The Gymnasium



Once upon a time, I joined a gymnasium.

I signed up for a 31-day trial because I knew deep down I had no intention of going to the gym longer than one hour.

It was cheap at $31. Thirty-one days of inspirational quotes, averted eyes in the shower room, and platitudes.

Exercise while everyone is looking

It’s a noble idea, to sign up for a fresh start and make a pact with yourself to push yourself as far as you can in the Western world diorama of gym equipment and sheeny bodies dripping makeup and deodorant.

As far as the gymnasium environment goes, artifice is the name of the game and the fact that one belongs to one, marks one as ‘belonging’ to one of the great pastimes of our modern era: exercise.

I am an exercise ‘other’. I don’t exercise because on a genetic level I hate it. I know the health benefits, and I know I will live longer if I take it up, but my being does not resonate to notions of exercise. It resonates to notions of decadence.

With this in mind, only one month at the gym seemed like a nice compromise.

With the variety of the machines, options for low-level resting (such as yoga) and the hot showers, it seemed that the gym could solve all of my problems.

It meant I could tell myself I was now doing something to prolong my life, I could start eating and drinking even more than ever, and I could have a shower by myself without three for four people crowding around either asking to get in with me, or worse, trying to resolve a child’s injury or social needs from the confines of the glass box while naked and vulnerable.

Off I went.

One Saturday I just went. I was greeted and shown the facilities which I have to say were decked out in ‘franchise-chic’. Everything, it seemed, was peach or dusky apricot so the whole place resembled a toilet. A shiver went up and down my spine but I stayed focused and put my keys in the bowl, just like singles night at a wine bar, and mounted my first machine.

Treadmills be treadmilling

It happened to be the treadmill.  Looks easy.  It’s not. It’s very unnatural and that was the theme of this visit.  The naturalness of living, walking, social exercising had fled the room as I marched along to Rihanna, as if musically there are simply no other options for a woman to exercise to.

The elderly lady next to me really had the hang of it and was treadmilling and tweeting a guy in Germany.  Nice little hook-up going on there in the University of the Third Age.

After a few rounds on the weights machines, I was perplexed. Couldn’t this same kind of exercise be achieved by running, or walking up stairs, or gathering seeds on the commune?  Or sex?

My thoughts trailed off as a driven, important woman arrived at the chest press next to me huffing disparagingly because I’d moved the pin to 2kgs from the normal 22.

I couldn’t wait for it to be over.  All around me people were tweeting, grunting and stenching up the room with their aggressive and unhappy gym personas.

The icing on the cake was yet to come.

Because this was my first day of the trial, the gym owner helpfully informed me that because I had only signed up for 31 days, the policy was to withhold the full fitness assessment since she knew a lot of ‘us’ never came back and it was a bit of a waste of ‘their’ time.

Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me

With that I smiled, grabbed the correct keys out of the bowl, since I did not feel like driving the Honda Jazz of the treadmilling Twitter lady home, and never returned to that unhallowed, aesthetically bereft load of hag.

In fact, as I drove off, I secretly did the middle finger just below the window line. I did it for humanity.

Fuck the gymnasium ethos. Go for a walk and lift spaghetti cans to The Deftones.

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