A meditation on the locker room

You should know that last week I joined the gym.  Ugh.  But especially during the winter months I become more and more sedentary, and it’s just not healthy.

The problem is that the only—and I mean the only—form of exercise I can stand for more than five minutes is swimming.  Yes, I can walk around my lovely neighborhood and downtown (risking that I’ll become the next ‘character’ out there), and yes, we have an elliptical downstairs, but OH MY GOD THE TEDIUM.

Why swimming is any less tedious is just one of those weird mental glitches, I suppose.

So I joined up out at OneLife Fitness, gaining a student rate because of my steely-eyed insistence that I would never, not once, use any machine, take any class, and in general not even look at any part of the facility other than the pool.  Which is both saline and heated, thank you.

I used to swim regularly back when the old Racquetball Club was open on Bullsboro Drive. I would leave school and go straight there every day.  But then it closed and I just never got back into the habit, possibly because the alternative gyms were not on my way home.

It is important to understand that I was never an athletic child.  On the contrary, I was a stick-thin weakling.  Super thin.  Starvation-level thin.  All the other boys grew chests and biceps; I never did, so that’s been a point of envy for a very long time here.

Also, because I was not athletic I was not a habitué of the locker room.  I vividly remember the first time I entered the locker room at Stegeman Hall at UGA for a required PE course.  Merciful heavens, all these creatures walking around stark naked, all bigger and burlier and sleeker than I would ever be.  I was daunted, if that’s the word I’m looking for.

So when I joined the Racquetball Club, I was surprised at how quickly I got over all that.  Trotting from the locker to the sauna to the shower without bothering with a towel just became second nature.  I was not even abashed when one day a member of the church choir I directed at the time inquired about a tattoo that otherwise he would have never seen. Part of that was being 40-something instead of 16, of course, but part of it also was coming to terms with my own body and what it was.

I was therefore not concerned about this new venture, other than the usual uncertainty about the culture therein.  (For the record, out-and-out nudity doesn’t seem to be the thing there.)  It’s a very nice locker room, all wood and tile and luxurious appointments.  There’s a flatscreen TV. Tuned to Fox.

So why am I writing about this at all?  This gym is a much bigger, much busier place than the Racquetball Club, and fitness culture has likewise ballooned since the last time I swam, so there are a lot more men in the locker room than the old place, and more than a few of those men are beautifully put together, prime examples of young manhood.  It’s kind of thing that you would be lying if you said you didn’t notice.

And I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me aware of my now-60-something body in comparison.  But you know what?  Because of what I’ve done in thinking through, planning for, and participating in 3 Old Men—my theme camp for burns—all that happens when I see a nicely built younger man is that I think, “Yep.  My body doesn’t look like that, because I am an Old Man.  I have the body I have because of who I am, of what I’ve lived through and experienced. Cool.”

Plus the godawful amount of work they have to put into maintaining that physique.  OH MY GOD THE TEDIUM.  Ugh.

To see what my thinking was that led to 3 Old Men, at least about the physicality of our bodies, see here and here.

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