Tonight I went to my first non-Sunday morning gym class in a very long time. I checked out the New York Sports Club on 125th Street for the first time, after getting all of the relevant details from L. Where is the entrance again? What floor do you take the elevator to? When you come out, where are the towels? The locker room? The water fountain? The studio?
I am always nervous when I go to a gym for the first time. I assume someone will pick on me. I have been fortunate to have never really been bullied before (except in some unpleasant professional situations, maybe, and also L can really become quite merciless under the right circumstances) yet I always fear some towel-snapping juicehead is waiting to attack. Like if I spend too much time loitering on the gym floor, or if my gym performance is somehow not up to par, some dude is going to come sauntering up: "Ha ha, check out the poindexter! Let's do that thing where we flush his head in the toilet!" To combat this I make a point of walking very purposefully around the gym, even when I have no idea where I'm going, just to prove to all of my would-be tormentors that I know what I'm doing. As a result tonight I basically walked two pointless laps around the weight area, trying to look as calm as possible while my eyes were darting around furiously trying to find a water fountain. If things really get bad, I will just stop wherever I am and do some stretches, trying to find a recognizable landmark before I break into a flop sweat. I did this tonight, and that's how a guy with biceps the size of my beloved daughter's head almost walked into me as I was touching my toes. But hey, at least I looked like I knew what I was doing.
Once I finished my Lewis & Clark-style reconnaissance, I did a couple of pleasant miles on the treadmill and went to a weight training class. The class was much worse than I expected; the light weights I picked originally turned out to be too heavy, so I had to go back for even lighter ones. And shortly after that I reached that wonderful point in the workout where I couldn't even bear to hold any weight at all, so I was doing the exercises empty-handed, like a mime, but with less dignity.
Yet even as that was happening I was thinking how great it felt to be there. I really like group exercise scenarios -- having someone else deciding what to do and leading a group of people all contributing to the tacit peer pressure to show up and perform. The culture of the 125th street gym seemed to be really pleasant. A nice mix of people, a lot of classes going on (a couple hip hop classes, two spin classes, a couple of weight classes). I feel like I've given myself a pass from going to the gym since the baby was born -- I should be home, after all, bonding with Alice and taking the burden from L -- but I think I will be making more of an effort to get to the gym to recapture some of the stuff I loved about our old neighborhood. I'm really glad it worked out tonight -- that I was able to get there and that no one gave me a noogie or challenged me to arm wrestle -- and I know I will be hurting tomorrow.