To my loved ones involved in the discussion (and everyone else) - this is not a dig about personal choices; it's about the world we are somewhat stuck with. So here goes...
"Soooo.. why is it that when I'm friendly to someone at the gym, they automatically assume that I want to spend my entire workout talking to them when I obviously have to remove my earplugs every time they say something?"Being more of a loner myself, I have a huge amount of empathy here. It can be really difficult when someone else ignores obvious social clues that you're not open for conversation. And there were plenty more empathetic comments from people who'd obviously been there.
I have never done the Walkman/IPod thing during my exercise because I like my mind to wander meditatively and I like to look around me. Takes my mind off the sweating. So, going past my own automatic introverted response, my personal devil's advocate asked
"...isn't it nice that people want to talk instead of just being in their own heads?"But apparently, at the gym, it isn't! The firm response: while they are positive social butterflies in other areas, they are at the gym to work out and conversation is a distraction from that. They even discussed antisocial techniques to discourage approaches. And I can totally understand a need for focus - this is your health!
But how did we get so far away from balance in our lives? So many people have such a large disconnect between daily food and daily action that they pay significant money to rent space in a building so they can get in a car, drive to the building, then move their bodies with the help of machines, many using valuable electricity. And a large majority of these people find it much easier to get through the pain of the experience by using earphones to limit their world to their favourite music - so much so that another person trying to make conversation is an unwelcome intrusion.
Some people take this outside too. Today, when running alongside one of Auckland's top-rated views (Rangitoto on a sunny morning), I noticed people wired in, turned on and dropped out of their surroundings.
As I've said before, I don't use the gym now. So I compared my own preferences during my exercise - how would I feel if a stranger walking or running near me struck up a conversation and continued to chat? I can only speculate, because it has never happened. One major difference between exercising outside and in the gym is that people are actually moving. Moving at different speeds, in different directions, away from each other. In the gym, if you're 10 minutes into your 20 minute workout on the crosstrainer and some desperate saddo decides to chat you up mercilessly, you're trapped.
Gym body work has no other purpose except to maintain or regain health...and of course that in itself has value. But this lack also makes it unique. You're not making anything grow, or making anything cleaner, or building anything, or getting any Vitamin D or fresh air, or learning that your neighbour planted three new trees and the house down the road is for sale, or making anyone else happy, or learning skills useful in other areas, or even usually having much fun in the process.
- The gym is the exercise equivalent of processed packaged food - or perhaps the hamster wheel in our virtual cage?
Partly in commitment to the discomfort that led to this rant, and to goals 1 and 3, I am giving up a personal luxury we have enjoyed since being DINKs - our weekly basic houseclean. The dark side to Nadia's increased time at preschool is a further drain on our budget. I can't come up with any easier way to increase our bottom line (and get a bit of free exercise on the side). Goodbye, outsourcing!