too.

Which brings me to my latest revelation: Exercise is Like Underwear.

Last weekend the Fitness Club I work for put on a two hour sampler class including six different instructors and six different formats for group exercise. It was sort of like the underwear I saw in Fred Meyer’s yesterday: red and green velvet with little jingle bells around the top — festive, but not very practical and a little chaotic. Anyway, we had 60 participants packed into this studio and from my perspective it was probably one of the best experiences I have ever had teaching. Fun, energetic, sweaty, it posessed all the qualities of a perfect class. The reaction from the participants, however, was not what I expected. Though most had an overall positive feeling about the class, they remained fixed on the parts of the class they liked and those they did not like. The point of the event was to maybe turn people on to a format of exercise they had never before tried. Instead, it seemed only to solidify for most that they liked what they were doing and had no desire to ever experience the other things again.

Exercise, like underwear, is highly personal. What one person finds relaxing, another finds mind numbingly boring. What invigorates one, totally confuses another. What leaves some high on endorphins, leaves others unable to move the next morning.

Exercise, like underwear, is also a bit disturbing. We have all seen that lady at the gym hanging upside down from the pull up bar, balancing a physio ball on her nose, all while doing a squat and pushup at the same time. To us, she has lost her mind. To her, she finally found it.

Which leaves me in quite a predicament. If exercise is like underwear, then what am I as a fitness instructor? How can I be both boxers and briefs while still leaving room for that little black dress that absolutely demands a thong? I cannot simply be an underwear model — they only flaunt the end result without teaching how to get there . . . and Victoria Secret would never hire me. How (like Paul says) do I become all things to all people, without becoming a people pleaser.

I think the answer is that I have to hang my underwear at the door. You see, for me to do my job well, I have to set aside what exercise does for me and tune into each person in that studio and learn what exercise does for them. To somehow discover if they are silk and lace, or cotton grannies. I still come with the personality and gifts God gave me, but I come for their benefit and not my own.

God has given us each a job. For some it is to be at home with children, for others punching a clock at nine and five. We are shop owners, business men, car dealers. We are pastors, nurses, lawyers. And God is asking us to hang our undies at the door each day. To look at the people in our lives and to become what they need. Not to patronize them, or to lose ourselves — but to use who we are to make their lives better.

It is a freeing way to live — going commando.

Yesterday, a paricipant from Saturday’s class said to me “I don’t care what it is, I just want to move.”
My response was, “I don’t care what it is either, I just want to teach.”

It was a great moment.

Kind of like that moment in the locker room where you realize in your haste you forgot to pack underwear for the day, only to realize it is the one thing you can go without and no one will ever know the difference. Our own agenda is the one thing we can always go without. I think, maybe, that’s what Paul meant.

And in the end, if you do get in that car accident, it IS one less thing for the EMT to cut off.

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