Thursday, June 23, 2016

talk the walk...

(Image via
This morning began as all my weekday mornings do: at the gym. Gymming is a throwback habit of mine from the 80’s that started because I always felt fat (who didn’t feel fat in those high-cut undies and cozzies?) So, back then I went for the sake of my body. Now, with a chemical called “peri-menopause” coursing through my veins, I need to go to the gym to rectify what can only be termed “my rapidly unravelling brain.” Of course, when I tell people that "nowadays I gym more for my head”, I can read their minds: “Do it for your buuuuuummm!”

Now, I know that lots of people look down on gyms and gymming people. I know that I’m “supposed” to prefer exercising outdoors (because it’s much more, um, noble and, um, outdoorsy and, um, connected-to-nature-ish) but I, for one, love the gym. I fucking love it. One of the reasons I like the gym is that it is so neatly compartmentalised. You don’t go to the gym and “accidentally” end up exercising. You go there to exercise and then you go home, or you go to work. And then you either do home-stuff or work-stuff and you don’t have to clutter your brain with thoughts of exercise and you can fully apply your mind to other exciting pursuits. Later, if you like, you can walk the dogs with no thought of exercise at all because you already did your exercise and you can walk as slowly or quickly as you like without bothering about things like “heart-rate”, “calories burnt” or “personal best”.

Just to clarify, it’s not that I dislike being outdoors. I love it in fact. It’s just that I feel the outdoors is too nice a place to spoil with blood, sweat and tears. For me, the outdoors is purely a place where I can lose myself in the sounds of birds tweeting and feel the breeze upon my un-sweaty skin. It’s a place where I could ride a bicycle in a white frock down a country lane (think: most movies set in Tuscany/Provence) and where I can use phrases like “just look at those sweet lambs gambolling”.

My thing with the outdoors is somewhat inherited. Exactly half my family are any-kind-of-weather outdoorsy types who like nothing more than doing almost anything outdoors (although I must add, they do seem to have a weird preference for being outdoors in unreasonably hot weather.) The other half of my family, of which I am one, are fair-weather outdoorsy types. We like doing things like lying on the grass reading a book, taking a stroll in a leafy forest or perhaps doing a spot of beach yoga. Needless to say, sweating doesn’t typically come into it.

But I digress, back to the gym. As you know (if not from me, then surely from your own experience), gyms are funny places. One of the most funny things about gyms is what I call “the gym-walk”. I’ll explain.

A gym-walk is a walk that is mostly reserve for the gym only. Sometimes, you will see guys doing their gym-walk outside of the gym, but then they will most likely be on the beach or be doing some other kind of sporty thing. Both girls and guys have gym-walks but they are characterised differently. Girls will hardly ever use their gym-walk outside of the gym, unless they are walking alone and suddenly feel threatened. But then they will use the men’s gym-walk and not the women’s gym-walk.

Women’s gym-walks tend to lengthen their necks, which calls for raising your chin slightly and pulling your shoulders down. Women’s gym-walks aim to reduce any Quasimodo-like shoulder hunching, which means you have to pull your shoulders back, but not too back that it looks like you’re showing off your boobs. Women’s gym-walks are also inclined to resemble a sprinting sandpiper rather than a striding cowboy. Many women have plenty of swag but they tend to speed it up – like those old fashioned silent movies – because as you know, women always do things at pace because they have places to go and shit to do and they mostly rush their workouts.

Men’s gym-walks are different and for some bizarre reason, I’ve adopted the official men’s gym-walk rather than the official woman’s gym-walk. I attribute this to trying to look like I belong in the free-weights section. It’s taken me years to perfect and I have to say that it often fucks out. It looks something like this.

I warm up my gym-walk between my car and the gym entrance. This involves a kind of bouncy walk (you know, the kind where it looks like you’ve strained you Achilles, or your heels are hurt and you don’t want to put them on the ground. BTW, I have a friend who walk s like this all the time.) This walk is important to establish the impression that you are “ready to do this shit and then rule the world”.

There is a brief period when I swipe my card where I kind of suck in my tummy and puff out my shoulders a bit – just to set the tone. But by the time I hit the cardio area, I’m in full-on gym-walk mode. Working from the top down, this involves several things. To begin with, my head is pulled slightly back, as though I’ve just smelt something unsavoury. This automatically makes my neck look thick, like a boxer or wrestler, and gives off the vibe that I’m not to be messed with. My shoulders are slightly hunched forward, as though I’m just about to wrestle a heavy, but rather short bear. This sends a message of “possession”, as in “this is my machine, back off”. It’s different to the puffed out shoulder look because it implies humbleness, suggesting, “I’m not full of myself, I’m just here to do my shit”.

Hunching my shoulders is further enabled by the fact that I’m trying to simultaneously pull in my gut and pull in my bum – which means that all that junk gets displaced and is repositioned in my shoulders. My legs are responsible for striding out purposefully - no hesitation is permitted on my way to the “machines” – which is the non-verbal equivalent of saying “there’s just no stopping me”. Once I start training, my gym-walk is supported by various noises and facial expressions. These involve devil-may-care face-scrunching, tongue-out panting, and, on occasion, grunting or unintentional loud whistling as air is forcefully expelled from my lungs.

The irony behind my gym-walk is that it pretty much fucks out the minute I start running on the treadmill. Here, the word “running” is to be interpreted in very elastic terms because I’m not sure that you could call what I do on the treadmill “running”. Its more a short-stride-shuffle, seasoned with a touch of imminent- wipeout. To make matters worse, I often do “rapper hands” as I run – to look tough, you understand – even though I am actually listening to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” (which, by the way, is perfect in terms of BPM if you’re wanting to run at a speed of 10 minute per km). Another reason my gym-walk fucks out on the treadmill is that I’m always very busy rearranging myself. I have to manage my pants so that they don’t slip down and my top so that it doesn’t slip up. Actually, I’m thinking of inventing some kind of braces for gym tops. They would look almost exactly like men’s braces but they would be shorter and worn upside-down. The two front straps could fasten to the front of your gym top and the singular strappy bit could go under your crotch and fasten to the middle-back of your shirt. I suppose this is why leotards were invented but fuck knows, I’m never wearing one of those again.

Anyway, next time you’re at the gym, look at everyone’s gym-walks and then glance at the mirror and look at your own. Heaven knows, mine makes me laugh.

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