Shaking the Saddlebags #2: The Fantastic Fear Trifecta


Here's Molly, in all her trainer glory. She's the one who ignores my whimpering, keeps her calm (when I'm anything but), and remembers to ask me if I need a drink or a break every once in a while. I'll post a photo of Brennen next time I write about my saddlebags.

Note – occasionally I write posts about my relationship with myself.  This is one such post.  It’s about my relationship with my Saddlebags.  You can search “Saddlebags” to catch the history of these posts, or go here for the entry prior to this one.


I hate going to the dentist.  I have a past childhood, former adolescence and present adulthood so filled with dental trauma that I know I’ll never get over the all-encompassing fear I face every sixth months of my life.  Seriously.

When I was a kid, I had four permanent teeth removed for braces, I had four wisdom teeth removed prior to getting braces (plus a little piece of my jawbone – they had impacted, and having no where else to turn, went downward…into my jaw), cavities galore, more shots than I’ll ever be able to count…I puke when the dentist tries to give me laughing gas.  Can you tell I’m serious here? I really, really hate going to the dentist.  Now, I’m in the process of getting crowns because of all my cavities and I’m only finished with number three.  I have to get seven.  I also hate it when people tell me dentist stories…and I’ve just put you through an entire paragraph of mine. Oh my heavenly days – please forgive me! I have a point.  Really…

My point is that I fear going to the dentist.  I hope that’s clear.  But I have realized since last November that I’ve been fearing going to the gym, practically at the same level of intensity…to shake my saddlebags, remember?  I mean I really worked myself up on how hard it was going to be to start a workout regimen again, and I had to literally drag myself into the gym the first time.  After generating so much lactic acid that I became nauseous and spent some quality time over the toilet, I decided that working out wasn’t just scary – – it was horrific.  So horrific that it took me six full days for my muscles to quit aching from the first workout.  I recall not being able to sit on the carpet during Thanksgiving because the prospect of getting back up meant moving my legs, arms and abdomen and that would induce pain…Pain!

But I went back to my second workout the last week in November.  And although I couldn’t schedule another workout to save my life with Brennen in December (truly, our schedules just weren’t clicking…), I did go back twice before Christmas.  I worked with Molly and during the second session I spilled my guts.  I told her how scared I was, how out of shape I was, I confessed that I probably wasn’t going to do anything to help my body unless I had already paid for it and was going to avoid the guilt of having wasted money.  I told her my life was too full of work, school, professional commitments, this blog…I mean, you would think I was a Catholic and she was a priest hearing someone who had avoided confession for years.  I walked on the treadmill and for fifteen minutes I told her all the reasons why this wouldn’t work.  But, Molly must have heard them all.  She basically just said, “Okay, we’ll start with baby steps.”

And we did.

I went to see Molly again last Thursday, and just finished a session with Brennan today.  I’ve decided two things so far:  Molly designs workouts like a girl, and Brennen designs workouts like a guy.  That’s a completely unfair observation, but it’s what I’ve decided and I’m sticking with it.  Molly really concentrates on “my core,” getting my stamina up (she has me within one setting on the treadmill to where I’ll have no choice but to jog), etc.  Brennen usually focuses more on weightlifting and developing muscle tone – legs, arms, shoulders, back… With the two of them together, I feel like I’m getting the best of both worlds.

But there is something keeping me from the very best of both worlds, and – – – we’re back to my fear.  I was trying to break down my fear today on my drive home.  I’ve decided that I suffer from the workout-related Fantastic Fear Trifecta:

Fear of going to the gym – I believe that I excel in attempting to talk myself out of all the reasons why I really shouldn’t go to the gym.  Some of them are personal…I just really have a hard time doing things for myself.  It’s easier if I’m committing to others…which is PART of the reason why I can make myself go there – I don’t want the trainer to waste their time showing up and then me NOT.  But the other part is that I always have the hour way bigger in my head than it really is.  I fear the bigness and the badness of the workout.  The thing is…it’s not big and bad.  It’s just hard.  I can handle hard.  I just have to keep telling myself that: Yes, it’s going to be hard.  But, it’s not “bad,” or “big,” or “horrific.”  Just hard.

