Putrid Modern Hell #12

by HST UK on June 21, 2011

Gym Rat

“I prefer to work out alone. It enables me to concentrate on the lessons
that the Iron has for me. Learning about what you’re made of is always
time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had
taught me how to live.”

– Henry Rollins

A few years back I went to see Henry Rollins on his spoken word tour at the UEA. He regaled his audience with anecdotes for the best part of three hours, never pausing, never tiring, never stalling, and then as the performance finished he reached down and picked up a litre bottle of water and downed it in one. Then he slammed the bottle down and walked off the stage to rapturous applause. I was in awe; I had witnessed a man that I idolized for many years through his uncompromising take on existence, his pursuit of knowledge and his appetite for creating an almost Nietzschean sense of self.

Reading Rollins in my late teens galvanized my own sense of resolve. I was a petulant young man, not sure what I was doing or where I was heading before discovering punk rock, Black Flag and then Hank himself. I lacked self-discipline, but I think the seeds of betterment were initially planted when I absorbed his blunt prose. It is only now, that I realize that finally Rollins words have begun to strike a chord, and the green shoots are becoming visible. Reward comes through pain, and bloody hard graft. Rollins’s works often mentioned weight lifting and putting the body through a rigorous exercise routine. The adage that iron forges iron seemed to ring true.

I have never been fitter then I am now, but I know I can improve. I want to complete a Triathlon; I want to thrash it out for a few rounds in an Amateur Mixed Martial Arts fight. I want to reach black belt grade in a traditional Martial Art. After years of having ideas beyond my station, I now believe I have achievements that I can reach; besides, distracting myself by keeping fit helps me to forget all my other neurosis and inadequacies.

To supplement my training I have joined a Gym, one of those commercial ones, part of a National franchise. Prior to joining the Gym, in terms of cardiovascular fitness I worked out alone by lifting barbells, doing a few press-ups and riding on a cheap looking grey exercise bike that I brought from Tesco. I had no real plan, and awareness as to how I should be working my body, what muscle groups I should be focussing on. Most of my stamina has come about by accident, from working a job – where I walk for hours and as a bi-product of my Martial Arts training.

I must confess my initial thoughts about life inside a Gym were negative. I expected tight arsed snooty chicks in yoga pants, panting Middle Age brutes working off their spare tires and HGH monsters roided to the gills. Instead it’s actually quite a chill place, with a variety of people from all walks of life getting sweaty together. The facilities of the gym are superb; it has a lovely pool with sauna and steam room, and outside a heated pool and sauna. Then there are the state of the art tennis, squash and badminton courts which are just divine.

For the time being I’m not worried about those facilities, because they’d only get in the way of me attempting to recreate the lab scenes from 50 Cent’s ‘In Da Club’ music video. Pumping my arms, keeping a neutral spine, and becoming somewhat perplexed by the simplicity of the strange welded contraptions. I began to feel muscles I’ve never felt before. The man inside me was getting hard.

My workout routine is quite basic, but it suits me because I’m a simple kind of man. I start off with a gentle jog on the treadmill, after stretching. I then move on to the weight machines, beginning with thirty reps, then I do 15 crunches on this weird dome shaped device, then I go back on another weight machine, so if I did some ‘lat pull downs’ afterwards I’d move on to the seated leg press. To finish the routine I sweat everything out with a solid twenty minute run on the treadmill. At the moment I’m covering about 2.6km in that time.

The strange thing is that I haven’t really interacted much with my fellow Gym goers. I might smile or nod to somebody and they acknowledge me in return, but everyone seems like they don’t want to be disturbed. What unnerved me as a ‘Gym noob’ is when you look around and notice how everyone else knows exactly what they were doing, where as I crept around hoping not to fuck up. How embarrassing it might have been if my technique was lacking or I couldn’t manage to adjust the seat properly on a weight machine?

-RJW

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