One of the things that releases stress for me is going to the gym, and I try to go there almost every night. On a recent evening, days after my mom passed away, I felt kind of lost as I went in. I didn’t have much ambition so I thought I’d go ride the treadmill for a while and listen to my iPod to escape. I had the brand new Evanescence album to listen to, a much awaited, much anticipated event for me. It’s been several years since they put out a new album and their dark lyrical exploration in minor chords fit the mood I was in.
So, I checked in at the front desk of the gym, and headed toward the locker room. I hadn’t been in this particular location for a while, and I forgot that this one still has carpet in the locker room, at least the women’s, and I like that a lot. It seems cleaner and more comfortable to me for some reason than the tile floors they seem to be favoring in the newer clubs. The tile floors are usually filthy, in my opinion, but I am somewhat of a germophobe.
I changed into my workout clothes, grabbed my water bottle and my iPod, and headed upstairs to where I thought I would have to fight for a treadmill or elliptical trainer. It was prime time, 5:30 on a Monday night. I was lucky, I found a treadmill open right away, got the belt going, and I settled in. I turned up the volume on the iPod. While I walked, I looked around. Down on the main floor, where all the weight machines were, people milled about among the machines like rats in a maze. In the spin room, people rode the stationary bikes, their legs pumping to the same rhythm as the song that was playing on my iPod at that moment. I was laughing at them to myself, they were all taking themselves so seriously. I thought about how different things are now than they were 150-200 years ago when there were plenty of activities that people did in the course of their everyday lives rather than go to a place for the sole purpose of “exercising.” It’s not that it’s “bad” now, just different, in so many ways.
I lifted my eyes, watched a piece of fuzz float higher and higher until it reached the ceiling, where it bumped along in the air currents up there before disappearing from view. I closed my eyes for a few moments, getting into the music, and sang along – silently, of course. Then I stopped because I thought people would think I looked, or just was, weird. I looked out the big wall of glass on the far side of the big room and could see the front bumper of my car parked in the lot outside. Before I knew it, the 25 minutes was up, and I stopped the treadmill, stretched briefly, and went downstairs.
The stretching mats were surprisingly empty at one end, so I sat down right away. I figured out that if I don’t stretch, my hamstrings get tight and then my lower back hurts. I was getting into the habit of blowing off the stretching because I wanted to get home faster, but it isn’t worth the muscle pain. So, I dutifully sat and did my stretching routine carefully. At least there were mirrors in front of me so I could watch what was going on behind me. I saw guys swaggering up to the drinking fountain, middle-aged women using the Stairmaster, young girls wearing those stupid sweatpants that say “Pink” on the butt, no matter what color the pants are. I can never understand the attraction of wearing pants that have a big giant word across the butt. Personally, I don’t want to draw any more attention to that part of my body than is necessary!
I gathered my things, went back to the locker room, and got my stuff out of the locker. I walked out slowly past the pool area behind the glass, watched a few swimmers lazily turning laps. It takes a lot more effort to swim laps than you think.
Back in the car, I turned on the heated seat so my muscles wouldn’t get too stiff on the drive home. I talked to my dad while I drove, and soon I turned into my neighborhood. The sun was setting on another golden day, the gathering clouds on fire from the orange glow. I didn’t feel quite as lost anymore after the calming effect of the workout. It’s times like these that I don’t understand how everyone doesn’t want to go to the gym, but I guess it’s good that they don’t.