The Gym

Posted on May 27, 2021


Life in the Boomer Lane has been going to the gym faithfully for a long time. She joined her first gym just about 48 years ago. When she came home and showed Then Husband her shiny new gym membership card, his response was “Gyms make money from people like you.” Perplexed, she asked him to explain. He said that gyms counted on people joining but then not using their membership. LBL decided in that moment to prove him wrong. Almost five decades and five gyms later, she is still proving him wrong every single time she walks through the gym doors.

When the gym closed because of COVID, LBL did not take long walks through the neighborhood as a substitution. She loves to walk but has never been a fan of walking without a destination. She did not run out and buy a Peloton. The terminally chipper and fit on-screen instructors intimidate her. She did not exercise in front of her TV or quietly on her living room floor. At home, phone calls distract her. An ant in the pantry distracts her. Thinking that the clothes in the dryer might be wrinkling distracts her. The result was that she simply waited, in some kind of suspended animation, for the gym to re-open.

And re-open, it did, at a time when the general population was still staying mostly at home and following the events of the virus 24/7 on any news source they could find. The numbers continued to be alarming. The vaccine was still in the trial phase. People were still hoarding and sanitizing food, in spite of mounting evidence that neither action was necessary. The gym re-opened, accompanied by long emails detailing the new rules that would be in force.

LBL waited maybe a week or two make sure there were no headlines that said “Gyms Found To Be A Cesspool of COVID!” The headline didn’t materialize. She outfitted herself in clothing suitable for work in an Ebola lab, drove to the gym, and got in line. At the door, masks were checked, temperatures were taken and questions were asked. LBL sanitized all machines before using, and, if anyone came into the small area where the machines were, she went to another area of the gym to work out. It became a game to see how far away from people she could be. The answer was really far away. The time she spent in the gym that first day validated her status as a human being in a world in which she was familiar.

After she got her vaccines, she ditched the workout gloves and was willing to stay in the same part of the gym with another human, but as far away as possible. When the numbers started going down, she went from long sleeves to 3/4 sleeves. Now, she wears crop pants and short sleeved tops. Now, she is willing to work out closer to people (but not next to). She still continues to go straight home after the gym and shower, washes all of her gym clothes, and sanitizes her cell and Kindle.

This week, the gym stopped taking people’s temperatures when they walked in. The “Masks Must Be Worn While in the Gym” sign was gone. LBL still goes at a time when there are far fewer people in the gym. She tries to stay away from people who are there but more like 10 feet away instead of 50 feet.

After 48 years of disliking the gym, she has come to love it. She suspects that, when (hopefully) COVID takes its place beside the flu as an annual nuisance, she may start to dislike it again. People always ask her how she can be so devoted to the gym when she doesn’t like to work out. She always says that she is proving someone wrong. But that is only part of the truth. The rest of the truth is that as a child and an adolescent, she couldn’t run fast or throw accurately. She couldn’t swim or balance well on a bike. With the exception of bowling and ping pong (no running or catching or swimming or balancing involved) she was inept at virtually every sport she ever tried. But the gym is an equal opportunity playing field. All are welcome, and the only people one competes with is oneself.

People erroneously assume that LBL is athletic because she goes to the gym and because she looks fit. Sometimes, she allows them that misconception. She allows herself to be what she could never be in all the years of her youth: someone whose body could actually do things like run and jump and catch and throw and balance. She will also be eternally grateful to Then Husband for his offhand remark. LBL is absolutely sure he has forgotten the words he said to her that day. But every single day she is in the gym, she remembers the words and she mentally says to him, “I’m still here.”

Posted in: working out