Technically, this may not be the most embarrassing workout story ever; but anyone who has a more embarrassing workout story has probably purposefully witnessed a crime so they could go into Witness Protection and avoid any reminder of their former life as an Embarrassed Workouter.
I tend to do things that would utterly disgrace the average person on a daily basis, so by the time this story rolled around, I had already wracked up a series of workout-related mortifications in that gym–like the time I was running on a treadmill next to my friend Nate and reached over to change his speed and throw him off a little bit. I over-reached, lost my balance, and ended up flipping over the arm of my treadmill while Nate pulled the emergency stop on his machine, the better to bend double laughing at me.
I don’t recall too many of my other humiliating college gym moments, but I do know that I’d had enough of them that I entered the gym that night with complete confidence. As far as I was concerned, I was the queen of that territory. I’d tried every machine, done every exercise; nothing could throw me.
So confident was I that I headed directly toward the weights section, where Taylor girls normally feared to tread. Said section was normally packed with beefy football players who felt the need to lift far-too-heavy weights while making noises like a woman giving birth without an epidural. They were quite a show, and I enjoyed watching them and giggling self-righteously to myself while lifting far-too-light weights and making yawning noises.
But my beefy showmen were nowhere in sight that night. That night, the weight section was positively crawling with. . .well, let’s back up for a second.
That year, a certain guy whom we shall call Greg (because that is, in fact, his name) had burst onto the scene at Taylor, garnering the sort of popularity that only happens in the incubator of high school drama that is a small Christian college. I wasn’t exactly the president of the Greg Fan Club, but I was definitely aware of his existence, and his presence in the weight section threw off my groove just a bit.
Worse, the guy of whose fan club I was president (and possibly VP and secretary) was also there with Greg, along with an assortment of other exceedingly popular guys.
Had I an ounce of shame, I would have recognized that no good can come of a crush watching you grunt and turn red while trying to lift a barbell the same weight as a chubby kitten. But the shame gene appears to have skipped a generation in my family, and I forged ahead gamely with my workout plan.
Nothing out of the ordinary occurred as I worked through my arms and abs, aside from me trying very hard to maintain a “look how very adorable I am” face even while straining to lift the too-heavy weights I’d selected as part of my spur-of-the-moment plot to impress the guys around me (none of whom were paying me the slightest attention).
Then it came time for legs.
I’d been training for a mini-marathon for months, and if there was one muscle group in which I had complete and probably prideful confidence, it was my uber-buff legs.
I slipped into the leg press machine and adjusted the weight to fit my ego. I slid my legs into place, gripped the handles, and pressed lightly. Nothing. I pressed harder. Still nothing. I gritted my teeth, gave my “look how cute I am” face up for lost, and pressed with all I had in me. Nada. That’s strange, I thought. I had done that exact weight with no problems during my last workout.
Figuring that my legs were fatigued from the long run I’d done the day before, I bumped the weight back 10 pounds and tried again. The machine still refused to budge. I dropped the weight again. Still nothing.
The settings must be off, I realized, and slid out of the machine to readjust it; I shifted the seat into a position where I could get more leverage, extended the press bar out a little so my legs fit it more comfortably, and slid back into my seat. The machine still refused to budge.
I decided to take drastic measures and dropped the weight to the lowest it would go, hoping that if the machine were stuck, the light weight would help me jiggle it loose. Lauren, your head is heavier than ten pounds. You have got to be able to lift this.
I was determined that I would not be conquered by a 10 pound leg press. I gripped the handlebars, took a deep breath, and strained with everything in me to lift the bar. My face turned bright red. Veins started popping out in my neck. I lost my form entirely and threw my back into the lift too. I grunted and yelled like one of the beefcakes I had laughed at days earlier. (Karma’s a beast.)
The machine jerked and strained and jolted, but the bar didn’t budge.
I was at a loss. My bewildered ego perched nearby, pretending not to know me.
I turned to study the cables to see where they may have jammed. As I did so, I caught a glimpse of the little demonstration figure drawn on the side of the machine. Something caught my eye and I leaned in for a closer look. Like me, he was sitting, legs extended, hand on the handlebars. . .but wait. Something was off. I tilted my head and studied the figure.
And then. . .
Oh. My. Word.
I figured it out.
This wasn’t the leg press machine at all. This was the leg curl machine. I had just spent the most strenuous 15 minutes of my life straining to lift the bar the wrong way.
I giggled to myself. Well, this is awkward. But no big. I’ll just—
I leaned back against the machine, still chuckling to myself and devising a plan of action to casually switch my legs to the right position.
And then I looked up and froze.
Four of the elect, aka: Taylor’s Bachelor Club, were frozen in various lifting positions across the room, all of them staring open-mouthed in my direction.
They were trying not to smirk.
They were losing the battle in a big way.
My plans of slipping out of the moment unnoticed shattered to the floor. My ego fled, whimpering, from the room. I could think of no way to smoothly overcome the situation; the guys were too far away for me to make some clever redemptive joke or offer to pop them some popcorn to accompany the show. It was clearly too late to pretend that I had just been setting up, and had always planned to use the machine as a leg curl machine.
I did the only thing I could think to do; threw my head back, laughed with the high-pitched heartiness born of utter humiliation, and gave up my membership to my crush’s fan club on the spot.
. . .I’ve had a vendetta against leg machines ever since.