Further Thoughts on the Gym

Further Thoughts on the Gym

If gym talk is boring to you (it is to many) go ahead and skip.  Though it’s not too long a post :)

Yes, I go to a gym to weight train.  And though I’m sure this declaration will bring out all the lurkers from the WisCon/Rachel Moss thing (who left such inspiring comments as: you fatty fat ni**er, you’re fat!  Yes, literally) to point and exclaim that since I am going to a gym this is proof I totally know how fat and disgusting I am, I can’t bring myself to care.  I find it a little sad and a little scary that there are people out there completely convinced that I and anyone else who is not a twig (correction, any other WOMAN who is not a twig) must truly hate ourselves and know deep down that being big makes us awful people.

This is one of the things I discovered from that particular set of trolls.  80% of the comments they left were very similar to the one above.  They boiled down to: you’re fat and you’re black.  As if these two things were something I was meant to be deeply ashamed of.  I feel slightly sorry for people who think such things, because I have a feeling that, if the commenters are women, they actually feel that way about themselves.  And if they are men, they feel that way about someone who loves them (and possibly themselves). I can’t feel too sorry for them, though, because they’re racists.

Anyway!  That was tangental.  But not completely.  Because whenever I go to the gym and look around me, I try to suss out if the women who are running so hard or cycling so long or doing those ab crunches or leg presses are doing all that because it makes them feel good or because they hate themselves.

The gym I go to is supposedly a “No Judgment Zone” and discourages weightlifting (which is different from strength training) and competition.  I don’t know if the gym’s policy makes that much difference, but I’ve never felt uncomfortable or inadequate or that anyone was paying particular attention to me and how I look.  People seem to be there to do their own thing.  And if they feel anything close to what I feel when I’m on the bike or doing a machine, they feel pretty good about themselves.

I get a nice sense of accomplishment when I get to the end of a 30 minute cardio program or do that 10th rep.  I feel really good when I stretch at the end of a workout.  Even the aches the next day make me feel good, because they’re proof that my body is changing, getting stronger, and that much closer to being able to kick ass.

But there are times when I am on the treadmill and I think — jeez, what a bourgeois activity this is, walking in place for an hour.  I’ve read a lot of books on how to lift weights correctly and walk correctly and stretch correctly, but people have been in shape for many thousands (perhaps millions) of years without needing a book to show one the absolute correct posture.  Not to mention that I am spending money for the privilege of walking in place for an hour, or spinning my legs on something that tells me I have gone 8 miles when I actually haven’t.

And of course I know that, in the past, humans had very different lives that led to being muscular or able to run fast and far and such things.  But looking at all the ways and tools we have now to help us get in shape, I sometimes feel like: how did we ever manage before?

The other week on CNN, Dr. Sanjay was talking about a recent poll or study released that showed most Americans knew that certain activities and lifestyles helped prevent cancer — like exercise and eating a balanced diet — but didn’t do those things, regardless.  64% or so said that they didn’t go to the gym because memberships are too expensive.  I feel that!

My gym is pretty cheap — $16/month — and has a level below mine.  Most gyms are over $60/month, some over $100.  That’s a lot of money to lay down each month to walk in place.  And the less disposable income you have, the less likely you are to spend it on a luxury.  (You’re also less likely to eat foods that are good for you because, haha, those foods are usually more expensive.)

Exercise has become such a business that it looks like an expensive prospect, even without a gym.  Getting the right weights in the right increments or getting the right shoes for walking or running (I spent 2 hours in a sporting goods store yesterday just trying on shoes, looking for ones that would support my arch correctly, gah!), getting the right matt for Yoga, the right DVD for Pilates, the right this or that or another.  No aspect of fitness is safe from people trying to convince you that it can’t be done right without 3 – 6 tools. Tools that aren’t cheap.

There are times that I wish that my PE classes had actually been an education in being physical instead of a chance to make me feel horrible and have kids who hated me throw really hard rubber balls my way.  Why don’t PE teachers teach kids the correct way to stretch?  Or how to gain more flexibility?  Or how to properly lift weights, or walk correctly, or how to test and improve balance?  These would have been useful in my youth.  I know that some schools do this — usually rich, suburban schools.  It all comes back to money again.

I just want to scream and shake people, you know?  You don’t need to spend a lot of money to be in shape, but you do need to spend some time showing people how that works.  Everyone is so worried about us being fat?  About kids getting diabetes?  Make PE useful and not just about playing sports.  Make Health class about learning what foods do to your body, not just a semester-long tourure session in which people blather on about how you shouldn’t be having sex.

De-monetize the fitness industry and show people 10 free things they can do to improve their bodies.  Tell Jenny Craig to jump off a cliff, because no matter what you eat in what quantities, it all comes down to this: If you sit around all day and don’t move your body — whether by walking, jogging, dancing, playing with your kids, wrestling with your dog, chasing after your cat — you will not lose weight for real.  If you starve yourself, your body will not like it.  If you deny yourself, your mind will rebel.  If you allow yourself to have a variety of good things in moderation, sugar and fat included, you will be healthy and happy and look the way you want.

Okay, I lied, that WAS long.  Sorry.