Archive for November 7th, 2008

For me, exercise has always been simple. However, as I glance around at other people at the gym, I realize that I am very much in the minority – just as much as I am in my taste in music, reading, and art.

To start with, I still wear much the same as I did when I first started running daily in my teens. Since I’ve suffered my share of leg and foot injuries, I insist on a pair of running shoes with firm heel support, but often the best model of shoe is far from the most expensive. Otherwise, any old T-shirt, and a pair of shorts (not too long), and I’m off in the summer. In colder weather, I add a sweat top and a rain jacket, and for a week or two in December and January some sweatpants, and that’s all.

In contrast, you’d think that the people at the gym were auditioning to be models. It sometimes seems that every piece of clothing they wear is festooned with logos. Almost all of them have succumbed to fashion and sale clerks, and bought a pair of shoes that would be more suitable for triathalons than the half an hour of genteel puffing over repetitions on the weights.

Since I started going to the gym, I’v also taken to carrying a towel, because gym rules and common courtesy demand that I wipe off the machines after I use them (even I find the amounf of sweat I generate disgusting). Everyone else, though, carries more excess baggage than the Franklin expedition. iPods are especially popular, although the ear buds are forever getting tangled, sometimes with the equipment.

Everyone, too, carries a water bottle, carefully sipping from it every five minutes as though they are in the middle of traversing the desert. I have actually heard personal trainers warning people in their mid-twenties that regular hydration is a basic necessity. If I were more insecure, I’d wonder if I had been doing the wrong thing all these years, not drinking until the end of my exercise except at the height of summer. As things are, I suppose I’ll muddle along the same as ever. I mean, silly me – I’ve always maintained that eating or drinking very much during exercise only leads to cramps, because the body isn’t used to digesting and exercising at the same time.

What’s happened to exercise, I suppose, is that it has become popular, and overwhelmed by consumerism. But, to my jaundiced eye, people respond to the consumerism because it feeds their self-importance. Just hitting the pavement or the gym would lack glamour, and put them face to face with what they consider tedium.

So, instead, they surround their exercise with minute details of accessories and ritual. Just as some people seem incapable of hoisting a dumb bell with grunts and twisted tormented faces that make you think that the Spanish Inquisition has come to town (all unexpected), they are incapable of doing without their accessories and constantly fiddling with them.

It all seems to me a way of injecting drama into what would otherwise be dull routine (I must drink, or I will collapse!), and it all makes me, for whom exercise is a kind of meditation, feel simple and unimaginative.

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