There are no pictures in this post. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to see them. With one week left in my month of working out, I knew I had to do it. I had to make a pilgrimage to the shrine of working out, the gym.

I like strip malls, fluorescent lighting, dozens of TV’s and sweaty strangers as much as the next person. Wait a minute. There’s something wrong with that sentence. Why, why, why does anyone like the gym?

It helped that I met my dad there. He is my longest-running workout partner (I was going to write oldest, but that didn’t seem nice). Together we’ve been running, lifting weights and complaining about it for 20+ years. Lately, when we run, I’m the one suggesting that we go for another lap. In the gym, though, he has the upper hand and the app on his smartphone that barks out orders. First squats! Now, runner’s lunges!

I whined, more than I’m proud of. I scoffed at the TV addicts beside me on the elliptical machines with their headphones and their glasses that allowed them to actually see what was on TV. I was short with the poor guy who was required to give me the membership spiel. (I told him I was a farmer and I didn’t need to work out. It’s my excuse for everything. Why are your boots dirty? Why do you need 12 hours of sleep a night? Why are you eating jam straight out of the jar?)

Despite the whining, the scoffing and the excuses, I just felt awkward. My runner’s lunges looked more like an attempt at break-dancing than exercise. And my dad had to remind me how to use every machine.

A few hours later, safe and sound back on the couch, I get it. I understand the attraction and/or compulsion that keeps gyms in business and gym aficionados in shape. Gyms are specialized entities. They- like the equipment in them- exist for a very specific purpose, to tone muscle and burn fat. Unlike a walk, with its myriad distractions or a yoga class with the ever present option of dropping into child’s pose, if you show up at the gym, you will leave with what you came for. Quivery muscles and a smattering of self-esteem.

While I don’t intend to switch from the scenic to the strip mall form of exercise, it was nice to feel fully spent. There is pleasure in concentrating on one purpose for an allotted period of time. And a gym is nothing if not concentrated.


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