Have you ever noticed what a truly bizarre place the gym is? I’m one of those people that regularly attempts to keep a loose routine about my life. I make a concerted effort to visit my friend the elliptical about three times each week and while I’m saying hello to her, the bikes or weights usually call my name too (either that or some hot guy catches my eye and I want to look impressive- Kidding! Er…sorta).
Three times each week I file through the doors with the rest of the bedraggled gymies and I pull out my breathable spandex workout wear in outrageous colours and I sweat unattractively and make weird faces while I torture my body in anticipation of bathing suit season. I also notice that those around me have their own special routines, and admittedly I do a little bit of judging. I know, I’m sorry, but does it ever make great conversation later when I need a good starter. My last post outlined my particular fondness for sharing less than flattering stories about myself but if I see a man at the gym in MC Hammer pants, who am I to start limiting myself? While I support freedom of expression and individuality, a man at the gym wearing MC Hammer pants while sporting a mullet and pedaling leisurely on the bikes for an hour while he checks out every female specimen that saunters past him in spandex, is fair game to me and I’m going to go home and tell my friends about him. He has the pants in several colours too. Several.
As I said I have a fondness for the elliptical and apparently I’m not alone because the row of machines is always packed. When I find an open one I rush over to claim my position earning sideways glances from those mid-stride on the right and left of me. When I hoist myself up on the machine and choose my settings it’s like a free-for-all. I guess it’s this unspoken gym thing that when you get on a machine you are automatically entered into a race with all those in your presence. The guy next to me stretching? Yeah took me a while to realize he’s not checking me out or probably even stretching his muscles- he’s looking at my machine settings! Is there no decency anymore? Once I did figure this out though I became like some kind of powerhouse. I’m not even really a competitive person but there is something about the combination of the sneaky unspoken-ness and the open judgment that turns me into this defiant athlete for about thirty minutes until my legs turn to jello and I can’t go on. I’m like the Cinderella of the gym world and my jello legs are the pumpkin carriage. Maybe MC Hammer pants is prince charming.
While I’m racing with the entire world around me I’m also taking note of what everyone else is up to (I like to be in the know okay?). I silently scoff at the girls laying on the matts “stretching” but really just socializing, or the one on the treadmill talking to her friend whose standing beside her not exercising at all (the nerve!). I tsk tsk at the beefed up guys pretending to be too cool to drool over fit girls in spandex, but drooling all the same and I find myself absolutely flabbergasted when I witness someone leaving their machine without wiping it down (an abomination to the gym).
Somewhere around my 85th judgmental thought at the gym yesterday it occurred to me that like celebrity gossip websites, the gym has become this guilty pleasure that combines physical activity with a full dose of people-watching three wonderful days a week. No wonder I like it so much! In my normal life I truly don’t put so much thought into these things (probably because I’m far too focused on my own insecurities), but once I step foot through the door for my workout I seem to grant myself permission to be (strictly inwardly) one of those petty mean girls I hated so much in high school.
I go to the gym to exercise but I also let my mind go (okay I’m not always just judging, from time to time a few other thoughts pop into my head) and when I leave I feel really good mind AND body. I realize my approach is a bit unconventional but I like to think it’s harmless as long as I’m not pointing and laughing or fist fighting the girl next to me who just leaned in to check my machine settings. Where (in my everyday life) I’m usually rushing from one thing to another, juggling a laundry list of tasks to complete and competing with myself to be ever better, ever more than I was yesterday- at the gym I just am. I’m so busy in my own mind I don’t even particularly notice the hundreds of people around me who are undoubtedly formulating their own opinions; letting their minds wander just as well and possibly questioning my tattoos, weird facial expressions or my fluorescent tank top. I’m untouched by it because I’m so focused on my own therapy session that I think it’s the closest to child-like I can seem to achieve at 23. I feel like I come to an honest understanding with myself and for the hour I’m at peace with that.