Archive for May 11th, 2007

Last Friday, I spent all day at a funeral. To fit in my time on the exercise bike, I was at the local rec center at 6:30AM. I’m not at my most social first thing in the morning, but I couldn’t help noticing two cultures that are entirely absent from the exercise room in the late afternoon when I usually work out. Instead of the weight-lifters I disparaged in an earlier post, there was a crowd consisting of two types: senior citizens, and corporate types on their way to work.

From what I overheard, many of the senior citizens exercise at that time because they have trouble sleeping. Most of them have a slightly rumpled look, and few bother with expensive exercise fashions. Slightly stiff-kneed, often a little bent, they tend to move slowly, descending to their exercise mats for calisthenics with obvious twinges of discomfort, and bending almost double on the exercise bikes.

But, if they no longer move quickly, they have an endurance that many three decades younger lack. And many, while they walk the treadmill or pedal the bikes, are chattering away as they go on and on, obvious experts at prying the life story from any stranger on the next machine. They seem a cheery, sturdy bunch, and, watching them sweat steadily, totally unfazed by the effort, I can’t help thinking that the stereotype of the doddering old is badly obsolete.

One man, in particular, is scrawny with old age, but his legs and arms are so veined and well-defined that he must have been exercising regularly for decades. He looks good for at least a couple more.

The corporate men and women are another story. They rush in, striding briskly, eyes bright with a caffeine buzz. If their preferred machines are being used – and the early morning is a surprisingly busy time – they pace up and down impatiently, glancing constantly at their watches and bending to duck around the weight machines so that they can watch the clock on the wall. A few wait around the ever-ready TV hanging from the wall, watching a report on business. They exercise briskly and briefly, then stride off in the same way, their spandex swishing on their legs just at the edge of my hearing range.

Unlike the seniors, the corporate crowd has no interest in talking. For them, exercise is just the first item on the day’s To Do list. They have no time for anything except their agenda, although exactly what the urgency might be is something that doesn’t seem to occur to them. Instead of evaluating their approach, most of them are too busy frowning their impatience at the time this part of their daily routine is taking.

If I had to face strangers every morning, I could easily stand the seniors. But the corporate crowd is enough to remind me of why I’ve ordered my life so I can work at home. They bring an unnecessary hecticness to my exercise routine that I would just as soon avoid. If I wanted to surround myself continually with their sense of needless urgency, I’d still be commuting on the Skytrain.

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