I’ve had my own gym membership for about three years now. It felt like one of those necessary markers of adulthood I just needed to have shortly after I got my first career-job. I naively assumed that if I had a gym membership I’d just instinctively turn into a person who actually goes to the gym. Perhaps even every single day.
My original goal was three times a week. Seemed attainable enough. Then it was two times. Then once a week was totally fine too as long as I stayed for more than two hours. Sometimes I’d walk to the gym and then decide it was just not what I needed in that moment and I’d take a leisurely-paced, contemplative walk around the neighbourhood instead. Like I technically still made it to the gym, right?
Before I begin I want you to know that I firmly believe going to the gym on a regular basis is an incredibly important and healthy life choice. I hope that it’s no secret to anyone reading this that exercise is fundamental to maintaining good physical and mental health. I take it you’ve heard all about that. And I’d rather not be lost in that tired albeit very important and definitely very true noise.
But can we all just acknowledge for a second how bizarre the concept of a gym even is? It’s full of these complicated and not to mention totally intimidating devices developed to recreate physical activity that could easily happen out there in the “real” world – in a potentially more useful, productive, and likely more fulfilling way. Here’s a crazy idea: we could literally walk or bike or “elliptical” (whatever that looks like…) for real-time kilometres and actually get to a destination – a real place, like where a friend lives or perhaps even a Mexican restaurant! But we choose the treadmill instead, running until we tire like bored and confused hamsters. The world just loves its convenience. It’s like we’re lazy even when we exercise. But don’t get me wrong here. I’m not totally opposed to the way things are. The fact that I can watch TV while I stair climb is really a cool thing.
So for no reason other than I recently made a goal to write a blog post at least once a month and this topic seemed interesting and relatable enough, I’m going to share with you some memorable gym experiences I’ve had. They range from embarrassing to traumatic to just plain sad but in all instances they reminded me of my humanness. And that’s always a nice reminder. Gyms are the weirdest social environments. If you’ve never felt awkward about at least one aspect of going to the gym, then I’m not sure this post will resonate with you (I also question why we are friends). (Just kidding). (But, no, seriously…never?). I hope in doing this I can make the reader feel better about themselves the next time they’re trying to hide the fact that they accidently slipped off the elliptical (been there, done that!) or audibly passed wind during downward-facing dog (it happens!). Hey, at least you made it to the gym. You care. In my eyes that’s more than enough.
I knew I should’ve stayed home today
It was one of those nights that it took everything I had to get to the gym. I had switched gym outfits at least four times before deciding on an XXXL T-shirt I got for free from a work event, a pair of worn out lululemon tights with a large hole between my thighs and my bright purple Nike Frees that I bought more for fashion’s sake than anything else. I get there, swipe and enter the cardio area, feeling more terrified and vulnerable than I ever felt walking in to my high school cafeteria. I climb up on to the cross-trainer machine, slowly, searching self-consciously for the channel that inevitably has Just for Laughs – Gags on it (which I watch on mute while blasting Robyn’s Body Talk album). Just as I’m picking up speed, switching the channel as the chorus of “Dancing on my Own” begins to swell, my Ipod and headphones suddenly drop to the floor. I look down, irritated that my “zone” has been interrupted, only to discover that my headphones have now managed to tangle themselves between the machine steps and are becoming more and more tangled in the machine with my every step. I get off. I yank, I pull, I look around in terror to see if anyone has noticed (they haven’t. Or they’re too embarrassed for me to help). I yank, I curse, I pull again. I really get in there, nearly losing a finger with my efforts. I take a break. I imagine that in a way, I am those headphones, tangled up in and dragged along by a complicated exercise machine called life. I finally decide to go to the front desk and ask for help and the guy there is really bad at hiding his annoyance with this pathetic patron. He comes over, he tries, he fails. He calls a supervisor on his walkie-talkie and even his supervisor can’t rip the headphones free. Finally he asks if he can break the headphones. At this point I want to melt into the floor so I say absolutely, yes please. He yanks, they’re free and I make a beeline for the door.
I still don’t know who A is
One time I practically ran (literally ran! The whole way!) to the gym so I could hog the elliptical for the entirety of a Pretty Little Liars episode because I shamelessly have the television preferences of a moody, hormonal 14 year old. As soon as the episode ended I left.
To boldly go
I had a serious crush on this one guy who works at the front desk. After watching him swipe my card a few times I was convinced we had a connection. Finally a friend encouraged me to make a move. The next time he swiped I would introduce myself. “Hi, I’m Sarah, by the way” I said as he swiped a card that had my first name clearly printed on it. “I’m Kyle”, he said, and his nametag confirmed it. We awkwardly worked through what I did for a living and where I lived, ignorant of the fact that by sharing this vaguely flirtatious small talk I was holding up a small crowd of other patrons behind me. Finally I wrapped it up with “I’ll see you around” and speed-walked to the change room, grateful that I had brought a change of clothes. It would soon become obvious to me that Kyle maintained these types of vaguely flirty relationships with most women at his workplace, but I was nonetheless proud of myself for making the first move.
I was coming out of a particularly rough week. It was one of those weeks where I had just pushed and pushed and pushed like a woman in labour (just kidding…I can’t even begin to imagine what that feels like). Either way, I was worn out – a feeling I’ve become all too familiar with in recent years. I dragged myself out of bed to a Sunday morning yoga class, convinced it was just the cure I needed. I was okay for the first few poses. Then the instructor had us do this exercise where we had to partner up and while in plank pose (google it – it’s the absolute worst), our partners had to literally push us from one side and we had to push back against them while still maintaining plank pose. My partner pushed lightly, clearly aware of the fact that I was not exactly the most experienced or stable person in the class. So far, so good. Then the instructor came over and said to my partner “push her harder, she’s stronger than you think.” I’m not sure if it was these words, or perhaps because I was in the most extreme physical discomfort, but I totally cracked. I held back the inevitable tears until my partner stopped pushing, and then fled dramatically to the washroom for a very necessary and messy cry. I would be known from that day forward as the girl who cried during plank pose. But I’m quite confident others in the class probably wanted to do the exact same thing.
So there it is: my relationship with the gym. The gym and I are actually in a pretty good place right now. I mainly go for Pilates, yoga, and the occasional cardio session and this is enough for me. Still shying away from the weights but when I’m ready I’ll get there. I also feel like I’m getting to a place where I go because I genuinely respect myself and my body and not because I feel I should go. I’d say that’s a pretty good marker of adulthood right there, no?