Gym Buddies

I work out about four times a week, not because I love exercise (I don’t) or am super fit (I’m not), but because my gym has excellent childcare and it’s a great way for Ruthie and I to get out of the house.  

So, Monday and Wednesday afternoons, and Thursday and Saturday mornings, you can find me on the indoor track running laps or lifting some light free weights. 

My only goals are to work up a sweat, listen to a good book or album, and leave slightly healthier than when I arrived. 

This means that I do not care what I look like while I’m here. At all. On Wednesdays, when I arrive at the gym, it is likely that I haven’t showered since Monday night after my last workout (this is true of today). I’m usually wearing sweats or leggings with baby food on them, and a too-big t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of one of the schools I used to work for. 

But, because my gym is the student recreation center of the university where I teach, I am heavily in the minority when it comes to my gym fashion…or lack thereof. 

At this very moment, as I’m walking slow laps in an XL Art Club t-shirt, I am getting lapped by a variety of more fashionable runners. A ponytailed brunette keeps zooming by me in tribal-print patterned leggings, a backless workout top (?), and some kind of sports bra that has approximately nine straps criss-crossing her back. 

Another woman, closer to my age, is wearing full-length black leggings beneath a knee brace and neon pink shorts. Her top is skintight and is grey with a giant black stripe across the chest (??). Even she is lapping me, despite her serious looking support brace. 

There is one guy positively scaring the crap out of everyone as he sprints, wearing a flat-bill green cap, a long-sleeved green shirt, and swishy green sweat pants. None of the greens are the same color (???). 

Another walker is my friend Earl, whose name is probably not Earl. He tends to be here at the same time as me on Mondays and Wednesdays, and wears the same thing every day–faded slim-cut Levi’s and a red sweatshirt with frayed sleeves. Earl is at least 70 and walks faster than me no matter how fast I pump my arms. I can occasionally outrun him, but he always laps me when I cool down (??!!). 

There is always one person who walks the wrong way on the track, one person who shows up everyone else as they showcase their speed, and one person who passes a little too closely (today it’s knee-brace girl, who has nearly clipped my elbow twice).

When I can get into some kind of runner’s flow, I like to watch my fellow gymmers and imagine a what kind of life their hour lapping me is a slice out of. My reflections usually spin off and I begin thinking about teaching or things I need to do, but I relish these few hours a week where no matter what a hot mess I look, I’m relatively anonymous while surrounded by my quasi-gym buddies. 

On Warmer Weather & Outdoor Runs #SOL15

solI seriously loathe running on a treadmill, but every time I choose a long race to run, I have to train during the winter.  Since my town is terrible at plowing its main roads, let alone its sidewalks, I have to run inside, either on the small track at my gym or on the dreaded treadmill.

Somehow, the repetitive drone of my feet steadily hitting the machine’s belt absolutely kills my motivation.  Hearing my own rapid breathing wears me down.  No matter how loud I crank up my headphones, I can’t unhear those willpower-draining noises, and I can’t unsee all of the other people around me on gym machines, running to nowhere.

57b6ea2c51cbbf0b_spring-run-small.previewBut at this time of year, when the snow is melting and the temperature is finally well into the double digits, runs take on a whole new dynamic.  50 degrees feels crisp and refreshing, so I lace up my bright blue Nikes and hit the pavement.

The sounds of passing cars, rustling tree branches, or fresh leaves mask my gasping breaths.  The sights of dog walkers, stroller joggers, and other, intimidating marathoners drowns out the pounding of my feet on the concrete.  I stop paying attention to the physical exertion my body is focusing on and let my brain go.

I have AC/DC and Sam Smith on the same playlist, but I rarely hear their songs–because on outdoor runs, I think.  I think without plan–my thoughts go only where my mind leads them, and not where I feel I must force them, which I do all day at work.  The discipline of my body replaces the discipline of my mind.

So yesterday, on a 55 degree day, I went for a long run.  For five miles, I felt only the breeze in my hair, and not the wheeze of my lungs.  I heard only the sprinting of my thoughts, and not the pounding of my feet.  I saw only the possibility of greater distance…and nothing else.