Back on the treadmill. Again.

Gym’s back, and that makes me a happy man. I have missed the gym. More so during this lockdown than the last. The last one was a breeze compared to what we’ve had since December; it was light and warm and quiet and, provided you stuck to the rules, the outside was the best place to be – instead we have had a cold, cold winter and the gym has been one of the few lights at the end of the tunnel. If God existed I would invite Him to bless the gym, but then He doesn’t pay my membership and they’re not even handing out towels at the moment, so a fat lot of good a blessing would do anyone. It doesn’t matter, like I said – the gym is very much back in action, and, like I also said – that makes me a happy man.

Over the last four months I have occasionally been drawn past my gym during a run. My hips and knees have taken another big hit from all that concrete and more than once I hoped I might dash past the front doors to find they had taken a stand against the government and had opened up just for my benefit. They could have got away with it too; I could have been discreet and I would have had no particular problem with an empty gym available purely for me, it’s not like I’m Mr Sociable when it comes to strenuous exercise. Sadly, they never were, and so I would jog on, literally, feet complaining, legs joining in painful harmony. I suppose I could have carried on into the summer with the running and the squatting and resistance bands which now don’t seem to offer quite as much resistance as they once did – but the gym has saved me from that, happily.

I went back yesterday, around lunchtime, estimating that the really keen bunnies would already have done their stint (or rather their first stint) of the day and were now tucking into a skinny decaf oat milk latte and a lively pomegranate salad outside their preferred organic, vegan, sustainable cafe, swapping stories with other similar minded chums: chums who will all live a lot longer than I will; and that includes all those who have already lived longer than I have. I bear them no resentment because they have chosen a path of health and fitness along which to thread their lives, whereas I exercise almost entirely in the hope that by magic it will reverse all the other good services that I consistently fail to offer my body and mind (there is no such magic, I know). It was a shrewd call, my timing, as the place was quiet enough for me to find something to do in peace and quiet and to realise that it felt like I had last been there, well, the day before yesterday.

They’ve done some subtle bits of rearranging, my gym. Nothing too mind blowing but they have at least put a bit of thought into it and, even better, of the machines that can be used all of them seem to work (you may not think of this being a miracle but if it isn’t then it’s certainly better than it was). And there are the same faces. Again. Nobody seems to have ballooned up quite so horrifically this time but you can see that some have made an extra effort to stay super sharp over lockdown – notably a couple of unnecessarily muscular men (as in, what on earth do you need that muscle there for?) wearing vests that looked as if they had been fashioned from the remnants of particularly skimpy G-String. Some come to sweat, others to flaunt; the gym is where the body beautiful create their own wordless hierarchy.

As for the wordy one, well I wonder how much gym talk is small, how much polite and how much some odd mix of desperation and loneliness. I’m not sure how long I could sustain a conversation with a stranger about our respective levels of fitness (it would help if I knew where my glutes were, I’m sure) but I doubt it would be of much interest for either of us beyond about five minutes, if we even managed that far, and yet the moment gyms open again it seems like more than enough people just want to talk, not exercise. Maybe they’re just normal. Perhaps I’m just being envious, perhaps I’m not really going to the gym to exercise but instead I just want to find a new friend; but if that was the case then I have sorely wasted the last nine years as a member of this one. In the end I’m just happy that the gym is accessible again and in my own way I have also missed everyone who goes there pretty much equally, partly because I haven’t really got a clue who any of them are. They could be spies, they could be drug dealers, they could be anything. It doesn’t make all that much difference to me, as long as they don’t come between me and my sweat.

G B Hewitt. 13.04.2021

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