I’ve been going to the gym for nearly five years now. Most times, I’m the only one there — which is nice because no one will see me hyperventilate. I toil away, lost in a hazy sort of half-meditative state built specifically to shelter my conscious mind from the horrors of physical exertion. There is only silence, punctuated by the clanking of machinery, grunting, and (when things get a bit intense) a mumbled outburst of glossolalia from my inner-demons, who apparently dislike agony as much as I.
When there are others present, they’re usually the type who prefer the idea of working out more than the actual act. In spite of that whole introverted, introspective, misanthropic vibe of mine, I actually enjoy sharing the gym with these folks. Seeing them makes me feel like I’m some kind of super athlete. I’m not, of course, but when I workout, I workout to excess. Grumpy demons not withstanding, I’m there to do a job — and I get down to it. So when I see these people walk in, lounge around, lift a weight or two; check their cell phones; send some texts; take a few selfies; walk on a treadmill for two minutes and then preen endlessly in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors, I ask myself: “Who do they think they’re kidding?” Going to the gym is not the same thing as working out. You don’t lose weight, tone muscle, build strength, or improve your cardiovascular system by some contact osmosis with gymnasium air. People who frequently brag about having just spent an hour at the gym are probably telling the truth — but what they haven’t told you is they spent that hour catching up on their Instagram feed. So when I share the gym with these folks, I get to feel smug. Which is fun. I don’t get to feel smug very often.
But once in a blue moon, a yoga girl shows up. I never know where they came from or why they chose to exercise in my building on that particular day. I only know that they pop in, make me feel totally inadequate, and then disappear — never to be seen again. I’m not talking about the sort of yoga girl who signs up for the occasional class so she has an excuse to buy some new Lululemon pants and indulge in a post-yoga blueberry peach cinnamon soy milk chocolate chip honey banana smoothie. I’m talking about real yoga girls — with their nitinol bones and chimp-humbling feats of strength. Real yoga girls are real athletes. So whenever one enters the gym, all my smugness evaporates and my workout routine becomes anything but.
Yesterday was one of those once-in-a-blue-moon days. The girl wasn’t exactly what I’d call ‘my type,’ but she did have a body that was seemingly carved from a block of solid velvet — reason enough to send my hormones scurrying about like a bunch of headless chickens.
Now in spite of my actions suggesting otherwise, I’m not an idiot. I know there’s exactly zero hope that any yoga girl will ever acknowledge my existence, and I have plenty of first-hand experience to support my hopelessness. But headless hormones are senseless hormones, so I did what I always do: I shifted my workout into overdrive in an effort to impress her with my own brand of stoic athleticism. Never mind that my workout routine is already designed to drive me to near extinction. More weight! More reps! More speed! More everything! It was perhaps the most gut-wrenching workout of my life, and I had every right to feel proud — had I not felt so ashamed of my fatuous motivations.
Eventually, the inevitable came knocking — as the inevitable always does — and I reached that point where the body cries uncle, and starts shutting itself down. The ears are the first to surrender — relinquishing their demand for blood and resulting in the sudden cessation of all sound. The eyes go soon after and the room grows dimmer than midnight under a new moon. My head spins and gravity begins to exert itself, as if trying to screw my body into the floor.
With unconsciousness looming, I weighed the optics of passing out in the middle of the gym vs. quitting and going back upstairs. Exhibiting my first bit of common sense in nearly an hour, I chose to slink out of the gym and into the hallway to catch the next elevator.
Surprisingly, she exited the gym 20 seconds after I did — coinciding with the elevator’s arrival. I held the door. She stepped in, pushed the button for her floor and flashed me a smile. The sheer novelty of her acknowledgement collided head on with my patented brand of social ineptness, and I realized I hadn’t a clue what to say. Which is why I then asked, “are you one of those people who actually likes to work out?”
“Oh yes!” she exclaimed. “I love it. I’ll work out 4 or 5 hours a day when I get a chance. There’s nothing I enjoy more than being in the gym. What about you?”
Either the girl was nearsighted or my physical prowess actually fooled a real yoga girl into believing I was a machine of a man. I could have lied. Maybe I should have lied. But lying just isn’t in my DNA. Besides, my heart was currently diverting blood away from the body’s more motivational organs and toward what it deemed to be my most pressing bodily function — remaining upright and conscious.
“I hate it.” I answered. “I’ve hated it for years. I hated it today. I’ll hate it tomorrow. I’ll hate it until I die.”
She looked stunned, but I wasn’t done. “Honestly,” I continued, “I think that whole endorphins thing is a myth; a fictitious drug conceived by the fitness industry and marketed to people who want to believe they can get high without sticking a needle in their arm and transacting business in a seedy urban back alley.”
Apparently real yoga girls don’t value honesty as highly as I do, because her smile disappeared and a stony silence filled the elevator, for what seemed like hours, until we arrived at her floor. “This is me,” she said, hurriedly slipping her solid velvet body through the tiny crack of a doorway not yet a quarter of the way open.
“Just as well,” I thought to myself. “She’s probably going to grab a spoonful of quinoa before heading out for a 10 mile jog around the seawall.” Knowing that my own post-workout plans involved a short shower and a long nap, I took comfort in the fact that she wasn’t exactly what I’d call ‘my type.’
©2018 grEGORy simpson
ABOUT THE ARTICLE:
Regular readers know this is where I usually provide some additional information about whatever media accompanies an article, but this time I opted to use this space to discuss the article itself. Those of you wondering why you’ve just endured such a fluffy bit of literary cotton candy probably missed the previous article, The Corner. It foretells a future in which articles such as this can comfortably exist — a future in which a dissertation titled, “A Clinical Analysis of Edge Distortion in Wide Angle Lenses” could follow an article called, “Those Darn Adorable Doggies,” and precede an article titled “Feet: Why So Many Toes?” Welcome to the future.
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