Not having run since Christmas Eve, I was really looking forward to getting back into my routine today. My little affair with snowshoeing was a nice substitute, but I longed to get back to my true love. I packed my gym bag this morning, unsure whether I would run at lunch with the gang, or run at the gym. After driving to work and seeing the snow banks on the sides of the roads, and no shoulder (or as I like to think of as my “emergency exit”), I decided it would be safer to run at the gym. Naturally this meant I had to catch some grief from Todd, who thought I was maybe being just a wee bit overly cautious. I couldn’t argue his point, but he knew he couldn’t change my mind. The problem with going to the gym after work is that I have an hour and a half commute, which adds up to an hour and a half of time I can spend talking myself out of going to the gym. Fortunately I kind of spaced out going past my exit, so at that point I was committed to working out.
At 5:30 at night, right after work, the gym is usually packed. Music is pumping, kids are wildly hopping around the playroom, treadmills are grinding furiously, and there is a thick fog of sweat hanging in the air. Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a lot less activity in this once-bustling timeslot. Today, I assume people are on Christmas vacation. Did they come earlier? Did they run outside instead? My best guess is that they are simply in “holiday mode”, their “free week”, and they’ll get right back on track next week. Amateurs.
I used to hate it when the gym was packed, because I was always afraid I wouldn’t get a treadmill or would see someone I know. Nowadays, the only thing I don’t like about a busy gym is the line to the toilet. The reality is even when the gym is packed there’s always a treadmill open, and if I don’t make eye contact with anyone, I won’t bump into anyone I know. And if I do…well, I can always outrun them! In truth, a packed gym is energizing. I feel that you can feed off the other runners, similar to running in a club or a race. I can subtly pick up different running techniques, but more often, I can make fun of people endlessly and write about them in my blog. Today unfortunately, the gym was bare. At 5:30, only two people occupied treadmills in a row of approximately 30. Each of them carried on a very sluggish jog. I almost felt bad for them, having to run next to me now. After just a couple minutes of me running, both of them had finished. When the man closest to me stopped running, he completed a lengthy series of stretches, completely disproportionate to the amount of running he had just finished. To watch him stretch you would have thought he just completed an ultra-marathon.
Once the two joggers exited their treadmills, I was all alone in a sea of motionless equipment. I looked around for more inspiration, and the only activity in the whole gym was coming from the weightlifting corner of the building. In that corner, all the muscle-heads congregated. Each of them wore the standard tank top, Adidas swishy pants, and a giant tattoo covering their shoulder. It was like they each grew out of the same mold. Some of them leaned against the equipment, some posed and chatted on their cell phones, but not one of them, from my vantage point, lifted a piece of equipment. Well, I guess I’m the only one working here tonight. I had decided earlier that tonight was all about speed, with my upcoming 5k race this weekend. So, I continuously pushed the treadmill up higher and sailed at a 7:54 pace, my treadmill pounding and echoing throughout the gym. A young couple was receiving a tour of the facility. I’d like to think the tour guide was saying something like, “These treadmills hold up nicely at sustained high speeds, perfect for athletic hardcore distance runners like that lady over there, in the bright pink shirt, sweating across three treadmills”. Ok, I hope he didn’t say that last part. The reality is I should probably enjoy the solitude, because after next week all the New Year’s resolutions will kick in, and once again the place will be hopping with a new batch of the Guilt-Stricken and the Bloated. Ah… new victims. I’ll be waiting! J