The Gym Diaries - Chapter One - Acceptance
I’ve walked past gyms before and looked in through the windows, noticing how the people inside seemed to be generally more enthusiastic than me. More enthusiastic in fact about running on the spot and lifting heavy things than I could ever be about anything in the world . I think I probably laughed at the time, a good hearty laugh laced with a tinge of resentment over the fact they had muscles where I simply had a small Topman t-shirt.
Summary of the mood. pic.twitter.com/e1SOCDsv8X
— Ash Billinghay (@Ash_Billinghay) September 26, 2013
But deep down did their toned, gleaming bodies trouble me? By the time such a thought had entered my mind I’d long since walked away from the gym windows and been warned about staring at the spin instructor, who for the purpose of this blog we’ll call Destiny.
Direct debits more regular than visits
But that was then and this is now. Now. Things change, don’t they? You stop being as happy with your life choices and start thinking that maybe, just maybe, paying someone a monthly direct debit in order to achieve physical fitness might make those those life choices a little more palatable. Those direct debit payments started recently and today, for the very first time, I didn’t just stand drooling outside the gym windows, longing for one of those toned women to look back at me and decide that; “yeah, my happiness could be increased by spending some time with that skinny hipster with a floppy fringe”.
I didn’t know what to think as I donned my Primark jogging pants and slightly more expensive yet somehow less comfortable running shirt. Who ever knew you needed a specific shirt to run? Where’s my damn ‘running tie’ and ‘running shoes’ Oh wait. Shoes exist.
Anyway, who am I to argue with people who can go places quickly? For a while I felt like maybe I’d go into the gym and people would laugh at me, finding it ridiculous that such a skinny young buck (waddup) could ever think he might be accepted in a place of such testosterone fuelled ambition. I opened the door, took a big old breath of the sticky scent of sweat, and stepped in to my destiny (not the spin instructor -she’s only there on Tuesdays).
Spot me bro
Surprise was my first impression. I was not, as I had imagined, surrounded by super buff, steroid abusers, fighting over the best view of their pecks.
Instead the gym felt like a place of empty acceptance. My fellow work-out-ees (trust me, the term will catch on) were all looking just as lost with their life as I was. There were people on the treadmills running far slower than I can run, people on the bikes struggling to figure out how to put their feet on the pedals, a couple of guys trying to lift weight while resting the bar on their impressive guts and, most pleasingly of all, a man with thicker glasses than I wear simply sitting on one of the bits of equipment looking tired. I liked this atmosphere of despair, of naively thinking things might get better, of empty dreams. I could belong in a place like this. I could make it home.
I stepped onto a treadmill and, once I’d figured out how to stay on it, all of my judgement just floated away in the sweat evaporating from my body. I ran about, lifted things and told myself, angrily, to, “Come on!” like a professional for a good 80 minutes (sounds longer if you break it down to minutes) before leaving. In all that time I only scared one girl by looking at her for a little bit too long, but I figured I was one of them now, so a restraining order was far less likely.
Will I stick to it? Probably; I've paid upfront for the next few months. Will I ever stop laughing at the people around me? Of course not. I want to get value for my money.
Editors note: Ash cancelled his gym membership shortly after writing this post citing creative differences as the reason for the split. Featured Image: Nottingham Trent Uni