Fear of STARTING the workout – Sometimes when I change clothes and sit on the carpet covered benches in the girls dressing room I want to hide.  This is the next spot where I get hung up on a mental fear-wheel.  I don’t want to start.  It’s related to the same thing as the “fear of GOING” to the gym, but the fear of starting is a little bit different.  You see, if I start…then I’ve committed to finishing.  I’m scared to commit to finish…which brings me to the final leg of the trifecta.

The Fear of FINISHING the workout – Sometimes, even in the middle of a workout…even when the trainer is saying, “Do you need to take a break?  How was that – do we need to back it off a little?  Can you handle a little more?”  Even when they’re doing everything they can to keep me in control of what I’m doing, I still get the heebie-jeebies.  I think to myself, “Maybe I can’t make it.  Maybe I’ll fail.  Maybe it’s going to get harder…”  So, the fear of finishing kicks in, sometimes twice or even three times during a workout, and I have to push through that.

But when it’s over, I’ve now noticed, that the NEXT “Fear of Going” is just a tiny bit smaller than the previous time.  And the NEXT “Fear of Starting” is also a little smaller.  And the NEXT time I struggle with the “Fear of Finishing,” it’s either one time less or not quite as long as the time before.

This has NOT been easy.  I’ve now completed five workouts and they’ve all been tough.  But, I keep going back.

I’m still scared.  I have a workout this Thursday and I’m already dealing, just a wee little bit, with the “Fear of Going” phase.  But I’m going.  I’m going, I’m starting and I’m finishing.  And THAT, my friends, is how you work on a relationship with yourself.  Even if you scare yourself to death.



P.S.  Go HERE for entry #3, “I Don’t Know Myself Anymore.”



9 thoughts on “Shaking the Saddlebags #2: The Fantastic Fear Trifecta”

  1. I know I’m a month off but I’m actually going to my 6 month dentist appointment in about 30 minutes so I hope that reading this just now is not a prediction of what’s to come. I am one of the very lucky few that does not have a fear of the dentist so I’m thinking I’ll be just fine.

    I did want to comment on your gym experience though as that is a fear we share. I am very proud of you for continuing your program and wholeheartedly wish I could say the same. Unfortunately I have been unsuccessful in “pushing through” all the excuses not to exercise. Hitting rock bottom is said to be required for an alcoholic to seek help…perhaps one day I will hit my rock bottom to seek help for my fear of exercise. Good luck with you and keep us all updated.

    1. Julie – I’m preparing my next entry and it’s called: “Don’t Listen To Your Body.” If it were up to my body, which by the way…tells me lies, I would have never started…or never continued! Good luck, girl!

  2. For some of us, exercise will always be something we dread. The problem is that avoidance leads to fear which leads to more avoidance and so forth. I commend you for being committed to going back time and time again. Doing something that doesn’t come easily leads to the greatest feeling of accomplishment!!

  3. I’m so proud of you Kelly! I hate going to the dentist and like you I have a mouth full of crowns. I will put up with pain for months (as I am doing now) to avoid going to the dentist! As for the gym and exercise, I am allergic to the gym. You can ask my friends they will verify this. I have decided I have NO endorphins. I hope you find yours and keep up the good work.

  4. It seems the dentist fear is SOOOOO common. It is time for my visit and instead….I scheduled my husband’s! I am working up the courage.

    As for working out…the first time I went to a “gym” for a workout, I passed out about 10 minutes into it. Can you say embarrassing?!?!?! Good thing it was a trial because I did not return to that gym. A few years later though, new gym, same thing. All of this to say….working out on my own works for me now. At some point it may work for you too. But keep up the great work and know I’m cheering for you!

  5. Oh Mams…first of all, let me say that I also hate the dentist more than anything in this world. I’ve been through a lot of crap medically–so many tests, so many surgeries, so many exams, so many doctors, so many diseases–but I’d take all of that a hundred times over before going to the dentist…even thinking of getting my teeth cleaned makes my skin crawl. Just had to tell you that you’re not alone! Or maybe tell myself that I’m glad I’m not alone…

    Second of all, you’re not alone on the fear of working out. Now, I haven’t worked out in a long time…sometimes, I really feel that urge. Sometimes, I really feel guilty because I know that while it hurts my body so much and is so hard to do some days, it will actually make my health problems better once I get past that rough stage. I know how grueling it is, and how sometimes you just want to sit down on the treadmill and cry (but you’d go flying off if you did that…so don’t!). But then I think about that summer a couple years ago where I just kept pushing myself. I told myself I didn’t have to like it, but I was going to do it, and it was going to make me feel better. All the times in the past, I would push myself too hard because I felt that it was what was supposed to happen when one worked out…and I was miserable!

