Saturday, January 10, 2009

Nadine vs. the Buff Ones

I went to the gym yesterday. In the middle of the afternoon. No one else had the same idea, so it was pretty empty. Note to self: Quit day job and go to gym midday all the time.

So I'll rewind a few days....

I'm waiting for my orientation. Already in gym clothes, I'm trying not to pace or look awkward as I stand by the double-door entrance. I feel dumb. I read and then reread the rules on the wall. And fidget.

A guy walks by me, the sort of fellow who is very proud of the bulging muscles on his otherwise scrawny frame. He asks me if I work there. I say no. Five minutes later, he asks again. It's either the weakest pick-up attempt in history, or he's suffering from muscles-trump-brain syndrome. I smile and say no. Again.

I'm still waiting. Apparently showing up 10 minutes early for an appointment here is not a good idea. Someone else is now waiting with me. He's easily 300 pounds, dressed in a full suit, a black trench coat dramatically draped over his shoulders. We're suddenly chatting about casinos in Vegas. I've never been to Vegas. A few exchanges in, I realize I'm being too charming again. Shoot. I try to be slightly less interested. Or at least like an interested-but-not-available girl. I hate the word "available."

I haven't worked out with men since.... ever. I don't count public school. High school gym class wasn't coed, I went to Exclusively Women's (four times in one year!) at Guelph, and most exercise since has been on my own, jogging down the street or doing Winsor Pilates on my living room floor. (Who wouldn't want a body like Danny Glover's? Infomercials are amazing.)

So I'm intimidated. There are a lot of grunting sweaty guys at this place. I don't grunt. Nor am I super-comfortable around people I assume are, A, extremely fit and judgmental of those who aren't, and, B, threatening to watch me work out. Or look at me in general when I'm wearing yoga pants. So yes, I'm judgmental too. It's Pride and Prejudice in sneakers.

There's a guy finishing up his workout. Let's call him Stults. Mostly because he looks like the shaggy-haired long-lost brother of these two:

Geoff and George Stults.
Brothers in real life and on 7th Heaven.

I'm tempted to avoid him, mostly because I don't know how to cope with his coolness. Apparently going to a coed gym by myself brings out my inner insecure 16-year-old. Who knew there were men in my neighborhood outside of the old-Greek-man demographic?! He's more intimidating than the typical beefhead, as I can tell he knows how to form a complete sentence. And he probably wouldn't need to be told twice that I'm not a gym employee.

He heads in my direction. He says hello. He asks me who I'm waiting for, engages in small talk and wishes me luck. Sigh. Maybe I'll love this gym after all. The orientation jock (I'll call him OJ) shows up and Stults waves goodbye as he heads for the change room. (Lesson: Buff does not equal snob. Who knew?)

So I get my tour, mostly a quick rundown of the rules of the place. OJ assumes that I know what I'm doing here. Maybe showing up in New Balances is duping everyone into thinking I'm some super-athlete just changing gyms. I mention that I want to train for a 5k (the more I say it, the more real it will have to become). He looks at me. And then he really looks at me, that up-and-down weirdness last used by drunk men at the Benicio Del Toro party. And then he says, "You'll probably be running 10 to 20k by the summer."

Here's a quick lesson for my male readers:

I understand that you're visual. I won't hold this against you. Women are visual too, but we have superior peripheral vision, so we don't get caught as often. So I'll ignore the whole checked-out discomfort and move on (for now)....

Looks can be deceiving. Just because I'm not a 300+ pounder in a suit doesn't mean I'm physically fit. My broad shoulders are my skeleton, not my muscles. My thinness is both genetic and diet-related (although thanks to the Thanksgiving-through-Christmas bingeing, it's not as thin as it once was. And I'm a little insecure about it. So don't stare, okay?) and not indicative of my personal fitness level. So when I ask you to help me figure out some of the machines, it won't be a sad flirtation strategy. It will be because I'm clueless. Understood? If you're going to look, please don't make conclusions based on what you see. And I won't do it to you.

Twenty minutes later, I'm running on the treadmill, motivated by the woman running beside me. And I can run longer and harder than my outdoor-pre-cold-weather attempts. Apparently treadmills are more comfortable on the joints than sidewalks and parked-car-cluttered streets.

Maybe I will make that 10k after all....


Karen said...

Conspicuous physical "evaluation" aside, orientation dude is right. I think you'll be running 10k by the summer. I'm glad I added your blog to my RSS reader--your posts are very enjoyable. And clearly, I have much to learn from you in flirtation department.

nadine said...

I'm very glad you added my blog to your RSS reader too :)

And after lunch with a gym friend, I was enlightened to the fact that I have a runner's body and he was probably assessing that it won't take much training to get me in fine form. So maybe I'm just neurotic. (Which does not bode well in the world of flirtation, I hear. I wouldn't know. I'm usually busy running away.)