Exercise. It’s one of those things that I avoid with the sort of relish and dedication usually seen in recovering alcoholics when they walk past the pub. To give you an idea of how anti-exercise I am, the sneakers I currently own are from 2006. I bought them when I was fourteen for a school camp. And despite this fact, they look about six-months old. This is not due to some magical anti-ageing footwear spray. This is simply from being preserved and protected in a fine layer of dust.
If there is a way (or even if there isn’t) to get out of participating in the act of deliberately exerting myself then I will I find it. Unlike that other E-word, excuses come to me naturally. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but they do. I can make excuses for just about anything. I will apologise and make excuses for food that I haven’t prepared if it wasn’t very good. I give inanimate objects the benefit of the doubt and try to justify their inactions. My excuses cover a wide range of topics, but they come to the fore when it comes to why I don’t exercise.
“I don’t have enough money to afford the various forms of personal fitness afforded to me, a young twentysomething in the city.” is a personal favourite, as is “I just ate and don’t quite feel up to it.” The list is long and varied. Which is why it came as such a startlingly surprise that I recently found myself inside a gym. A building designed with the sole purpose of exercise in mind. There is no other way around it. It is a building of a singular function. The only other architectural marvel that comes close in terms of a narrow-mindedness surrounding it’s purpose is a prison. An apt coincidence if you ask me.
My arrival in this hall of pain and muscle-mass was (weirdly) deliberate. I was not abducted by a mob of personal trainers, tied-up and tossed into a bag. Nor was I lured by the promising smell of baked goods emanating from the gyms glass doors, only to find myself locked inside once I crossed the threshold, duped by a boutique candle. Really it’s my girlfriend’s fault, but before you protest and say that sexual and emotional blackmail does not a ‘deliberate’ choice make – allow me to expand.
While it is true that my first foray into fitness machines and grunting behemoths came as direct result of my girlfriend signing up and using her ‘free-trial pass’ on me, what happened next was not her fault. She is blameless in this. What happened next was entirely of my own doing. After completing an hour of what I had originally thought would be hell but turned out to be a treadmilling purgatory, I was given the option of leaving. Of never coming back. I’d made it clear to the lady at the desk that I wasn’t interested, and she made it clear that that was totally okay. She didn’t even try to coerce me into anything. In fact…I ASKED HER ABOUT MEMBERSHIP OPTIONS.
Maybe there was some crazy reverse psychology marketing plot at work. Maybe I’m an idiot. Maybe my belief that I wasn’t being coerced was in fact me being coerced. There are a few maybes floating around, but the cold-hard truth is: I joined a gym. I joined a gym about a month ago and I’m still going. That’s right. I am still (deliberately) walking down to the gym, handing over my little card, going in and exercising. And while I’m not about to break any records for muscle mass gained or metres ran, it’s a big step-up from my pervious forms of exercise (walking from kitchen to the lounge room [which in small apartment is about half a step] and sitting up from lying down after tactical naps). Not only that but I persisted with my attendance even after my body was destroyed by a ‘free personal training session’ (which I have now learnt roughly translates to: a free test of your body’s ability to stand up under torture if you were ever kidnapped by extremists for six days). Yeah. I’m scared too.
So what have I learned from my initial adventures in fitness? A bit. I now feel guilty when I ate an entire tub of Ben & Jerry’s (this guilt is usually soothed by another tub of Ben & Jerry’s and the cycle repeats until I’m crying into a pool of melted ice cream). I don’t resent stairs as much (we aren’t friends but we can no co-exist, kind of like China and America). I’ve also found that it’s an excellent way to clear my head from all the clutter that I pick up throughout the day. And some of those machines aren’t really contraptions designed by the guy from Saw. In fact some of them are okay. However there are some other observations. Some…interesting discoveries about the specimens who hang out at the GYM. An entire sub-genre of humanity that hang-out amongst the bikes and weights and sweat. Here are some my favourites (and least favourites):
- Proteinero Maximus: Those guys who seem to flake a fine layer of protein powder onto everything they touch. The guys whose penises are so small they have to absorb extreme amounts of various supplements in order to justify their own existence. These guys walk around showing off the biceps on their biceps and generally act like whatever brain cells they had, fell out during some serious upper body work-out. They stare you down when you’re starting to navigate equipment (because urinating on it as a sign of ownership is just slightly unacceptable) and they make noises that would make a nun blush. They also shit. A lot. Loudly. Causing that particular part of the changeroom to smell like someone let off a small localised atom bomb made of asses. Mostly harmless though. If you ignore them they’re low self-esteem will cause them to go flex near something with boobs in the hope of making them forget about their tiny, tiny willies.
- Texty Texty Tit: You see them. They kind of look like you (the uninitiated) and they don’t seem to have a clue about how the machines work. What they are really good at though is using the machines as reclining furniture on which they can relax and text so and so about this and that or update their Facebook profile to let everyone know “They’re @ the gym #workout #gymlyf #lololol smileyfacesmileyfacerocketshipcat!!!”. Now again, while I am not a hardcore gym enthusiast I do understand this isn’t how one should use a leg-press machine. And frankly while I am also slow and still finding my feet (and abs) I actually use the machines for their intended purpose. These iPhone addicted morons will be lucky if they do half of a stomach crunch or lat pull (look at me pulling out the lingo). Harmless in the way that pigeons are harmless but everywhere and just generally in the way.
- The Biggest Loser Candidates: Not to sound like a dick or anything, but for someone like me the biggest thing that was keeping me out of the gym was people like the people outlined in point 1. I didn’t want to drown in testosterone. And while there is occasionally a risk of that (timing your arrival to avoid peak-periods does the trick) for the most part it’s pretty chilled. And the best part is that there are a lot people who are in worse shape than me. These guys are making a go of it. Big dudes or dudettes who want to lose weight and get healthy and all that but who’s life stories didn’t have anything poignant enough for reality TV. They sweat profusely and can’t run as fast as regular people so they make you feel better about yourself. Does this make you/me a terrible person? Probably. But does it mean I feel a wee bit better about myself ? Fuck yes. Does it also mean that the slight pang of guilt makes me go a little bit quicker? Oh yeah. So it all balances out in the end.
- That Old Guy Putting You To Shame: Not to be confused with the above, this dude is in his late 80s and looks deceptively like a stiff breeze would send him into the next room. And initially you see him and are buoyed with confidence that once again there is someone worse than you at this (in the early days of gym participation this sort of thin gets you through). And then the fucker starts cranking out sit-ups and push-ups and chin-ups and running like death is after him (which is probably the case) and you just watch in awe as grandpa is not only better than you, he’s better than everyone else in the room. A word for the wise: DON’T TRY TO KEEP UP WITH HIM. You will die. The Grim Reaper, who was already puffed from chasing the old bastard, will pause to catch his breath, see you panting and choking and pat you on the back as if to say: I know right.
So that’s all I have time for today. I’m off to go and exercise (or should that be exorcise?) the days demons away. Before you start panicking though, don’t worry I’m not going to turn into a protein guzzling, low-cut singlet wearing, douchebag. I’m still the same idiot I was before. I still have the same runners. Just slightly better lung capacity when going up stairs.