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Friday, February 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Breaking stereotypes, and a sweat

In January, I wrote about my resolution to try something new this year, an effort to bust some boredom based on reader input. That led to a snowshoeing adventure and subsequent sign-up for my first triathlon this summer, which I’ll be tackling with my longtime running partner Susan.

Now it’s turning into a newness snowball. While our morning runs work well to prepare for the last leg of the triathlon, we knew we needed to bike and swim as well. So we joined a gym this month.

As much as I enjoy exercise, I dreaded getting a gym membership. My imagination was colored by gym rat stereotypes. I couldn’t envision myself fitting in with cardio queens who exercise in full makeup and shoes color-coordinated to their skinny spandex. Even worse was the image of men checking out their muscles in the mirrors in between weight-lifting repetitions and obvious ogling of those women in their matching, moisture-wicking workout wear.

This impression is admittedly an exaggeration of my memories of the last gym I tried, too many years ago to count. Its preening singles atmosphere wasn’t conducive to the confidence-building I associate with exercise, so I quickly quit and went back to running the roads.

But now I need a place to swim, so I followed an admonishment often aimed at athletes during a workout. I sucked it up and signed up. Or maybe I sucked it in. There’s something about a wall of mirrors that makes you do that.

It turns out, I shouldn’t have sweated joining the gym. Its atmosphere is fitness focused. And sucking it up, I’ve found, isn’t just a motivational slogan to get you moving. It’s something more easily accomplished with an instructor, once the newness wears off.

Everything at the gym is new to me, so I’m pacing myself, at least as much as I can with two months to prepare for the bike and swim legs of our triathlon. Since I learned how to swim and ride a bike during childhood and I’m reasonably fit already, I wasn’t too worried.

Then I realized my beach lounging attire isn’t suited for swimming more than a meter. I needed to buy a new swimsuit. And goggles. The newness just never ends.

As longtime readers remember, I’m not a shopper. Once again I had to suck it up. Three stores, 16 suits and a lot of sucking it in later, I finally found one that worked. That’s all I needed, and that’s all I’m going to say about that because swimsuit shopping is an experience no woman wants to remember.

But I was counting on the idea that once you learn to ride a bike you never forget. This may be true. Except at the gym, you don’t bike. You spin. So, I just added “spin class” to my growing list of new experiences.

At face value, it isn’t hard. You adjust the seat and the handle bars to your height, slip your feet into the pedal straps and spin in circles to upbeat music while following the instructor’s prompts.

This makes it hard, in a good workout way. At least, last week during a spin class, the instructor asked if I was OK. Susan and I agreed, we’d never push ourselves so hard on our own. With the music pulsing and the instructor teaching, encouraging and distracting with an imaginative narrative, we work our way up hills, pedal past other cyclists, and race away from hungry dinosaurs and angry baboons. Each day is different, but it’s a leg burning workout that makes my sweat run and drip into puddles.

To my surprise, I love it. Boredom has been busted.

Jill Barville will write in this space twice a month about families, life and everything else. She can be reached at

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