We go to the gym for any number of reasons. Goals. We all have them, and mine change daily. Some days I’m just there to lift something obscenely heavy- that makes me feel powerful. Some days I’m there to get a pump- that makes me feel attractive. Some days, though, in fact many days, I’m there, in the gym, working up a sweat, to have some time with myself.
The time I spend in the gym is the only time I get to spend just with me. I’m not lesson planning, I’m not
talking or teaching, I’m not listening, I’m not cooking, I’m not checking things off of or adding things onto my to-do list. I get to check out and just be. Just me and my body and my spreadsheet of numbers and my headphones. It’s those few hours of the week when I don’t feel guilty about not doing the things I ought to be doing, perhaps. Some people do that weird float tank therapy sensory deprivation thing (which seem like being buried alive and drowning, simultaneously, to me- no thanks), but for me, the gym is that space. Calming, focusing, alone. Even if it’s crowded (which, my new gym, I’m happy to report, NEVER IS!) it’s just me. All those people, I see them, but they don’t really exist because it’s just me and my body when I’m at the gym.
I almost never train with someone, even when I go to the gym with someone. My husband is fantastic, I can flag him down for a spot but he knows that it, I don’t want to lift with him. Occasionally I’m ok with taking a friend to the gym, because I love to teach people, but I find myself quickly annoyed with the stop-and-chat between sets, with the lack of focus I find myself being able to have, with the number of times I have to take my blasted headphones out. A friend asking to go to the gym with me will likely become frustrated with me when they realize that “going to the gym” with me is just that- we ride together, we talk afterwards, but once I’m inside those walls, it’s me, doing my thing, and you doing yours. For me, that selfish time to be alone is important.
I’m not a religious person, but I would go almost as far as to say, without being cliche here, that the Iron Temple is my sacred space, but on an introspective, personal level- go back and re-read that sentence not in Dom Mazzetti’s voice, please.
Whatever I accomplish within that space, and that time, is my own. The weight I lift, the changes I create within my body, nobody can take that credit but me. The effort that I put in, or don’t, is directly correlated with my success or failure in that space. It’s mine.
There is a patron at my new gym who recognized me from the base gym I sometimes lift at. Somehow, he thinks this means that we are friends. Three sessions, now, he has interrupted me to say nothing. I pride myself on being tolerant and kind, but trust me when I tell you, this man is like the human equivalent of a labrador puppy who. We are not friends, and I have never given any indication that I wanted to chat, and yet every time he sees me, he makes it a point to run across the gym and attempt to high five or talk to me. How many disinterested faces does it take? More than I’ve made, apparently. His case is not helped by the fact that he has repeatedly said phrases to me that end in “…for a girl.” *record scratch* come again, motherfucker?
Yesterday, on a Friday, he took it upon himself to reach around me at the pull up assist machine and wave his hand in my face as I was doing pull ups and then scamper away… I burst into tears. Right in the gym. Mid pull-up. Are you. Fucking. Joking.
Friday are hard for me. I’ve already put in a full week of work and social activity, of rushing around and feeling stressed and falling asleep while I create effective assessments for my students, I’ve just sat through my Friday afternoon meetings at school, I’m exhausted, and Fridays, I literally can’t even after about 12:30pm. This week, in particular, I was feeling pretty rough- Zack had been away at a weeklong training, and I was missing him and looking forward to seeing him when I got home, and it was the last day of the grading period, so I was feeling the pressure that goes with that, too. My Friday afternoon lifts are my transition to the weekend, my release. They signal the beginning of my relaxing time. And he interrupted it for WHAT. I hated him, in that moment, more than ever. How dare he intrude on my time, my space. What about my focus, my headphones, my literally being in the middle of a motion, invited him to do that? He may as well have walked into a therapists office in the middle of someone’s session and farted before running away giggling- that’s precisely what it felt like had happened. All I could think, over, and over, was how dare he?
So that’s the story of how I cried at my new gym.
Moral: Probably don’t bother me at the gym. Probably don’t bother anyone at the gym. We are all there to get stuff done. It’s not a chatting space, it’s not a place for socializing. Respect what it is- a place to work on yourself as a person, on a physical level and, many times, so much more than that. Some people see the gym as a place where vain people go to look sexier, but sexy and strong are byproducts of how being there, putting in the work, seeing the results of your effort make you feel. A gym membership is the cheapest therapist you could ask for. My time in the gym is possibly the time I’m feeling the least vain, and the most centered. It’s exactly what I need it to be- it can be energizing, it can be my release, it can be where I go to collect badass points, it can be where I work out my problems. Whatever I need, the gym doesn’t want to talk about it, it’s just there for me to make it happen. My iron therapist.