Curmudgeon Vs. The Gym

So, I've been going back to the gym for a few weeks now. I'm sore and tired. And though I'm sure there are plenty of compelling reasons why I should go and why I should like it, I don't.

I grew up with a body image issue or two. Not the usual sort. I've got scars from multiple surgeries that stuck out in gym. And I've got a couple of apparent ticks that, particularly growing up, made life a bit difficult. Going to the gym wasn't going to help with any of those things; nothing was. But those things did, as many things do, made me stubborn in unpredictable ways. I decided fairly early on that I wasn't going to worry too much about how I appeared (beyond being clean and well-kept, that is). And for awhile that worked.

Fact is, I'm a big guy. I've been a big guy ever since puberty started to kick my butt around. I went from being the scrawny kid who could run sprints to the guy that the shot put coach (had any of the schools I attended had one) would've been courting. And I'm mostly okay with it. But the thing of it is, I'm just insecure enough that I'm doing something I don't like in hopes it'll make some small bit of difference in the social realm.

This last weekend, as I was out enjoying concerts and such, I spent a bit of time with a good friend, who is a bit of a health nut. He's well-meaning, but he couldn't imagine that I didn't enjoy going to the gym. So, even though I'm going, here's why I don't like the gym.

First: I do not believe in exercise highs.

I know there are people who love it. I've heard all the stories of endorphin highs and how much better you feel after you work out. It's crap, as near as I can tell. I had been going to the gym for about a year, plus regular attempts at swimming for a year before that (meaning that I went in the water and enjoyed myself in spite of my inability to do anything but a crooked backstroke). I went biking and hiking back in the day. I ran track when I was younger. And I have never once felt that high.

I can only assume that people who feel that high - and I've no doubt they do - are also the same people who sway their hands at concerts or feel the Holy Spirit or something. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm just not one of you.

Second: Whether they're having fun or not, gym people are creepy.

It doesn't take long, once you're at the gym, to realize that exercise equipment brings out in a significant number of people the inner weirdos. There's the guy who grunts even when on the slowest speed on the treadmill. There are the people who look everyone up and down. There are the people who don't actually sweat. And if you go to a snazzy membership sort of gym - you know, the sort of place where the employees all wear break-away, identical exercise uniforms - odds are, at least three of the employees are hanging over the edge of some hot person's equipment trying to chat them up.

Third: I don't particularly believe that living longer is better.

A colleague once tried to explain to me that we all have a set number of heartbeats that our hearts are capable of. This was, to their mind, some undeniable proof that we should exercise. I, however, think it proves that we should relax as much as possible. If their notion is correct, exercise seems like it would only use up those heartbeats.

But that aside, I've watched what happens to at least a few people as they get older - and I know a bit of my own family's history - and honestly, who are you kidding? Joint pain, back and body aches, heart problems, slow driving, bland food. And no one mentions how going to the gym is an excellent way of simulating all of that.


8 Responses to “Curmudgeon Vs. The Gym”
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Dr. Crazy said...

Ok, I HATE working out, but I do actually believe in the high that one can feel from doing it. I've experienced it. The problem for me is more on the front end - I feel the high if I actually work out, but I could more easily feel a high from drinking a glass of wine, and so why work our to do so?

Point is, yes, working out sucks. But it is, I actually think, a good thing. Note: I have not been to the gym in over a month. I have, I should also admit, consumed much wine. :)

June 19, 2008 at 11:04 PM
Dorabella said...

Word. I have never gotten the supposed exercise high, either. And as for point 2, my roommate and I go to the gym at the same time (I for yoga class, she for cardio)--afterward we compare notes about which That Guy we've run into that day. Today, mine was the woman who "helpfully" corrects your form despite her NOT BEING THE INSTRUCTOR, which for me triggers a response of "fuck off, now watch me do this next pose more hardcore than you HA." Which is totally an outlook you want to cultivate for yoga...

June 20, 2008 at 12:06 AM
Notorious Ph.D. said...

I'm back at the gym after two months away. My fellowship year might also go down as The Year My Waist Disappeared. I hate going to the gym.

That said, I love having been to the gym. It has nothing to do with any endorphin high, and more with the idea that I've accomplished something concrete today. For academics, measurable accomplishments are often few & far between.

Plus, I'm too damn poor to buy a whole new wardrobe, so exercise it is!

June 20, 2008 at 12:07 AM
Sisyphus said...

Ha! I love this post. It reminds me of when GayProf was blogging about being in the gym and hoping for the exercise high and his body replied "Oh god, you're going to hurt me so much I have to drug myself to block out the pain?"

As you can see, I'm not so much into exercising myself. The only plus side is when I've been going regularly I can kinda keep up with people on hikes and not be panting and miserable. Hikes are fun. All that nature shit, you know.

June 20, 2008 at 12:41 AM
Psych Post Doc said...

I'm with notorious. Hate GOING to the gym but love HAVING BEEN to the gym.

I took up running the year I was finishing my dissertation. It was like my rebelion, when I knew I should be working on my discussion I would go for a run instead. I would like to get back to that.

June 20, 2008 at 8:55 AM
Dance said...

Ditto to everything notorious phd said. Luckily, I already have a wardrobe in both size "non-exercising me" and size "aerobics 4x/week me" (this is way easier to achieve if you never wear pants).

Anyhow. Perhaps the key is finding something you really like? I never go use the machines or weights because I hate them and don't enjoy it, but I will get off my butt and go to aerobics or even a sculpting class because I know that I will enjoy it while doing it, and that I will return home feeling pleasant and productive. Are there other exercise things you can try instead? Hiking? Group training "from couch to 5K"? Martial arts class? Recumbent bike with laptop shelf? Etc?

June 20, 2008 at 9:06 PM
Belle said...

Sisyphus said it for me. I'm starting a yoga class and it's good, but fun? No.

BTW, you're tagged for the music meme.

June 21, 2008 at 9:27 AM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

Sadly, until griping burns as many calories as the elliptical, it'll be the gym for me.

It's not that I'm going to stop going. It's that I hate that it's assumed I should like going. It's like driving the speed limit - it's not how I'd prefer to live my life, but I'll do it. Ultimately though, some fitness nut is going to learn that the there are better forms of guilt to use because, for some of us, the high from getting healthy just isn't it. And as shameless and manipulative as the fitness nut, how can it be long before we start to hear stories about the third world as a way to prompt us to work out?

Now on to the music meme!

June 21, 2008 at 5:44 PM