Communal exercising is something that I haven’t ever really enjoyed. When I was a teenager, I spent some of my hard earned money on a membership to the now defunct Spa Fitness Center. I remember liking the gym. My cheerleader friend and I went there regularly and that was fun, but it was more about being there and being seen by the cool people at school. I remember the time we saw Joella Hall there. She wasn’t even wearing any makeup and she was in an old t-shirt and shorts. I remember being appalled that she would even show her face at the gym looking like that.
Whatever is in any way beautiful hath its source of beauty in itself, and is complete in itself; praise forms no part of it. So it is none the worse nor the better for being praised. Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121 AD – 180 AD), Meditations
Since I’ve become an adult, I’ve pretty much only wanted to exercise alone. It’s about exercise for me, not about looking at people. I don’t have any cute little exercise outfits to show off my assets. I pretty much wear an old t-shirt and shorts. In the summer, I mix it up a little and wear a tank top instead. I never wear makeup. I hate the gym. I don’t want people to look at me and I don’t want to look at them. Leave me alone so I can get done and out of there.
Why do strong arms fatigue themselves with frivolous dumbbells? To dig a vineyard is worthier exercise for men. Marcus Valerius Martialis (40 AD – 103 AD)
There must be something to communal exercise, though, because of all the classes that they have. People will sit in groups and ride exercise bikes together in a class. It’s nothing that you couldn’t do alone. People will do aerobics in a class together. You could do that at home for free just by watching ESPN or Lifetime at the right time. There must be something that I’m missing by not exercising in a group.
Maybe it’s like meditating in a group. Maybe there is a special energy there that connects people when they are in the moment. When you are really exercising, you are really in the moment. There’s really no other place you can be. I remember watching a movie from the sixties about a hippie that got drafted into the military. He didn’t want to go, but he didn’t want to go to jail either. He would get through basic training by putting his mind on pleasant memories with his hippie chick. All the other army guys wanted to know why he was able to stay so calm and happy during the long and grueling hikes, so he told them. All the draftees were imagining their happy place by the end of the movie. The drill sergeant would have nothing to do with that and he ended up kicking the hippie out of the army.
Exercise alone provides psychological and physical benefits. However, if you also adopt a strategy that engages your mind while you exercise, you can get a whole host of psychological benefits fairly quickly. James Rippe, M.D.
That movie was total crap. When you are working that hard, you can’t focus on anything but your feet and moving them one more step and then another step. When your body is being worked that hard, you can only be right there, with your body. All thoughts of the flowing yellow hair of hippie chicks are expelled by your body calling for attention. Maybe that’s why I want to be alone. I want to concentrate on my body and finish up. Any distractions make it worse for me. Maybe that’s why they want to exercise in a group. Any distractions make it better for them. I don’t know, but the image of that hippie chick is doing nothing for me.