Don’t Go To The Gym

You don’t have to do what you don’t want to do.

Author by John Devore
Art credit: Tyler Hewitt

Do not read any further if you’re the kind of person who regularly goes to the gym and sprints on the treadmill before juggling kettlebells. This essay is not for you or your glistening muscles. Instead of wasting your time on the next 600-or-so words, feel free to cartwheel back to your local fitness hut and crush it. I want you to crush it and, more importantly, I want you to be happy crushing whatever “it” happens to be. I’m assuming you’re looking to crush workouts. But I mean, this morning, I crushed a stack of gingerbread pancakes.

This is one of many differences between me and you, an imaginary gym enthusiast with a superhero’s body. You live to work out; I eat gingerbread pancakes. I’ve seen your type at the gym I joined (but rarely go to), and you’re really into your routines and reps and excessive, even show-offy, perspiration. Sweat isn’t pain leaving the body. Sweat is just venerated urine.

I am done addressing the humans in peak physical condition, at least for now, so I will commence addressing the rest of us.

If you don’t want to go to the gym, then don’t. Maybe working out in a public medieval torture chamber of exercise devices will be mandatory in some future dystopia. But not here, not today.  Not on my watch.

You may have signed a surprisingly ironclad contract with a gym obligating you to pay for a membership you never use, but remember: There’s no law saying you have to join in the first place. Don’t go if you don’t want to, even if you’re stuck paying membership fees. Yes, it is a waste not to use a service you’ve paid for, but think of it as a hard-earned life lesson. An educational tax. Next time, don’t join a gym if you don’t like going to the gym.

Don’t go to the gym. You have my permission. Who am I? I am a “wellness guru.” Do you want to know how to be a “wellness guru”? It is very simple: Just say, “I am a wellness guru” three times in a mirror and, abracadabra, you are a “wellness guru.” Congratulations! Now tell yourself it’s okay not to go to the gym.

Look, there are plenty of other ways to stay reasonably fit without undressing in a locker room like an animal and riding bicycles that go nowhere, which is one of Hell’s torments. You can, for instance, bend over and touch your toes a lot. If you did that for, say, four hours, that would be a pretty good workout, right? I don’t know; “wellness gurus” don’t actually know anything, and our advice should never be considered because we’re not trainers or nutritionists or physical therapists or doctors or any sort of authority, really. We just made a magical wish, once, and now we give advice. I’m using “we” because I assume anyone who’s read this far has said “I am a wellness guru” out loud, and now we’re all colleagues.

Don’t go to the gym. Do pushups! Here is how to do a pushup: Lie down on the floor. Do this very, very slowly. Once you’re on the floor, wiggle. That’s one! Just do that 10 more times and you, too, will have crushed “it.” Another gym alternative is something I call the Death March of Excellence. This is pretty intense and definitely something you should warm up for. So, first, you need to walk to the store to get that popular ice cream that’s, like, 200 calories a pint? Then you need to walk back home and eat it. After a few weeks, I recommend walking to a store slightly farther than the one where you usually buy toilet paper, seltzer, and low-calorie ice cream that almost tastes like the real thing.

You may work with someone who always ends the day by saying they “gotta go to the gym.” This person is not dangerous. But feel free to respond to their daily statement with a bald-faced lie. “I, too, am going to the gym to crush a workout” is something you can say. If they ask where your gym is, just tell them it’s a secret subterranean gym containing nothing but giant truck tires and ropes hanging from the ceiling and that, maybe one day, if they get ripped enough, you’ll tell them where it is. But, and this is important, remember that you can never tell them. You must keep this lie alive.

I don’t like going to the gym because I don’t like strangers seeing my “pain face,” which is the face a child makes if you slap an ice cream cone out of their hand. This is a private face. I also don’t like going to the gym because gyms are filled with grunting and groaning and billions and billions of butt molecules. It’s gross. And, mostly, because gyms make me feel insecure. I am ruled by my many fears.

I did, recently, try a spin class though. Spin class is not like the gym: for one, it is not boring. The gym is bo-o-oring. Even the ones with lots of TVs. TV is exciting. The gym makes TV dull. Spin class, however, was NOT boring. There’s a coach who shouts positive things and then everyone shouts back positive things. People go “woooo!” a lot. The thumping music is loud so no one could hear me openly sob. Even better, no one could see me.

What I liked most about spin class was that it happens mostly in the dark. There are disco lights but it’s easy to hide, especially if you’re in the way, way back. Because it was in the dark, and loud, I could give 60% while everyone else was giving 100%. I felt like an energy vampire feeding off the group’s good vibes. I didn’t feel insecure there.  One downside to spin class, though, is it smells like a human swamp fog afterwards.  Anyway, spin class isn’t as bad as the gym but I don’t know if I’m going to go back. I’ll let you know if I do.

And so, dear friends, don’t go to the gym. Or, and here’s a counterpoint, go to the gym. That’s right: go or don’t go. Do what you want. Life is too short, and sometimes very hard and sometimes very wonderful, to listen to random internet advice. Me? I will always prefer doing toe crunches while watching YouTube cooking shows to wiping down moist weight benches while dozens of pairs of eyes silently judge me. But what do I know? I’m just a “wellness guru.”

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A curious exploration of comfort, wellness, and modern life — emotionally supported by Casper. It’s a beautiful magazine published by a mattress. Come on, you know it’s not the weirdest thing to happen this year. The first issue includes a love letter to comfort pants, a skeptic's guide to crystals, and an adulting coloring book.