Seven months ago I joined the gym. This seems like a relatively normal thing for most people but for me it was a pretty big deal because I have spent a number of years refusing to exercise, claiming I was allergic to it. This obvious lie was an attempt to hide the fact I was weirded out by the whole concept of a lot of people in the one place grunting and sweating simultaneously (I’m still weirded out by it but I’m getting used to it). My experience of the gym has so far been quite daunting because, let’s be honest, it’s the fucking oddest place on earth. I had a real Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole experience the first day I went and have been coping with that ever since.
You walk into a room that smells like a mixture of sweaty feet and arse, and stay there for a period of time sweating out of every orifice, make awkward eye contact with the people who make taking-a-poo face while lifting weights and then you leave. Don’t get me wrong, I have converted to the religion that is the gym and I do see the physical and mental benefits of exercising. However, as I am late to the sweat party, there are aspects of gym life and exercise that baffle me. For example why should I care about whether I do cardio or lift weights. What difference does it make for a gym virgin, I’m lucky to be even walking into the gym let alone doing anything while I am there. Also is it bad if I base this decision on how much I like the sound of the word cardio. Why is there a choice between different types of exercises, why can’t there just be one machine that works for everything with out me having to actually move or make a decision. There is another thing, I don’t know what half of the machines at the gym actually do, I basically use the same three because I have no idea how the other ones work. Occasionally I will get a notion that I should try something different, hover around the machine as if I’m going to use it – then I poke it suspiciously, look around to see if anyone can see me – then get scared and pretend I’m casually leaning it against it for a rest.
I’m pretty sure the gym regulars must think I am a fool. However, based on some of the habits they have mine are probably not that bad. Like self-motivation guy, a gentleman that runs on the treadmill and tell himself to ‘keep going’ and ‘to come on’. He also makes very sex-like grunting noises. I am aware that compared to other gyms this is not really anything to complain about, sex noises and grunts are just part of a lot of people’s workouts. I think what freaks me out about it though is that no one acknowledges the noises that people make. I mean I either laugh to myself or jump two feet in the air with fright but no one else seems to notice. There are a lot of aspects of gym going that people just don’t discuss. Especially the changing rooms, I mean how the hell is it acceptable to have a full blown conversation about the weather or last night’s news when you are completely naked! I often go in when there are a lot of women changing after their fitness class and there are just so many boobs!! And they sit/stand around chatting to each other ignoring the fact that their fairies can be seen. Have they just fully assimilated and just accept this as normal life? When will this happen to me because I really need to be prepared for that shit. These are things that they should include in the contract when you actually sign up for membership: ‘please note the following: You must be comfortable to have a conversation with someone while your muff is in full view’.
There should also be a little disclaimer about the nasty habits you develop. For example, sometimes I don’t shower afterwards. Not because I enjoy being that disgusting but because sometimes I forget essential things like shampoo; a bra; a knickers. Usually a bra if I’m honest. On occasion I will just shower and get changed anyway but that can be really awkward: it means I have to walk home trying to hide my nips from the world. Or I leave my hair untouched for longer than is acceptable. I just leave it tied up and smelling like what I can only describe as armpit, hoping that dry shampoo will mask it. Also, sometimes I forget socks and have to either put back on the sweaty ones I wore for my workout or put my naked feet into the festering hollow of my runners. I’m not sure which of these scenarios is worse. I’m also not sure whether these experiences just happen when you join or whether they only happen to me because I’m not very good at coping with the day to day of adult activities, either way, I think the gym is a weird place and it makes me a little bit weirder every time I go, but at least I will be a healthy weirdo.