Up in the gym just working on my fitness

After several years of “two-a-day” workouts and borderline obsessive activity, I have been able to ease on the pedal and find some moderation regarding my activity. Now, I try to listen to my body when it comes to overexerting myself, and mercifully, I have found a healthy balance regarding activity and eating.

During my “two-a-day” phase, I would often find myself at the local gym before work. The one thing that helped me stay at the gym was going at a time when others weren’t present. Oftentimes, people avoid the gym because they don’t want to be judged by others. They also don’t want to unfairly compare themselves to the progress or physical characteristics of others.

The gym is a little too intense at 6 or 7pm, but I found that lunch time or the crack of dawn is the perfect time for me. In fact, it’s where my phrase “Make Routines, Not Resolutions” comes from. Go to a gym on January 2 and you’ll be waiting to get near the equipment. Come back around February 12th and the same machines are collecting dust.

I’ve written about group activities in regard to fitness, and my friend Alexis is notorious for convincing me to sign up for classes with her. There was the step class in which a female turned to me and said, “It’s not THAT hard,” rolling her eyes while i stumbled to find a rhythm.

Then there was an introductory yoga class where someone repeatedly farted in my face, which was deadly when combined with a hot, sweaty room.

Clearly, it is safe to say that I haven’t had the best of luck when I add others into my workout mix.

However, I have had plenty of success with spinning. I love the independent nature of pushing yourself in spite of what the other participants are doing, as well as the high energy music that accompanies the class.

After making spinning a regular part of my weekend routine, Alexis wanted to go to an evening class. We signed up, not knowing the instructor and posted up beside one another.

As we set up our bikes, the instructor arrived. I had seen him before. He always seemed to be at the gym, not unlike when the YMCA doubled as a halfway house.

Normally, he’d already be deep in the morning workout game by the time I arrived, so if he was still there at 7pm, this man clearly loved him some fitness.

I’m no Mel Gibson at a traffic stop, but the man was racially nondescript. I couldn’t tell if he was black, white, or Creole or Scandinavian. None of that mattered as much as the fact that he sounded like James Earl Jones chewing on glass and gravel. Similar to Alabama strength & conditioning coach Scott Cochran, you couldn’t tell me he wasn’t black on the inside.

Easily in his late 60’s, he remained fit in a way that I will never attain, a muscular frame clad in terrifyingly inappropriate spandex.

As the class began, his first words sent a chill through my spine.

“Get ready. We go for one hour. We don’t play no music. We don’t take no breaks. Let’s get focused.”

“Get ready. We go for one hour. We don’t play no music. We don’t take no breaks. Let’s get focused.”

“What?,” I said, looking at Alexis.

Five minutes in, I was already puddle of sweat, exhausted from the pace. Normally, we would ease into the ride. Not today.

“I think I made a huge mistake,” Alexis said.

The instructor, kept speaking, his loud, booming voice filling the otherwise silent room, a weird mix of Richard Simmons mixed with Bob Knight.

“What y’all here for?”

He jumped off the bike and began pacing the room.

“Some of y’all been working on the same baby fat for about ten, fifteen years now. You in this class and you ain’t working hard enough. All y’all got excuses. Well let me tell you something. It’s not baby fat, it’s just FAT baby! Now let’s work it out!”

He walked over to Alexis’ bike, read the stats on her odometer, and took the liberty of turning up the gears of her and other attendees, increasing the resistance. I had never seen that before. I didn’t know he could do that.

“Give it a little more! Come on! Love your body!”

He then turned to my odometer and stared me down.

“You gon’ let her beat you?”

I didn’t know how to reply.

“If you let her beat you, you better buy her dinner!”

“Well actually, I was planning on buying her—“

“No talking!” he said, interrupting and returning to his seat.

I watched the clock carefully as the hour came to a close.

Normally, the instructor would reserve the final five minutes for a “cool down,” which consists of stretching and gradual heart rate reduction. The instructor may thank you for working hard, or ask if anyone has questions on improving their form.

Not today.

At the end of the class, the instructor simply hopped off his bike while the pedals still rotating at full speed.

“We’re done,” he said.

With that, he simply walked out, making his way to the locker room as the room sighed in relief.

I watched as people crawled out of the room, and some women cried. I’ll let you guess which category I fell into.

I looked at Alexis and shook my head.

“I’m buying you dinner tonight,” she said.

A few weeks later, the instructor approached me in the locker room as I began to change.

“Where have you been?,” he said.

I lied and told him that I was nursing an injury. The truth was that I had been hiding out witness protection style at my workplace gym, in hopes of avoiding him.

“I got classes on Saturday, too.”

“Oh, cool. I will have to check it out sometime,” knowing good and hell well that I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I then told him that I only attended that particular gym during my work week, and that I preferred my home gym on the weekends.

“Oh, I see,” he said, before grunting dismissively, calling BS on my story.

“You man-made or are you bitch-made?”

“Excuse me?,” I said, in disbelief.

The sun was barely up. I hadn’t had coffee. And who is this aggressive at Egg McMuffin hour?

“I said, ‘Son, are you man-made or are you bitch-made?’,” as he crouched down low like a sumo wrestler, flexing his muscles while I stood there, bare from the bottom like Donald Duck.

“I’m someone who’s not coming to this gym on a Saturday.”

“Hmmm..”, he uttered, backing down.

“I notice you didn’t answer my first question, though.”

Some businessmen pay handsomely for that kind of rough treatment.

I have to admit, to this day, when I am on the elliptical and he passes by, I begin to pedal a little harder. It’s a testament to him. I wish I could love working out half as much as him, or half as much as Charlie Sheen loves a mix of Twitter, hookers and blow.

I am fully aware of what motivates me to get up and hit the gym on the regular. Aside from the judgment, shame and humiliation of an octogenarian, what’s pushing you to keep going?

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