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A few weeks ago, my family joined the ranks of the exercise-earnest and got a membership for the DLCCC.

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A few weeks ago, my family joined the ranks of the exercise-earnest and got a membership for the DLCCC.
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

A few weeks ago, my family joined the ranks of the exercise-earnest and got a membership for the DLCCC.

The community center is a world completely separate from any I've ever inhabited, a place where people go purposefully to physically exert themselves. This is a desire I have tried to latch onto, but never fully grasped, probably due to my general clumsiness and butterfingered nature.


When I was little, I tried various methods. I joined -- and inevitably quit -- ballet, tap, gymnastics, figure skating, and golf (twice, actually). With volleyball, I lasted all of two seasons, but I promise I didn't enjoy it, and there's no reason to doubt me when I say I wasn't any good at it.

Last year I spent a semester in fitness weight training, and realized just how unsurprisingly awkward I am in such a setting. After a few weeks of being scoffed at for using the lowest weight setting on any machine I sat down at, I discovered that I didn't exactly belong.

Actually, I'm lying. I knew when I signed up for the class to finish out my required gym credits that I didn't belong whatsoever. My friends and I spent much of the class period discussing theater.

Usually, this occurred when four of us gals were gathered around my buddy Chris to "spot" his bench-pressing efforts, all of us entirely aware of the fact that the four of us combined would be less than useless if the spotting were to actually be made necessary by the bar plunging itself down onto Chris's rippling pectorals.

That being my history with physical activity, and me being myself, I was perhaps a little wary of making use of my membership. Thankfully, my athletically-oriented little brother agreed to check out the CC with me. Younger siblings actually come with a couple of positive aspects.

I was awed to discover that everyone goes to the community center. Seriously, everyone. My kindergarten teacher, several sopranos from sixth hour concert choir, a full two-thirds of my physics class, at least three of my boyfriend's cousins, Dairy Queen coworkers (we eat a lot of ice cream, so that presence might've been expected), all running, jogging, walking, interval-training, lapping, target-heart-rate-reaching, deodorant-testing, muscle-elongating, lifting, maxing-out, and giving me plenty to stretch out my eyelid muscles at as I widened my eyes in amazement. Who knew?

Guised as the slow-moving masses of the high school hallways and DL sidewalks are dozens of health-minded people who actually frequent this universe of personal trainers, the right running shoes, locker room conversations and proper hydration techniques.

On day two of my community center membership, my brother chose not to accompany me. If only my parents had had one more child...

Hyperventilating, I walked into the building, suavely swiped my card beneath the scanner (another lie -- I haven't done anything "suavely" in all of my 18 years), and headed up the stairs to find a stepping machine in a corner where maybe nobody would notice me.

You see, I'm quite certain my lack of comfort at the gym draws the eyes of everyone present to my decidedly awkward nature and clumsy workout habits. I am convinced of this, because it is true.

A guy I know from school and theater, whom I shall call Dennis, because I don't believe I've ever known a Dennis, and that strikes me as inherently tragic, happened to glance at me while I was taking a cool-down lap around the track; his look said it all: "Whoa! What are YOU doing here, Miss Thressa Johnson, girl with no physical strength or coordination to speak of?" I smiled at his flurry of baffled thoughts and continued my trek. They can smell fear, I reminded myself.

In the locker room after my workout -- that sounds so strange! -- I met three 8-year-old girls, hair stringy from the pool, who, after about 45 seconds of topic-less conversation, asked me to be their friend.

I wonder if they'd be willing to work out with me.

Thressa Johnson is a senior at Detroit Lakes High School.