Today I joined the gym.
Let me tell you why this is such a big deal to me.
For as long as I can remember knowing about the noun “gym” in the English language, I’ve hated the gym. As soon as I set foot in a gym I feel instantly out of place, intimidated, and self conscious. I imagine all eyes on me, the pudgy balding guy who obviously has no idea what he’s doing hooking his arms into that leg machine. The one sweating profusely while his step machine “time elapsed” counter reads only 02:13, you see that slacker? In fact, the prospect of going to the gym ranks right down there on my list of “stuff I avoid like the plague” with things like “playing organized sports” and “dancing.”
In my rational mind, I know this is an irrational response… yet it’s still my natural response.
I’ve wondered before if this is somehow tied, psychologically, to my pubescent hatred of middle and high school’s mandated Physical Education. It’s no secret that I’ve never been a jock (although I did enjoy my weightlifting elective immensely back in high school). I lack the coordination, discipline, and basic skills and knowledge required to enjoy and/or be successful.
I’ve made my peace with this, and it doesn’t really bother me. I’m not the sports guy; I read books, listen to music, write. I’m the guy the sports guys beat up because he “throws like a girl” and doesn’t care that Matt Cassel is a free-agent this year. PE was never my thing… mostly because I was never good at anything (mostly because I never tried, nor cared to try, to be good). Yeah, I was that kid. Funny thing now is that I wish I hadn’t been that kid, had had those experiences, and hadn’t been the wallflower who didn’t care that his fingers should make a diamond to catch a football… or something.
Anyway, in the past I thought that perhaps going to the gym with someone else might help ease my troubles, but it actually exacerbated things. Either I go with someone more experienced than me who makes me feel (quite unintentionally, I’m sure) like a fitness idiot (which, coincidentally, I am), or I’m with someone as unmotivated as me and we just serve mutually inflate each others’ appreciation for our mediocrity. Long ago I arrived at the conclusion that my personal approach to fitness, kind of like masturbation, was that it’s something I enjoy much more when I’m able to hide out and not be seen. For a while, I tried running around the neighborhood… and that was OK, but I gave up. For a while I tried going to the free gym we have at work, but I gave up. And for a while I tried riding my bike to work, but I gave up. See the pattern?
Latent misgivings about PE aside, the source of my gym-aversion isn’t that important. Suffice to say it’s there, I know it’s “stupid,” but it’s not going anywhere (yet). What’s more, it, combined with a total lack motivation on my part, has kept me from the gym for my adult life. Now, I’m not trying to “blame” my irrational aversion to the place for me not going, if you took a percentage it’d be the smaller of the two reasons, and would be dwarfed in fault by a plain lack of caring on my part. So, before I talk about how I actually joined the gym we should recap: 1) Hate the gym, feel absurdly uncomfortable there. 2) Not motivated to go anyway, so it works out OK.
Sound like I’m setup for success here? Yeah, I thought so.
But, last week, Sharaun finally managed to convince me to join her there for an hour (and let me tell you, it was a hard sell). To my surprise, I actually really enjoyed the visit (I used a free guest pass). We spent about 40min on a step machine and then meandered down the rows of machines, trying different ones. It was nice to have her there, and nice to be able to drop Keaton at the kids area to play. The place was expansive enough that I didn’t feel crowded or watched-over, and there were so many machines and things to do that I never felt like I was holding any serious fit-folk up with my lameness. After leaving, I confess I felt great and wanted to go back. And, after using another free pass and not hating it again I decided to sign up.
Now, I know that a financial commitment is no insurance I’ll actually develop a habit of going – but I desperately like to think it is. However, as long as I can continue to enjoy myself there, I think I can manage. A large part of that is the fact that I get some uninterrupted music time while I’m there (I know, this might sound ridiculous). I live for those times: mowing the lawn, driving, etc., and I’m hoping I can just see the gym as an “escape” where I can go to at least make myself a little more proud that I’m not simply eating and sitting myself into heart disease – all while I can jam on the new Animal Collective record. So, while I’ll be the first to admit it’s out of character for me, I’m trying to be dedicated to making it worth the $20/mo that’ll go down the drain if I fail to use it.
And now that I’ve taken the plunge I have to deal with the “hey that kid who doesn’t ever dance is totally making a fool of himself on the dancefloor” thing. Meaning, when I tell anyone who’s known me for any stretch of time that I plan to start getting fit, they almost always laugh or respond with some sarcastic comment along the lines of, “Yeah, that’ll last.” And hey, who can blame them? My actions surely never back up my words when it comes to fitness, that’s for sure. It’s not like I hate the concept of being fit, or even the threat of exercise… in fact there are a (very few) things I do enjoy doing that are sort of fitness-phyllic (hiking, for one… you silent doubters).
When it comes to follow-through, I suppose only time will tell… but history sure ain’t on my side. But, while visiting the gym over the past few days – I did learn a few things. I’ve noted them mentally, but I figured I’d share here too… So, what have I learned about going to the gym?
- Don’t forget the headphones (kicked myself today for a 3G connection to my 200GB NAS of music and no way to listen to anything)
- Bring deodorant and baby powder (for going back to work after)
- Quite a few dudes really do have bigger peeners than me…
- I am so, so, weak and out of shape
- I need to use a gym bag instead of a Wal Mart bag next time
- The gym can be OK when you’re listening to some good tunes and watching COPS on the flatscreen in front of the machines
So… that’s my story. Don’t wish me well OK?, that makes me all weird too. Some hangup, huh?