Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Spinning Is For Crazy People

I hereby withdraw everything I wrote about Zumba. (Inauthentic re-creation of the joy of dance; robs us of both discipline and the state of non-disciplined flow; etc. etc.) Because I just did spinning for the first time. Spinning makes Zumba look like a Grateful Dead show, as far as authentic expression of joyful movement.

Does anybody actually enjoy being told to visualize that they're making a right turn on an imaginary bicycle (well, a stationary bicycle, but its motion is imaginary)? I felt like I was in crazy-person-land. Merely by going to the gym, I'm conceding a nice chunk of my humanity: I'm acknowledging that I'm so far away from the life the human body was meant to live that I am going to put on special clothes, pay money to repeatedly lift heavy objects, get on a machine that makes me run but doesn't let me go anywhere, and maybe even imagine making a right turn on my imaginary bicycle.

I do go to the gym, though, and I even sort of enjoy it. It's my place to simultaneously zone out and tune in; I don't follow a punishing routine; I feel fantastic afterward. When I first started going, I was on guard for being hit on by men--I'd imagined that it would be one massive meat market, full of grunting men ogling women in purposefully revealing Spandex unitards. And while I've occasionally been approached at the gym by men, that's far from my usual experience there. (Why do men think that a nifty way to hit on a woman at a gym is to correct her form? Is this related to the insult-her-then-build-her-up routine in the Player's Handbook?) I can do my workout in peace, slipping in and out of the shared, sweaty space with nary a peep to the people lifting around me. I don't talk to anyone, male or female. And they don't talk to me.

Today, for the first time, that began to seem, well, weird. I don't know if it was going on a fake bike ride with a bunch of strangers or what, but suddenly I started to feel sort of antisocial for sharing space with these people, doing these intimate things eighteen inches away from them, and having absolutely no clue with whom I was sharing that space. The original gymnasiums in ancient Greece were places of not only physical exertion, but intellectual exercise--formal education actually took place in the gymnasium, in addition to sports training. I know a lot of people would be disgusted at the thought, but I sort of wish that we could make a return to that. There's a lack of options for adults to just hang out in public without paying a lot of money or screaming at the top of their lungs (a bar that learns that not all customers like the music at top decibel, that's my bar). When you're exercising, there's a focus point; when the conversation wanes, you can quietly retreat into your chest flys, or talk about them if you're grasping for small talk. (Maybe that's what the dudes who correct my form are after.) A vague sort of intimacy can develop when you're working toward a common but highly individualized goal--my boyfriend and I began as running partners, not partner-partners.

Group sports seem to be the immediate antidote to all this. But, see, I hate group sports--maybe it's leftover gym-class phobias of fifth-grade jock boys yelling YOU CAN'T BE AFRAID OF THE BALL when I'd run away from the kickball, not toward it, but the thought of other people depending on my physical prowess in order to have a good time terrifies me. Group sports introduce a whole other dynamic of community--one that I theoretically welcome, but in practice dread. I'm happy doing my individual activities, and I will always love the times when I'm wholly focused on nothing but my body mechanics. If we had more shared spaces maybe the idea of social gyms wouldn't seem as appealing to me. Maybe I just need to go to parks more.

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