My Trip to the Gym

My Trip to the Gym
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Things have changed over the years.

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I joined a nearby gym recently. It’s the first time I’ve been back since I played football 45 years ago. Back then it was mostly free-weights with a lot of lifting involved. One of the first things I learned from this experience is how out of shape I am. Most of my exercise over the years was based on yard work, chasing after my kids, and trying to keep up with the sports teams I coached. Now that they have grown up and moved along, I guess I’ve become somewhat of a coach potato, hence the need to get my butt in gear. For someone who enjoyed working out years ago, it was a humbling experience.

Starting back up, I was mindful of how easy it is to hurt yourself if you are not careful. I was at least smart enough to know I was no longer a man in my twenties or teens, back when you had a strong back, and thought nothing of lifting heavy weights. Now I think before I act, which I have found to be a shrewd policy.

In terms of equipment, the gym I belong to is essentially no different than others. There are still some free-weights to lift, but most of the activity involves machines with built-in computers and televisions. If you are going to walk, run, or drive a bicycle, there are several cable television channels to choose from. Sometimes I watch business and news channels, but I have found myself gravitating to fishing and cooking. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I would rather be in a cold stream somewhere than working out on this machine, or perhaps I am dreaming of some culinary delight they tempt me with on the screen. No wonder I’m hungry by the time I get home.

The machines also have various computer based options to track my heart rate, calories burned, distance walked or bicycled, rotations per minute, etc. Watching this, I feel like I am getting an on-line physical exam, checking my blood sugar, wind, pulse, prostate, testosterone level, sperm count, etc. I find I spend more time watching and analyzing the numbers and less focusing on the exercise itself. Maybe this is by design as well.

Being an early riser, it is common for me to work out in the early hours of the day, as well as after work. It struck me, people seem to deport themselves differently between morning and afternoon workouts. The morning crowd seems to be in a trance as they go through the motions of waking up. As such, it tends to be very quiet at this time of day. It is so quiet, I sometimes drop a weight to see if anyone is listening. They aren’t, as everyone is plugged into their ear buds and have zoned out the rest of the world.

The afternoon crowd also likes to tune out the outside world, but they seem to be a bit livelier and there seems to be some camaraderie in spotting and encouraging others. Whereas the morning crew tends to follow a regular routine, the afternoon people seem to be more willing to experiment with different exercises and push themselves a little harder.

I’ve also discovered what you wear at the gym seems to be very important. Men are more inclined to wear black or gray. Some wear baseball caps, either forwards or backwards. If they have obnoxious tattoos, they wear something to accent them for the world to see. Women wear a lot of spandex and yoga pants which reminds me of the old joke; there are three things that do not lie; little children, drunks, and yoga pants.

As one of the older people working out, I’m viewed somewhat as an oddity. Maybe it’s the simple tee-shirts and shorts I wear, which are somewhat similar to what I wore in high school gym class years ago. Or perhaps it’s my gym shoes which could hardly be called “state of the art.” Either way, the younger people give the “old guy” plenty of space.

I’ve also noticed women are much more sensitive to cleanliness. After working out on a machine, some women fastidiously clean the station with a sanitary wipe of some kind, regardless if they sweated or not. Men are polar opposites. They couldn’t care less about the cleanliness of a machine unless someone deliberately fouled the area. Even then, they still might proceed, regardless of the sweat or mucous involved.

As for me, I just quietly go about my business and try to keep to myself. I am not there for social interaction, but rather to try and work the kinks out after 45 years of lack of rigorous exercise. My entertainment at the gym doesn’t come from one of the many televisions there or from ear buds. Instead I prefer watching the idiosyncrasies of the other patrons.

In the end, my friends ask me, “So, do you feel better?” Physically, I guess so, but I haven’t felt any grand changes yet, but I do love watching the people. It makes my day.

Keep the Faith!

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