A Gym Geek … but Why?

Why do I persist in going to the gym?

No, this is not a dispirited moan that I have not lost the weight I was hoping to lose. This is a more fundamental enquiry as to why I put myself through the toil and sweat of doing three or four gym sessions a week. And remarkably, I pay to do these as well. Not only that, I could also be doing other things with my time – more profitable things, more pleasurable things, more productive things.

So, why do I bother with the gym? What is it doing for me? What’s the point of it?

Something tells me that I should go to the gym. Apparently, it’s good for me. There are some basic benefits: it keeps me fit, keeps me in shape, keeps me youthful, keeps me healthy, keeps me at the right weight. I suppose I do it for all these reasons. It might also mean that I live a bit longer but there are no guarantees there – that’s a playing the odds gamble. And I suppose going to the gym does stop me feeling guilty when my lifestyle entices me to over indulge. In other words, it’s basically my get-out for drinking and eating more than I should.

Yet it has to be noted, the benefits of going to the gym are all a bit vague. There’s nothing clear-cut or definite about it. It’s not like going to the shop for a bottle of milk. At the gym you can’t just go and get what you want. It’s more of a long term relationship.

But what about the benefits, are they all they are cracked up to be?

Yes, going to the gym does keep me fit. But I should also ask why do I need to be fit? It’s not as if I have to chase down some wild animal for food and the chances of me having to outrun somebody with evil intent are quite remote. I have a car so I don’t even have to run for a bus. Running is not something that I ever “need” to do.

Having a great body isn’t something I particularly need either. I have a long-term partner so it’s not as if, peacock-like, I need to make myself look great. She’s more than used to me by now. I’m not out to impress by flashing a set of biceps and a taut six-pack. If I was, then maybe I could see some merit in working out.

I cannot put my gym attendance down to my male testosterone. Going to the gym is not a competitive activity. I just go and do my own thing. I’m not trying to beat anybody else. My only competition is with myself, doing something faster or lifting something heavier.

Nor is it a confidence thing. I don’t need a physique that gives me confidence. If I did need some added lift then it wouldn’t necessarily be my body that I needed to work on – my hair, my teeth, my clothes. They would all have more pressing claims for extra attention.

I don’t go to the gym because it’s a sociable experience. Very rarely do I speak to anybody when I’m there. Most of the gym users are actually tuned into their headsets. They’re in their own private world. For the most part, being at the gym is a solitary pursuit.

Nor is my particular gym the sort of place that has a comfy seating area and café facility. It is purposefully and singularly a gym. The way it is set up doesn’t encourage you to be sociable.

Admittedly, some gyms can be more sociable places: people attending at the same time each week, getting to know one another, even meeting for drinks afterwards. Most gyms aren’t like that though. They are lonesome venues.

There’s no defined aim for me in going to the gym (which is probably very disappointing to the objective-based trainers and instructors that work there). I’m not actually training for anything so there is no ultimate goal or ambition for me to strive for. I don’t need extra fitness, muscles or endurance.

So, what is the attraction? Why do I go to the gym with such regularity and commitment?

Strangely, I do get some pleasure and enjoyment out of going to the gym. I’m not sure why that should be. It’s hard work, it’s painful and it involves suffering. They’re not sensations that I would normally choose to put myself through. It is, after all, a tedious, torturous, tiring activity. In fact, given the chance, normally I’m more likely to seek to avoid such experiences. Any excuse would do. But that’s just not the case with the gym.

There are of course those endorphins which may have some involvement in encouraging my gym attendance. The post-workout buzz does make me feel good and justifies the effort.

Endorphins are an addictive drug which means that going to the gym can become a need, even an obsession. There is something in the activity that can drive you to insatiability – you can’t get enough of it. I’m not sure how that happens or even why it exists. But I do know that I can feel guilty if I don’t go or even if I do go and have a poor session there.

Going to the gym might be a pride thing. Just as I look after my car and house I also choose to look after my body. It’s the way I am. It’s in my nature. I value my possessions and I take care of them.

I don’t think I particularly worry about or respond to external pressures but it may be that I attend the gym though some subtly inflicted peer pressure, societal pressure or lifestyle pressure. We can all do things that we are subliminally induced to do. Perhaps going to the gym is one of them.

All things considered, I can’t actually pin-point why I do go to the gym. I am both compelled and attracted. It’s something that I feel I have to do; it’s something that I want to do.

And so I will keep going.

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