I go to the gym a lot: four times in a week is the bare minimum. I believe in setting a new personal record every day, even with the small details. It’s what’s kept me going for over two years now. Every now and then I’d tweet out a milestone. I record my workouts in great detail on my phone’s calendar function while I work out, and write these records into a daily moleskine notebook. I’ve had progress and setbacks, weeks where I kill it and weeks where I feel like I’ve lost everything I’ve worked so hard for. I’m proud of where I’m at and I remind myself of where I’d be were it not for the constant work.
That said, I have to confess: more days than I do not, I hate going to the gym.
There, I said it. It’s a lot of work. I have an elbow issue that has hampered my progress with some lifts (including the bench press, the yardstick by which all manly strength is measured). I wake up sore the next day, and the DOMS is worse two days after a hard workout. I do a split routine that hits my entire body such that I barely recover until the rest days. On rest days, I do some cardio. I don’t burn out, but my body is never alloweed to fully rest. I have calluses on the palms that were at one time so soft, hands that were predestined by some to be a surgeon’s.
I spend at least two hours at the gym per visit, and I drive ten miles each way to get there. This is gas that commutes one way to work. This is time I could be spending doing a design project, or something useless all together. I’ve avoided athlete’s foot from the locker room by wisely using slippers, but I’m pretty sure I picked up the flu there at least once. I’m certain I’ve estranged friends by spending too much time at the gym.
That’s a lot of discomfort, and actual losses over two years. There’s much reason to hate going to the gym. But there’s so much that I hate more than that.
I hate being out of shape at thirty years old. I’ve sat on my ass for years living a life of the mind, working in a livelihood of the mind (sales, but still), and I’ve neglected my body and my health. Despite what popular culture might say about “acceptance” and “confidence,” our bodies reflect what we do to it, and we are judged by others about what we’ve done to our bodies.
I hate that the media has reached an irreconcilable point where one show on the same channel talks about dangerous body images, and yet another of their shows is littered with images of the very bodies we shouldn’t aspire to because we might hurt ourselves trying, or because it’s too frustrating and time-consuming. I hate that a news outlet would feature an “obesity epidemic” yet obligingly take advertising dollars from the very same companies whose subhuman ingredients and nutritional compositions are making so many of us sick and fat in the first place.
I could sit all day, blog and tweet and watch more TV in a week than what a household used to watch in a year. I could eat at each step of the way. But I hate being overweight: I hate that I have to wear what amounts to a man’s muumuu so I can hide my unsightly curves in public, while being bombarded with the reality that so few among us have taken the time and made the effort to stay healthy. I hate that despite my current weight and body composition, I am still ahead of the curve for most men in my age group, because my current state isn’t really all that. I hate the fact that jeans, those durable denim pants that were built to last practically a lifetime, would have to be replaced every year if I maintained a sedentary, overly consumptive lifestyle. I hate having to buy new shirts every year because the XL that I wore three times last year doesn’t fit right any more. I hate having to buy new pants, of all things, as I suffer the indignity of the fact that in 2007 I wore size 32 and now am finding size 34 a little too tight, but here I cling to the hope that the effort I make at least four days a week will pay off and I won’t have to go to Old Navy next year to buy another pair of pants, which by then would be size 36.
I hate that fat comes hand-in-hand with ugly, and that behind it closely rides its younger, bastard brother, apathy. There are very, very few truly zaft people. Most people who could lose a few pounds could also use a haircut, a better scrubbing in the shower, fuck it, a daily fucking shower, and some better-fitting clothes. I hate that we out-of-shape people come with all sorts of sterotypes that impugn our honor. Fat people are lazy, or neglectful of family, or “eat too much.” I hate that once you’re stuck in an apathetic rut, even getting dressed for the gym can be such a chore. I hate that the beautiful people could at least pass off as having perfect lives. I want that kind of ironic invisibility, that benefit of the doubt that a fit guy or sexy girl gets during a job interview.
I know I may never meet the standards that popular culture might impose, I want my body to reflect the respect and care I give it. I may hate going to the gym, but what I will go through when I choose to quit the gym all together is something I hate more.