I’ve been pondering for a while What It All Means—Life, the Universe, your Preferred Flavor of Pie, and all sorts of other SEO-friendly terms—before applying that to my OCR experience, and fitness in general. I’m dating this back about four years, when I got serious about working out—or at least, when I started going to my gym, which made working out a thing that I did regularly. (There may well be a difference: While I do genuinely enjoy working out, I often don’t enjoy it while in the midst of a workout, and it’s entirely possible that had I not discovered how well the group fitness approach works for me that I wouldn’t have stuck with it, the way I hadn’t stuck with it for all the rest of my life.)
So how have I changed, or not? Well…
- I’m in better shape. At least, by any objective measure I am. Unfortunately, by my brain I’m exactly as fat and weak and incapable as I always was. I’m weirdly number obsessed in part because I know how much my brain lies to me.
I now own stuff. I don’t think it’s crazy excessive—owning gear to me is a means rather than an end—but I am amassing something of a collection. There’s a few different types of shoes (running, cross-training, OCR shoes with traction, and climbing), the compression shirt and shorts for muddy races, the chalk bag for climbing, the boxing gloves and wraps for the once-weekly boxing class, and the foam roller that I really don’t like all that much. That’s only a short paragraph’s worth. And there’s only one piece of each (except for the boxing wraps—I bought two, thinking that each package only had one hand’s worth, rather than two). So it’s not Hoarders-type stuff. Still, it’s not something I would have expected.
- I tolerate running’s existence. In fact, I frequently do it intentionally. I like that I’m able do it a bit, although I don’t necessarily enjoy the act. I definitely never would have done so beforehand.
- I’m more judgmental. Not in the sense of, “Hey, look at that really slow runner! Look at how pathetic that is!” because that’s really assholish and also (as noted above) I still am that really slow runner. But there are some things that I do judge. Like, a few weeks ago I saw a fellow in the park. There is a pull-up bar set-up, with four different bars at different heights arranged in a box shape. He wasn’t using them for pull-ups, though; instead, he was on top of the bars, doing decline push-ups with his feet on one bar and hands on the bar opposite. So he wasn’t in terrible shape to be able to get up there. But his form was just so terrible—back arched like half a McDonald’s sign, with his navel below the low bar (and that’s while his arms were straight). So I don’t think he was really trying to work out; he’d have done way better just doing decline push-ups on a park bench. He was trying to look cool. And I deem him to have failed. The OCR world has a lot of social media equivalent of this kind of thing, which is why I’m not as active on those kind of groups as I’d like to be.
- I periodically get groped. Not by strangers—that would be absurd and creepy—but by friends—which is still absurd and creepy. But I do have some noticeable chest muscle, at least to the touch, and that’s the part that they’re groping, so I guess it’s meant well. Right?
- I know, in an informed way, that I’m not going to be a personal trainer. To explain: there are several people who go to my gym who have decided to get certified and become trainers themselves. (That speaks well to the quality of the gym, which is something that I do need to write about at some point.) I’ve considered it myself. The trouble is, I’d never be better than an adequate trainer. After getting the necessary preparation, I’d probably be fine at the the making-up-workouts part, and the anatomy part, and things like that. But I’d be disastrous at the more psychological elements of the job. I mean, I have a hard time even saying things like “Good Job” to people after a hard workout—it always sounds sarcastic to me, even though I mean it in the nice way. Encouraging people professionally? Yikes!
- I’m not really happier, although I’m also not unhappier in the way that I should be. How do I explain that? Well… I’ve heard (from no less an authority than Stephen Fry on QI, even) that it’s possible that the best medicine for depression is a workout. My experience is a bit more nuanced than that, though—more like, working out regularly takes a bit of the edge off of some of my problems, making things maybe 10% more manageable. That’s definitely not nothing—when you’re accustomed to having a 100-pound Rottweiler stuck to your shoulders, you will get more done when it’s replaced by a 90-pound Bernese Mountain Dog. But it isn’t a panacea. Meanwhile: several years ago (2009, to be exact), I lost—let’s just say, a lot in my life. Much more than I realized I had, in fact. And much of it has been extremely hard, and demoralizing, to replace or recover. So I’ve not been in a great state. Fitness and OCR hasn’t fully replaced all of that. I’m not complaining—they shouldn’t, and frankly they’ve done way more good than I had any right to expect. But there’s a bigger drag factor holding me down than there was. Enjoying my workouts probably… well, I shudder to think what would happen without them.
- To end on a lighter note: sometimes I run without my shirt on. Only around my neighborhood, where I’m pretty much anonymous, and not anywhere where it might get documented, because—see the middle part of point 1 above. But I do enjoy the feeling of not chafing.