Last January, Marcus came into UFO ready to workout and crack some smiles on our faces. Our coach's assessment note about Marcus says it all, “He is ready to work hard, takes cues beautifully, and has a zinger sense of humor that is equal parts crass pop reference and book smart hello Mr. professor.” Marcus’ willingness to work hard and make friends has quickly made 5pm semi-private classes a riot, and has resulted in him smashing his fitness goals in the first year. We are ready to help him tackle new goals in the next years to come!
I was never really the kind of guy who ever saw myself as a regular gym going type. From an early age, there was this underlying current of anxiety and fear that first began in Gym Class in high school and slowly crept its way into my everyday life. Partially a product of my own insecurities and anxiety as a gay youth, I always felt like the gym was a place where someone might uncover who I really was and I would be “found out.” The football jocks, who gave me wedgies each day of P.E. class my freshman year of high school, only reinforced the negative connotations that I had with exercising and sports. It was much easier to hide in my bedroom and surround myself with food than it was to deal with my fears and insecurities. So I did.
It was that year, my freshman year of high school that I spent most days at home, sitting in front the T.V. watching MTV and binge eating that my weight went from average to obese. By the time I started my sophomore year, my weight had gone up to 240 pounds. Now, not only was I an insecure gay kid, but now I was an overweight insecure gay kid. This can be especially challenging when you come into your own in a world of photoshopping and airbrushing, guys who look like Michelangelo himself carved them out of marble and the stereotypically “gay” look. There can be a lot of pressure and judgement that occurs within the gay community, especially if you don’t fit a certain “mold,” or at least that is how I felt.
I managed to carry this fear with me from the age of 14 until my 36th birthday, right before Christmas, when I looked in the mirror one morning and I was just so tired of not liking the way that I looked or felt about myself. However, there was still this undercurrent of fear and anxiety that existed within me. I knew I needed to do something. And it wasn’t just about how I felt about my looks, or how I felt about my body, I also knew that there were health implications as my biological father suffered from diabetes and so did his mother. Knowing this I knew that finally the time had come to really do something.
While this fear was present, I never really felt equipped to challenge the fear and anxiety that I was harboring. However, I know that there are two things that are truly essential to me being able to make changes - structure and relationships. I am the kind of person who needs structure, it’s a value that I work with each day in my own professional life. And I am the kind of person that needs to develop relationships with people in order to feel comfortable.
In thinking about both of these things, I reached out to a couple of trusted friends. I asked them for advice on gyms and if they knew of any place where I could find a lot of structure, develop relationships and not exist in isolation, and a place where I could feel safe and secure in who I was. This was when a friend told me about Urban Fitness Oakland. I was told about how there were classes where the workout was already written for you, and how you were provided with opportunities to get feedback and advice on your movements and form. With this in mind, I decided to sign up for my “test drive.”
Getting to the point of being able to walk through the doors for that assessment took a lot of work. My insecurities began to creep up. Would I be good enough, what would people think about me, would I be judged by the way I look? All of these thoughts raced through my head. However, on that rainy, wet afternoon of my assessment, I walked in the door and was greeted by a warm face with a huge smile and a lot of red hair! I sat down to talk with Coach Hannah about what I was looking for and what it was that I wanted to accomplish. This was the beginning of a huge transformation in myself that I didn’t know that I was capable of.
The first couple of weeks during that test drive weren’t easy. But each day I came into the gym, I was greeted by warm faces who would shout out my name as I walked through the door. Not only do the coaches remember who you are, I have seen them strive to cultivate those ever so important relationships with members. There is a personality to this gym that I am not sure exists elsewhere. I also began to see the wide variety of ability levels - from beginners to beasts - and I saw how coaches gave feedback to each, really creating the kind of differentiation where everyone was getting what they needed to be successful.
Since that first day, and the assessment, I have come to find that Urban Fitness really meets all of the criteria that I needed to find - a place with structure, a place where I could build relationships, and a place that I felt safe in. In the 8 months since I have joined UFO, I have found a new level of confidence in myself. I have come to love myself even more. And most importantly, I have begun to see progress. The kind of progress that I was never sure I would see in myself.
Over the course of the last 9 months, I have begun to notice significant improvements in how I felt. I am stronger now, and no longer fear the grey or green kettle bells; I can make it through a whole workout without feeling like I am going to die; and I have a lot more energy in my day to day life. I feel more confident in the way that I look and I am started to develop a more healthy body image of myself. But the biggest measure of success for me is that I have dropped about 3% in body fat over this time.
All of this would not have been possible, I don’t think, without the guidance and coaching of the amazing staff at UFO. When people ask me what I have been doing, I simply tell them that I go to a gym that I love to be at.