Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The Church of Exercise
I've visited the JCC gym enough times now that I'm starting to recognize faces. At least a couple of folks have given me a wave on occasion. I am becoming "a regular," if not a full-fledged gym rat just yet.
Despite that growing familiarity with the building, I don't feel as if I'm making much progress. I always begin my workouts by sprinting up the stairs to the weight room, two at a time. About 45 minutes later, I stumble down those same stairs, sweaty and gassed. Oh yes, I know, it's not supposed to be easy to get in shape, but... why can't it be?
The big problem here is that gyms have always made me uneasy. Chalk it up to lingering emotional residue from high school, when I endured the ritualistic PE humiliations that are a fat kid's lot in life. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm over it now. But there's a strong association in my mind between workout machines and feelings of inadequacy.
That, and the damn things bear a strong resemblance to medieval torture devices, don't you think? Have a seat, grunt out some reps, hyperextend your joints, strain your muscles and you'll walk away feeling better... supposedly. I'll tell you what, though: I've heard some sounds at the gym that could have come from suspected heretics during the Spanish Inquisition. Confess, sinner, or it's back to the vertical chest press with you!
Exercise-as-religion is an apt metaphor, though. The gym is where we do penance for the little sins of poor diet and laziness... each squat to atone for that unnecessary chocolate muffin, or that afternoon spent draped over the couch. Look at a workout room from a distance, and it's a host of devout believers committing acts of self-flagellation.
So I'm getting through my sessions by not getting too down on myself. Really, a trip to the gym is just a lesson in physics. Gravity is a constant. Weight values do not change. My muscles, atrophied as they are, can only exert a certain amount of force before they give out. So why bitch and moan about it when the mathematics come out against me? If I can't lift that 100-pound barbell, I just can't.
And really, the workout routine was not meant to whip me into a chiseled specimen by February. I only hope to get a head start, to get the ball rolling on improving my strength and endurance before my service begins. I'm not certain if I'm meeting even those modest goals, but that's not going to stop me from making the trip every other day.
I'm a believer.