I have a gym membership. Those who have known me for a long time will find this funny. For that matter, I find it funny. Because the list of places I would rather be than the gym is really, really long.
When I was in law school and suffering through the interminable boredom that was first year property class, I began a list of things I would rather be doing. Things on that long list eventually included hitting myself on the head with a hammer and wrestling with a wolverine. If I were to make such a list today (while at the gym) attending first year property class would be on it.
Here is the problem. I love to sit and read. I love to sit and write. I love to sit and watch a movie on TV. I love to sit and eat a good meal with a friend or loved one. Are you seeing a theme here? A blogger whose stories I enjoy once described herself as a championship sitter. As soon as I read that phrase I knew that it described me too.
This was not the first kindred spirit I have found from a dislike of exercise. I first met my best friend Dan in gym class the year we both started a new school. The gym teacher was trying to teach us some game called German Bat Ball with rules that I did not understand then and still don’t. I still remember my new friend as he hit the ball with the bat, then stood there with a dazed look on his face, wondering what he was supposed to do next. “I have to meet this kid” was all I could think. So I guess meeting a new best friend means that not everything about going to the gym has to be horrible. But that hasn’t happened since 1972.
Last year at this time I had gotten into the habit of going to the gym immediately upon rising (at least on weekdays) for a little workout in the morning. I will display my clairvoyant abilities here, because when my Mrs. reads this she will laugh and say “little is right!” But hey, even twenty minutes of exercise is better than twenty minutes of not-exercise. Well, actually it is not. Better for me – yes. Just better? Uhh, no.
I would like to say that I had a good excuse for stopping last fall. I had an unfortunate interaction with some poison ivy. I am a frightening enough sight in workout clothes without adding a bunch of red splotchiness (and a few bandages over the worst parts) on my arms. I decided that it would be best to sacrifice my personal fitness for the emotional well-being of my fellow gymsters. Any time gained in my favorite reading chair was purely an unintended side-effect.
The poison ivy eventually resolved, but my mornings at the gym proved more resistant to treatment. Then came the holidays – which are for celebrating, not huffing and puffing on an exercise bike. The new year would be here soon enough.
The new year did indeed follow the holiday calorie-fest. The new year, however, is the absolute worst time to head back to the gym because that’s when everyone else does it. Fighting a crowd at the gym is even worse than just going to the gym. I don’t really like crowds better than I like going to the gym in the first place, so putting them together moves the wolverine wrestling higher up on my list of preferred alternatives.
The first realistic opening for some gym-time in my life would have been once the New Year Crowd resigned itself to another year of out-of-shapeitude and went home to doing, well, what I had been doing since the previous fall. But then I looked at the calendar and saw Lent peeking over the horizon. Nope, now was not the time for self-denial and sacrifice, as there would be plenty of time for that later. It was, instead, the time for donuts. Lots and lots of donuts.
I really intended to head back after Ash Wednesday. But, well, I can’t remember why I didn’t. Honestly, by that time my post-gym morning routine of habits of sitting and reading over my breakfast and coffee had become pretty deeply ingrained . Once a month I would see the charge for my gym membership hit my checking account, sort of needling me. But I refused to take the bait.
Then came Easter. Heavens, Easter is a time for celebrating, not going and making myself miserable. That was what Lent was for. True, I had not actually gone to the gym, but I had given up a few bad dietary habits and had dropped a few pounds. Gee, if I’m losing weight, was there any real need to go to the gym?
Well yes. It turns out that my weight loss was as temporary as my Lenten discipline, so it was time to face reality. Early this week I put on my big boy gym shorts and got in the car at that early, early hour and made the short but dreadful drive. There was a full moon out and it crossed my mind that starting back to the gym under a full moon might be a bad omen of some kind. Don’t ask how, but it seemed like a plausable excuse.
As I drove that moon was really bright. I wondered if this was what Dean Martin meant when he sung about “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, That’s Amore.” Going to the gym was definitely not amore (which I understand to be Italian for love.) Unfortunately too many big pizza pies had made this drive inevitable.
It is funny that not much had changed. This particular gym is a neighborhood affair and has a large group of older members. This was one of the few good things about the place in that I could bring the median age down significantly by showing up, rather than feeling like Pathetic Ancient Guy among the bronzed twenty-something marathon runners. Nope, in my gym I am like the bronzed twenty-something marathon runners. The best part is that I don’t have to be bronzed, twenty-something or a marathon runner to pull this off.
There are two older ladies who must be good friends because they do little but talk to one another while they are there. I sometimes wonder if they just live there because they have been there virtually every time I have been. Then there is also the husky older guy who hardly ever says a word. I would prefer a gym of people like him.
My old favorite recumbent exercise bike was open and I sat down. I set the timer for my customary twenty minutes of rolling hills and hit “start”. I reconsidered and cut the time down to fifteen. No sense going crazy on the first day back.
Why the recumbent exercise bike you ask? So I could read. While sitting. Yes, I realize that there might be exercise machines that would burn more calories or build more muscles. But let us not make the perfect the enemy of something that works.
Opening image source: 1962 advertisement for the TV Stratolounger recliner, a product of the former Futorian Manufacturing Company of Chicago, Illinois.