An Open Letter to the manager at the warehouse gym on base:
Dear Gym Manager,
I don't know whose idea it was to face the treadmills in the "bring your child" area of the gym towards the mirrors. I wonder, in fact, if it was intentional. I wonder if, in your gym-humor, you and the gym rats thought it would be funny to put new moms in that position.
At first it wasn't really a big deal. I had put makeup on that day. I didn't look too bad. And actually, once I started to think about it, it was a bit motivational. There I was, running again for the second time in something like a year, my ponytail bobbing with each step, my headphones sounding theme music. I saw myself in slow motion, movie-style (never mind that the slow-mo was because the pace was set at "snail"). My feet hit the treadmill on beat, heightening the drama. I could run a marathon, looking this good.
Then I passed the first half mile.
I felt the prickle of sweat starting to form on my forehead, but never mind. It barely glistened and made the reality of my athleticism more believable. Swish swish went my pony tail in the mirror. Thump Thump pounded my feet, on beat with the music. I considered creating a new playlist. I envisioned the Rocky soundtrack playing as I raced, gazelle-like, up the stairs in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum. "Smart gym manager", I thought naively.
About this time, I was nearing a mile and my face began to turn pink. My forehead looked a bit wet and the song had changed, so my stride was off. Tired, I decided to look away from my own face. I looked down at my feet. They looked less glamorous. I never noticed before how scrawny my legs were, wholly devoid of muscle or tone. Those legs wouldn't make it up the Art Museum steps. I switched the song to something faster.
Then, as I told myself I had to run more than a mile and a half, I started to realize your motivation, oh Gym Manager. You want us new-mom types out. Maybe it's the screaming kids. Maybe it's the unwieldy strollers. Either way, you knew that the longer I ran, the redder my face would get. The less attractive my form would look and the more useless and defeating my theme music, because I was staring at myself with nowhere else to look. Flop flop went my tired ponytail in my reflection. Clomp clomp went my leaden feet. My face, I noticed, was very puffy red.
I barely made two miles running and was forced to walk the last half mile, not entirely because my body was tired, but because I was tired of staring at my sweaty tomato of a face in the cursed mirror. Still, I mused, two miles isn't terrible. I can still run a race... maybe a 1K.
The final defeat, evil manager of the gym, was rigging the treadmill's calorie count. Surely my hard work had burned a significant amount of calories. Surely all of that pain was worth it. But you must have sneaked in, worried that the mirror wasn't repulsive enough, and messed with the machine, because it informed me, upon completion of my workout, that I had only burned 272 calories. Nonsense, I tell you.
That's not even a bowl of ice cream.
Please remove the mirrors.