    So, I took it slow…thankfully, we had a treadmill in our basement (I admit–going to gyms still makes me nervous from time to time…I don’t like people watching me exercise!) and I started out walking an hour each day. Then, I told myself “Alright, you’re going to jog, and you can’t walk until you finish one episode of Friends.” I hated it. I’d try to negotiate with myself, I’d try to cheat, I even had to put a towel over the screen on the treadmill so I’d stop staring at how time appeared to be crawling and I felt like I hadn’t gone very far. I’d be so crabby as I forced myself on to that treadmill, and gradually I’d tack on time, or distance, or speed, or whatever I thought would work to get me through that particular workout.

    And then after a few weeks, I realized it wasn’t so bad. I realized I could get through a workout and actually enjoy what I had on the TV rather than thinking “I hate this, I hate this, I hate this, I want to be done, how has it NOT been an hour yet, I hate this, I hate this.” I was beginning to LIKE it. After a few weeks of slowly but surely keeping myself to this schedule, I was jogging nonstop for 6-7 miles a day…and I loved it. It wasn’t so much that I loved the actual jogging, but I loved knowing that I could do it, and that this time I was committed to it and that I was doing it the right way for once. It took a lot to reshape my frame of mine, but I found that once I did that, and once my body handled activity better, mind and body were so in sync and they were saying “Yes! Finally! Thank you, Brittany!” I had gained a good bit of weight before I did that, so I was extremely out of shape…but being active got my body craving better foods, more water, and I wound up losing all of that weight in a slow and steady fashion. I went into it with my only goal being to lose weight, but quickly learned there was so much more to it–I learned how to be healthier overall in mind and body, it’s okay to not push myself hard and fast and that sometimes slow and steady does win the race, I can do something if I put my mind to it and keep at it, and sometimes you have to keep trying something you don’t like until it grows on you and you realize how enjoyable and wonderful it really is.

    It was shortly after that summer that I finally got the official MS diagnosis (during that workout time, it was still up in the air) so my body was still recovering from a relapse and my schedule got crazy…and I never worked out regularly again. I miss it a lot sometimes…not the working out itself, but that feeling I’d get after I just finished a 7 mile jog and felt fine. That confidence that I had done something that I used to hate, but after a lot of pressing on I could feel happy when I was done. I am terrified to start exercising again because it hurts my body so much now and is so hard to push through that wall, but my doctor has told me that I need to get past that before it’ll get better, and then it’ll wind up helping me feel better. All of those old fears are coming back; it’s just a different context. But I know it can be done, because I’ve done it. Once again, it’s finding something that works…finding more reasons to do it, finding more ways to make it tolerable, finding more ways to reframe my mindset…and once I get into that groove, I won’t even think about it. I’ll just DO it.

    So, after that much-longer-than-planned comment, allow me to sum up the purpose–I am inspired by not only your gym excursions, but the fact that you are so open and honest about all of the feelings it invokes. Sometimes, it can be so hard to really click with a trainer, even if they’re the most helpful, nicest, funniest, and knowledgeable fitness person you come across. They are there because they like doing that stuff; you are there because you don’t like it but you “have” to do it for whatever reason. It’s just like you said…baby steps is the way to go at it, not only physically, but mentally as well. I hope that once you complete trainer-led workouts you can attempt to work out on your own and see what pace your body sets for you, and what your brain thinks about that–“Come on, Kelly! You can push harder than that, remember your training sessions? You couldn’t sit/get up for a week!” or “Woah, slow down Kelly! This isn’t a race. Enjoy the view…even if it is smelly and sweaty.” Either way, know that I am rooting for you and know how you feel…you are an awesome, inspirational woman and I am very glad that you are part of this blog to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences with the world! Keep it up!

    /long-winded rant.

    1. Well, how about you! I almost feel like we should just make your comment part two; what a wonderful part of your life you’ve shared. Thanks so much, Brittany M. And, thanks for having that hope for me. When I learn what I need to know, and I can manage on my own, I too look forward to when I’m “working myself out,” rather than relying on the tutelage of others. However, there are lots of teachers in life, and I think you’re one of mine! Take care, Kelly

Comments are closed.