Hell is full of treadmills

I’ve never been big on New Year’s resolutions. I prefer making more manageable goals more often, like after I go to confession or as I’m going to bed or when the winter gloom starts to lift and spring cleaning beckons. But this year, just for kicks, I decided to make a few, as follows:

1. Read two books a month.

2. Go camping.

3. Stop hating the gym.

Yes, I hate gyms. On principle. With a passion. Always have and always…won’t. Maybe. You see, I have serious grounds for my loathing. Very valid reasons, backed by years of deep philosophical thought and general stewing. Why, you may ask? I’ll tell you.

They’re sterile. They’re rooms of stale, sweat-infused air, marked by the sounds of self-aggrandizing grunting. They’re lined with floor-to-ceiling mirrors, encouraging either vanity or horrible embarrassment. They’re dotted with screens, hanging from ceilings and affixed to machines, designed to distract and bombard. They invite their patrons to turn inward, earbuds firmly lodged in, noses to metaphorical grindstones. And then there’s the treadmills.

I love to run. Really love it. It’s contemplative and invigorating. It can be done alone or with a friend or in a mass of fellow racers. I love that I can explore my city expeditiously by foot, get deep into nature in little time, pass neighbors and strangers along the way. I love that, by running, I can get somewhere. But treadmills? No. There’s the pound pound pound-ing of feet on polyurethane. There’s the belt that loops over and over again. There’s the risk of landing too far ahead or behind, with nothing to catch you. There’s the red LED lights staring you down, that mocking dot moving at a snail’s pace around a fake track, speed and time and distance and incline glaring relentlessly. And you get nowhere.

And here’s something else: a treadmill lulls its user (or shall I say victim?) into a state of utter roboticism, a complete tuning out, both mentally and physically. When I run in the real world, I feel the way the ground changes under my feet. I tread lightly on ice and fly down hills and leap over puddles. I slow down for tourists and speed up as I round the last corner. I embrace the burn in my hamstrings and calves as I trudge up a steep incline, noticing the chill of the winter air coat my throat as I sharply inhale. I look ahead as I begin to flag, envisioning my destination, remembering my goal, firmly setting my eyes on the next lamppost or tree along the way. My mind and my body are most thoroughly engaged, requiring every ounce of concentration and commitment and grit to continue. In conclusion, treadmills are evil and gyms are the worst.

Which is why I just joined one.

Well, it’s the YMCA I joined, to be exact. (I think the insiders call it the Y. I better start practicing.) And I most definitely didn’t join it for the gym, as evidenced by the above. I joined it for the pool. But, with a triathlon to train for and three free meetings with a personal trainer and dozens of group classes and plenty of available machines at my disposal, it would be just plain silly not to take full advantage of it all. I just want to do the right thing, like getting my every last $53 a month’s worth. And getting off my high treadmill-hating horse. And getting over myself.

A lot of people frequent the gym. I realize this. Kind, virtuous, sane people. People with good habits and social skills and friends. People who prefer not to risk frostbite in the dead of winter or death by moving car after sunset. Non-robots. Maybe, just maybe, I could be one of them. One day. Stay tuned.


Three questions: Are you a gym-goer? Am I crazy? Can you help me?





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