One of the trainers threw me out of the gym one day. “You can’t be here every day and work out as hard as you do,” she told me. “Your muscles need time to rest. Go home…go now..you can’t work out today.”
Well, it is true…I am an official gym rat. I love going to the gym. I am at the gym at least 2 hours a day five days a week. Not only do I like to stay toned, strong, and healthy, but the gym is my stress reliever. When I finish my workout, I always feel emotionally better and completely at peace. Well, most of the time I do. I admit there are days when I am at the gym and feeling grumpy. My crankiness is the result of encountering oversized, overbearing “he-men.”
“He-men” are the insanely-muscled, large men who have biceps the size of my waist. Their calf muscles are twice the size of one of my thighs. They are the athletes, the sportsmen, the professional players who live by the impulses of their bodies instead of their brains.
Though I am small and somewhat uncoordinated, I’m comfortable working out in the same gym with the “he-men.” I’m not intimidated in that way. However, I get angry when they don’t clean up after themselves. It makes me mad when they don’t put away their weights when they finish with a machine. I also hate it when they are circuit training and I accidentally stumble into their path, using machines they claim they were using even though they had been on the other side of the gym. Several of the men have chased me right off the machines. Though it is upsetting, I don’t let it bother me and I return to the gym the next day, prime and ready for the next workout.
This morning I was at the gym again. Sundays are usually quiet and I can exercise without any interruptions. But this Sunday was different. I had just sat down and adjusted the weights at the shoulder press machine when a young, heavily-muscled man walked up beside me. I started my exercises as I watched him draw closer. Oh, no, is he going to tell me to get off the machine? He probably was in the middle of some circuit training and, once again, I was on a machine that was supposedly already in use.
As I finished my first set, I watched the man out of the corner of my eye. He suddenly stopped walking and stood about 3 feet to the side of my machine. Was he trying to intimidate me to leave? I glanced shyly over at the man. Oh, gosh, I thought, he is so much bigger than I am! The man was about six feet tall with short dark hair, extremely broad shoulders and well muscled arms and legs. I couldn’t see his face…and suddenly I realized that the man wasn’t even looking at me. Instead, he was staring up at the TV monitor that was hanging from the ceiling beams right in front of the shoulder press machine.
I glanced up at the TV. The Sunday edition of Good Morning, America was silently playing on the monitor. With the sound turned off, I couldn’t exactly figure out what this segment was about, but images of Spiderman leaping off of tall buildings and fighting “baddies” was playing across the screen. I leaned forward in my seat and then looked back at the muscle man who was still standing beside me. I swear the man was totally mesmerized by the images on the screen. He stood beside me with his muscled arms crossed over his large chest and a huge silly grin on his suddenly boyish face.
I bit my tongue to keep from laughing. Why do Superheroes and Star Wars turn every grown man into an 8-year-old boy? I am not being sarcastic. Instead, I ask the question with complete fascination. This man’s obvious enjoyment of seeing Spiderman was honest, pure, and very touching. I looked around the gym then at all the muscle men working out around me and suddenly smiled at the little boys they must have been. All these grown men were once little boys who played war games and dreamed of being superheroes. For the first time, I suddenly saw beyond the muscles and witnessed the hopes and dreams of the little boys within. Suddenly, they weren’t “he-men,” but flesh and blood human beings with endless desires and aspirations. As I watched them work out their muscles, I realized that some of their goals will be realized and others, like becoming Spiderman, will be locked somewhere in the imaginary “what if” section of their minds.
I was so grateful that this beautiful young man, and all the men at the gym today, reminded me how important it is to unlock that “what if” section and let the child within out to play. I watched the men around me working out and realized how important it was to hold on to childhood dreams. I thought about the reality of crushed dreams when things don’t always work out the way we planned. These men are never going to be Spiderman, and I will never become Barbie. But in the comprehension of childhood dreams, we find our humanity. I watched these young men around me and witnessed their dreams with every grunt, breath, and lift of the weights. They were setting goals and displaying enormous discipline….and who’s to say which dreams will come true.
I looked up at the man beside me as the segment ended. He turned and shyly smiled at me before walking away. I finished working out with the heavy weights. My muscles felt tight and strong, but my heart had grown incredibly light.