First of all, gyms are smelly. They smell like mildew and Axe body spray — the worst combination of sweet and sour this side of Chinese fast food. Also, you have to let other people see you naked. That is very unpleasant and is reminiscent of the high school locker room, where someone is always going to get made fun of for not changing underpants or is going to smell all through math because he was afraid to take showers with other guys.
But, more importantly, it is unnatural for people to like machines. The gym is, in fact, a series of contrived situations in which you use different contraptions to do what you should be able to do all by yourself. You’re not supposed to ride a bike just to watch television while listening to music. You’re not supposed to walk without going anywhere. You’re not supposed to lift things just to prove you have money. This is why every time someone talks about the gym, someone else always feels guilty.
The guilty party understands that these activities are corrupting of what it means to be a social animal and, further, that they denature us as humans.
That is why we find on K Street, in Washington, DC, a physical fitness complex that lets you look in at everybody on their exercise bikes, just as they look out at you. It is set there as a sobering reminder of the corrupting influence of lucre on our natural political order, and, further, the humbling reality of our dependence upon the contrivances of government to organize ourselves socially.
Moreover, it is humiliating for us to have to take classes to arrive at something our ancestors were able to do by beating peasants, building pyramids, or batting about the heads of goats with sticks. Spin? SPIN! SPIN?!? How could we have turned a word of such childlike wonder into an activity of voluntary soulless destruction?
Running, on the other hand, is how we connect with our forbears. It reminds us of our heritage and speaks to the Apollonian order of civilization. There is something grand about running. Natural. Mythical. Sublime.
I am not insensitive to the fact, of course, that we both have within our midst a fair number of people who regularly participate in marathons and thus must seriously occupy themselves with training. And, just as I’d like their respect for and attention to my serious television-watching hobby, I believe they are owed the same.
In short, then, here are a few DOs and DON’Ts of talking about fitness:
- Use the word ‘spin’.
- Use the word Nautilus or Soloflex.
- Use the word ‘fitness’ unless it is used as a neologism for discussing your toddler’s temperament.
- Talk about going to a ‘fitness class’ (school, yuck!).
- Discuss yoga, unless it is a way to enter into a discussion about chicks.
- Mention your personal trainer — unless you are Gilbert Arenas.
- Mention self-deprecatingly how long it’s been since you’ve been to the gym (people can always tell).
- Talk about how often you go to the gym.
- Talk about your gym membership.
- Post status updates about when you are going to or coming back from the gym.
- Discuss the number of push-ups, laps, presses, etc., that you have or can do.
- Discuss bike-riding: there’s always someone who doesn’t know how to ride a bike and will feel bad.
- Request support for any amateur or professional sports activity in which you will imminently be taking part.
- Set up a time to meet someone else at the gym (unless you have to mention the word ‘fitness,’ ‘spin’ or ‘class’).
- Talk about running, unless you have to enter into the specifics of your running times.
- Talk about those times you played pick-up, full-court basketball with people who were from ten to twenty years younger than you, and how you thought you were going to die after roughly ten minutes.
I think that we can all agree that these are reasonable guidelines that embrace what is beautiful about other people and seek to extract it from the mire of corruption.