Fuck, I may have made a big mistake with this one. How did I end up here? And why does this feel so hard? I’m pretty sure I was the one who decided to do this, and clearly it’s not what I expected. So, here I am now, here I am …dripping with sweat, shaking from exhaustion, and aching for a reprieve. I’m surrounded by women who are double my size and men who are twice my age, all flashing strange looks on their faces and making weird movements with their bodies. I’m fumbling around, not sure where or how to take the next step.
I’m fucking tired.
Out of place.
Ready to go.
But I stay calm, and I don’t escape. I just keep going. Keep going. Keep going.
Because I know this will be over soon.
I know this will be over soon because the class is only 1 hour. At least that’s what they told me when I walked into the room. And the clock on the wall graciously comments that 45 minutes have passed. My god, the end is near…
Ok, let me explain.
Here I am, hanging out in Freeland, Washington. About 8 miles from Langley (aka, my new home for the month). I’m in Freeland, Washington, at “My Gym”. Island Athletic Club. Just this week, Island Athletic Club has come to be known around town (or at least in my head) as “My Gym”. To which I travel religiously every morning (and even a couple of evenings) and pound out my exercise routine, as I know how. But only for a week. Only for a total of about 10 cumulative hours. And after that’s done, I’ll move on. I’ll move on to find another gym to call my own.
See, I had some initial concern about how I’d manage to keep up my “regular” activities that tend to depend on memberships and packages that generally cover more than 1 month at a time. I worried about how I would cope without the routine that I had come to rely upon nearly every day of my adult life. I wondered how I might try to reinvent it while on the road. But this would be challenging. Especially on a very limited budget. I imagined that I could somehow live with such a sudden change, but knew that it would be more than a bit hard for me to get used to. Routine is familiar. Routine is comfortable. Routine is addictive.
And then I realized…
Every month, I’m “new”. Every month, I’m a potential customer. A recent arrival in town, looking to establish memberships and subscriptions. Figuring out how to develop a daily routine. And this means that every month, sales people will pay attention. I’ll repeatedly be privy to special sales pitches and smarm, different demonstrations and discounts. And as long as I can grin and bear the forms, the tactics, and the inevitable bullshit, I get the gift of trial periods, introductory specials, visitor deals, etc. Week after week after week. Which means free days at gyms, lower prices for yoga classes…who knows what else. And with this, I realize… the world is my sampler platter! To hell with routine!
So, Island Athletic Club in Freeland is Gym #1. And I fall in love with it immediately. The cardio machines include some staples from my “old (aka last week’s) routine” as well as some favorites from years past. The Club Staff are gracious and sweet. The locker room is clean and well maintained. The bathroom scale…forgiving and kind (leading one to wonder when it was last calibrated). Island Athletic Club. I familiarize with it. I establish my attachment to it. I develop my dependence on it….within hours.
Within hours I become contented with the idea that I’ve found a new routine. A new set of rules to follow every day from here on out. A new pattern of behaviors that doesn’t require novelty or change. I’ve found comfort. I’ve found “the usual”. I’ve found a groove. And with that, some panic sets in about what to do next. Because attachment is not the plan. Certainty is not desired. And routine is overdue for destruction. So every day at “My New Gym”, I remind myself of impermanence. I force myself to resist attachment. To defy addiction. To remain open to the possibilities and samples to come.
And then the weekend comes. Saturday morning. And I arrive at the gym before it opens. Having gotten so used to my 24 Hour Fitness Club routine, I had forgotten that some gyms open later on weekends. After enjoying some additional R&R in the car, I hop into the facility, ready to do my usual. I drop my jacket in the locker room, pick the treadmill upon which I will walk, and fill up my water bottle at the fountain. And it’s here that I stumble upon this insightful assertion:
Never too old, bad, late, or sick to start from scratch again. Yep. True story. So, here I am now, right? 42 years old. Starting from scratch. Traveling around the world like a 20-something year old. Changing habits and patterns. Moving from the all-too-familiar treadmill to the crowd gathering in front of the Group Class room. Signing my name on the list. Trying step class for the first time.
Here I am, waiting for the class to begin. Excited to have a new experience, but certain that it won’t provide me with the level of intensity that I’m used to. That my routine had granted me over all of the years and the gazillions of hours. I feel warmed and welcomed when the instructors help set me up and explain the rules of the road. I feel happy to be surrounded by new people and strange equipment. I feel exhilarated by playing the role of resident in this new town.
But all niceties aside, I know this class is no match for me. Looking around at my classmates, I conclude with certainty that additional routine work will be needed post-step. And I don’t have the time for that. So why am I here? Why am I knowingly going in the “wrong” direction? Why am I wasting my time? I don’t know. I have no idea. But I do know that I want new experiences. I do know that I can burn the usual calories any day. And I do know that I’ll very likely not get this chance again.
Plus, I know that it’s Saturday. And Saturdays are made for takin’ it easy.
And 45 minutes later, not a piece of my body is feeling at ease. Nothing in me considers more movement after class, let alone for the rest of the week. And no one around me appears in the slightest way to be under-matched. Instead, I’m enlivened. I’m challenged. I can feel my body learning. I can feel my soul delighting. I treasure the humor, energy, and compassion of the instructors. The endurance, resolve, and strength of the steppers. And as I’m sweating and dripping and shaking with exhaustion, I’m smiling and feeling grateful the entire time. Thank god for samples. Thank god for tangents. Thank god for the strength to break from routine and to “waste time”.
It’s a funny thing about routines…we tend to believe they’re “right” and almost necessarily associated with positive outcomes. We develop them, become familiar them, get immersed in them, attached to them, dependent on them. We begin to think they’re the only ways of doing things. We close our eyes to other possibilities. We cling. We stop considering. We dismiss. We run the risk of growing stale. And over time, we forget why the routines were ever developed in the first place. We forget our intentions. We forget our objectives. We forget that we can change.
Thank you, Island Athletic Club.
And now on to Gym #2….