Lesley, working out hard at her new gym.

Here I am, working out hard at my new crazy gym.

So. I joined a gym. Not just any gym. A crazy gym.

When I was younger, and didn’t need a gym, I joined loads of typical gyms because naturally I was cool like that.

Now I am old(er) and I have some junk around my stomach and back. I like to call it my ‘Liam Leftovers.’ My legs are still fairly yum (I guess I have the horses to thank for that), my arms are not too bad (although I do note a tiny bit of what my sister always referred to as ‘school teacher swing’ under them), but I will standup and admit that I have a tire around me from the pregnancy… not a F-350 tire, but for sure a bicycle tire and quite frankly after four years I really don’t have an excuse any more. I suspect that if you compared my diet to the national average you would find I eat very healthy, but despite that fact and the riding I do, the tire was sticking around. So, I got up the other day and decided to wage war on it. But how?

I like food and if I try to go without and do serious (probably not very healthy) dieting, I get both really grumpy and a bit nauseous, so starving was a bit out of the question. Regular gyms I find REALLY boring now. I have no patience for sitting on bikes that go nowhere or tracks that keep me in one place and I know some people can sit there for an hour and read as they work out, but although I love to read, I don’t do well with the sweating and reading combo. I also don’t like regular gyms as the ‘soccer moms’ make me want to throw up a little in my mouth. Now, funny enough I am a ‘soccer mom’ now by definition, however, I do not drive a Range Rover (although I would like to…Leslie?!?) and I don’t wear full makeup to the gym. WHO DOES THAT?? REALLY?? ARE YOU THAT INTO YOURSELF??? Anyways, I digress. I thought for a moment about adopting a tapeworm, but that just seemed unrealistic as well. It was then that my hairdresser Christiana told me about the ‘fit camp’ she went to.

Christina is fat; really fat. She has done my hair for years now, and she is a sweet girl, a pretty girl, a fun girl, and I would NEVER hurt her, but I am going to call a spade a spade and she is super fat. Apparently she up and decided to wage war on her tractor tire and in doing so found this gem of a gym called Healthy Hart. I go with Christina in the mornings to avoid the massive after work crowd and at 8:15 three days a week a group of about 10 of us get absolutely massacred by the owner, Clinton Hart, who is an ex NFL player…a really tall, really black dude who I am fairly sure is zero percent body fat.

During the hour you spend about half of it in very intense, really loud aerobics. Not the kind your mom used to do though. Within 10 minutes, the sweat is pouring out of me like I got out of an hour-long sauna session. The other half hour you spend doing what I would consider mostly football type stuff (although that is a total guess as I know nothing about football); flipping massive tractor tires in the parking lot, pulling multiple sandbags across a warehouse, lifting weights, and on occasion if I am really lucky, wearing pink boxing gloves and beating the heck out of a bag. It is extremely hard, if you do it right you can barely make it out of bed the next morning, and I love every moment of it. I hope that within six months I will look just like Kathy Ireland, but if not I will keep trying.

But now you are asking yourself. has this girl lost her mind? This is a horse blog?!!! So, here is where the horses come in…

This gym has been great for me for two reasons:

1. It is making me a better teacher. It is easy for us to get lost in our day-to-day lives with whatever it is that we all do for a living. It is easy to get encompassed by it and forget the perspective of others. Sometimes as teachers you have a student that just can’t seem to grasp what feels like a simple concept and you even though you don’t mean to you can’t help but think ‘Sheesh!! She must be slow!’ Because although when I was 20 I was awful at dressage (which I knew because I couldn’t get any horse to do anything but look like a giraffe) and awful at jumping (which I didn’t know because I got to the other side and thought that was all that mattered), now that I have become more educated it is easy to forget sometimes where I started. This is where the gym is great for me. It humbles me. When the NFL dude puts a rope ladder on the floor and you have to do some crazy tippy toe/jumping/squatting routine through that and he demonstrates looking like he came out of the womb doing it and I just about fall over on my first attempt because I am so uncoordinated at it the first time and I am horrified by myself and embarrassed… It reminds me how others feel riding and that understanding makes me a better teacher, and probably, a better person.

2. In our little group of 10 there are probably four that are in my friend Christina’s league, maybe four others like me and then one girl that I have coined in my head ‘The Russian’. As we go along in our hour and my legs start to shake and my arms are crying and my abs are bursting, I glance around and see the big girls totally melted into the floor dying and then I look at the Russian and she has hardly broken a sweat, her arms don’t shake, and when we get a quick one minute water break there she is all overachieving planking or doing pushups through our breaks while I literally drag my sorry bum over to the water fountain and back wondering why I don’t look like Kate Moss yet. After sufficient time the big girls, who inspire me honestly, get themselves back together and will push on but as I am literally, physically pushing myself to my absolute limit becauseI am stubborn like that and won’t give up, I wonder to myself just how fair it is that we are all in this group together when clearly we are not all created equally, physically, on that day. And that is where the horses come in.

Horses similar to people but even more so than my gym analogy, come in all sorts of abilities. My husband naturally has a taste for filet mignon so as I saw him getting annoyed with a horse the other day I politely reminded him that he was sitting on flank steak that couldn’t help that it was flank steak. My husband doesn’t usually need that reminder but it just occurred to me how often people confuse their steaks. It is a problem I see all the time with people that are trying to do things on horses that they have no business trying to do that with. It makes the people frustrated; the horse frustrated, and in the worst case, is very dangerous. Be truthful with yourself what it is that you want out of a horse and then buy what you need. The trouble is sadly those two things are not always the same and that can be a difficult pill to swallow. If you need a school horse or a confidence giver don’t buy ‘a four-year-old with a really good brain!’. If you want to win the dressage you probably need to give that off the track cripple a pass. If show jumping is your weak point please buy the horse with the great canter not the one that can’t keep any two strides the same. If you want to go advanced one day but haven’t done prelim yet, please realize that although I am not going to tell you you can’t achieve your goal, you do need to realize that the horse you need today is a different one than the one you will take advanced.

We live in a culture of International Velvet and you see folks beating either themselves or their horses up because they are not capable of doing what they need or want. Even my husband cannot make a hunk of ground round into filet no matter how much seasoning he puts into it.

Anyways, my point is that my friend Christina will never become the Russian no matter what she does with the exception of possibly thousands of dollars in surgery, professional trainers, years of learning how to eat and live differently, etc. What my friend will become is a better version of herself though. That is what we have to realize when we buy horses and train horses. We are not there to magic them into another creature but rather to help them become the best versions of their selves and trying to do different will only cause pain on both sides.

As always, hope you enjoy the blog and if you are coming on down to Ocala for the winter come sweat with me.