Friday, November 17, 2006

my gym, my life

When my gym membership ran out at the beginning of November, I knew that I was in trouble. For some strange reason I saw myself sliding into a sedentary abyss that would blow me up in a sudden way, and have me floating around the city like a balloon on a stick. I scrambled to find another gym that would make me happy. I wanted treadmills and Nautilus and all that, and yet – I wanted more. I wanted to work out whenever I wanted. I wanted a steam room and sauna. And if I felt like a massage after my workout, well, I wanted that, too.

When I found what I wanted, it was what I had all along, or at least off and on in my early years in the city: New York Sports Clubs. That was when I was living in an unbelievably cheap SRO. Now that I was living alone, I simply couldn’t afford it. Then, as divine providence would have it, a week-long pass to fell into my hands, and I went out at 3am the other night and had a brisk workout in one of their 24 hr. gyms. It actually felt like an adventure.

As my legs were spinning under me on the treadmill, it hit me: the reason why I was so panicky about a place to work out had nothing to do with weight loss or even weight management. I’m a healthy size six on a bad day. I’m a size eight when I let myself go – but I never really let myself go. Not really. And that’s the point. Some people can eat whatever they want and never gain weight but I’m not one of them. I used to envy those folks. But not anymore. For me, everything requires discipline and sacrifice and hard work. After a certain point, each thing feeds on the other until all of it runs together and my whole life is a well-oiled machine – focused, purpose-driven and (strangely enough) joyful.

That balloon in my head wasn’t my body. It was my life. I was panicky because I wanted to stay on point, not because I wanted to stay in shape. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to get healthy and look great in my clothes. But once those goals are reached, other priorities come into focus, things that I’d never considered. Like the time that I get to spend alone with my thoughts as I’m running. How I can meditate, or pray, or mull over a problem and find a solution, even if it’s only a 30 minute run. I love doing that. After awhile, I find myself looking forward to that alone time. Working out is no longer a chore. It’s a release. And when I start my day that way, everything seems to fall into place.

Looking back, I can see that I joined New York Sports Club and worked out everyday without fail at a time when I was the most stressed and when my struggle as an independent artist – to find my own voice and develop my own style creatively in spite of the impossibilities that faced me every day – was at its absolute worst. Did my body look great? You betcha. Was I healthy? Like an ox. Yet there I was, attacking every situation head-on and forging ahead with a fearlessness that seems bizarre to me now. My friend Eric Andre Johnson says I was like a human bullet. Anyone that got in my way had to look out for shards of shrapnel, because I was going straight through them, if that’s what it took to make it happen.

Gee. I guess I’m still like that.

I still can’t afford to join that gym at the regular rate, by the way. But as divine providence would have it, a rep for NYSC sent me a temporary membership…

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