I will generally opt to run outdoors on very cold days (if it’s sunny and not too windy). When I do, I am lightly reprimanded and borderline scolded by many a friend, family member and neighbor, each finally exclaiming, “THAT IS SO HARDCORE!”. And while I enjoy wearing this praise like a Snuggie during a Sex and The City marathon, a part of me wants to stop mid-run, pull down my Smartwool neck gaiter and simply say, “I think you’re mistaken; the gym takes more guts.”
Here is where I lay down my loathing like so many frost heaves on Rte 103:
The Gym beckons me on the worst days - with its four-walls, fluorescent lighting and 360-degree fat mirrors (to fool you into thinking you are a short, stout, portly, pasty human in need of fitness) - and in I come with my plastic Planet Fitness card and my shorty-shorts and my shuffle and as I pass over the threshold of a world whose weather choice flummoxes me into a world whose machines annihilate my motivation, I systematically pray, “God please let this be over quickly.” I literally pray and I’m serious when I’m praying. Let This Be Over Soon. It’s like a song in my head. I scan the first row of treadies (short for treadmills - it’s gym lingo) and hop on.
I only like the first row facing the gym with the TV’s really high above me. I don’t watch TV because I get dizzy trying to lip-read and I would rather watch the shiny silver bolt on the front of the ab machine than check out Jersey Shore, Pimp My Ride or even a football game. Where are the soccer matches? I probably would watch them.
Shuffle is on and turned to high volume (usually Animal Collective, some Thom Yorke remixes, Xavier, The Panics, etc). Just when I think it’s loud enough, I pump it another 5 clicks to be sure I drown out the heavy thumping of Carrie Underwood playing in surround sound in the rafters. I’m here to get stronger, I tell myself.
I hit QuickStart and start, quickly and six minutes in I panic. The 4-Mile Hump mark. If I can make it 4 miles on the treadmill then I’m over the hump. It doesn’t matter if I'm out to do 4.2 or 10 miles, getting to 4 is no joke. It’s so flippn tough. If Running was Mr. Right and I was in love, the treadmill run would be like that one fight that never goes out of style in our relationship.
During those incredibly dull minutes, I’ve either steeled my brain with an ultra-awesome mantra, “Keep it loose, keep it tight” (thank you Amos Lee) and hung my towel over the screen to hide every possible bit of info for at least eight songs. If I’m not in the zone, then I’ve either rethought the fast-walker’s wardrobe on my right or tried to get a peek at Colby runner’s speed info on my left. I match his pace, I think. Then I can’t keep it so I throw some inclines in there to make it look harder in case he cares what MY workout entails. Then I have visions of falling off because this 6.5% grade can’t possibly be THAT hard...and then suddenly it IS...(it’s comforting to know that Claire, a friend and fellow treadmill hater/user, feels the same. maybe more so?)
I exit after my workout and proceed to the Stretching Area. This is awful. I’m sweating buckets, I’ve got nerts (an acronym, not a spelling error), the two meatheads over there are eyeballing me, the old man with the 70’s shorts with huge slits up the side is clearly on my gym schedule and omigosh i hope I didn’t just see what I thought I saw coming out of his pants when he walked by, I think that dude might be the old Marshwood track coach and oh. shiz. that’s definitely that girl from high school and here she comes to talk to me...
See? See why the Gym takes guts? Why the 12 sweaty layers of outdoor running gear being peeled off beats shorty-shorts and really cruelly deceptive mirrors? But the gym is a necessary evil when the elements are unbearable. It’s the smart choice. It’s mature. And sure, the good patrons of Planet Fitness might be nice, the staff pleasant and respectable, the rubber-scented dumbbells sterile and ready to be man-handled, but it smells bad and weight-lifters have given me reason to believe they might be aliens and the men grunt and nothing, nothing is comparable to the mental armor that must be pulled on to face another dready-tready run and every other suffering (like use of the dusty built-in treadmill fan, the arm sweat of the stranger next to me, the endless arrows pointing my way around a digital track, etc). Any way you slice it: Hard-flippn-Core.
And so, said declaration, “YOU ARE SO HARDCORE!” will be saved for that rainy, cold day when i throw the keys in ignition and travel to the center of hell where I will repeat these words underbreath, should the first 4-miles need coercing.
Mother Nature are you listening?