I decided earlier this year that I was (and am) officially over the gym. I didn’t want to lift one more dumbbell, barbell or sit on one more leg press machine. Not only was I bored with my workout, but I also wanted to make some new friends, and the overly “friendly” guy in the steamroom was just not cutting it. As a gay man in New York, it may be considered an abomination to forgo the gym, but I have learned that there may, in fact, be other options out there.
As a thirty-something it’s not always as easy to make new connections, as we saw in the recent New York Times article, "Friends of a Certain Age." At some point you look around and realize you’ve lost your Friday night buddy to his new family, other friends have moved away, your Sunday brunch group drifted apart, and a few other friends you just don’t like anymore. So, what now?
My thought was that I could find a group activity that would give me a great workout AND an opportunity to meet new people. But, damn it if I’m not picky.
I tried yoga, and liked it, but on more of a once-a-week basis. Aside from it not being quite vigorous enough, I also met one too many yogis who talk to you with that unsettling, “loving”, “open” wide-eye Stepford gaze. It’s that look you’ve seen on a lot of religious zealots who think they’ve achieved some sort of enlightenment or a free pass to heaven? Think Pat Robertson and Tom Cruise.
I tried kickboxing, regular boxing, and developing my own circuit routine. I also gave a valiant effort to learning the Brazilian martial art, Capoeira, but after three months of awkward ‘hello’s’ with my fellow classmates and the teacher never bothering to learn my name I decided to continue my search.
The other night, feeling inspired by the Olympics, I landed on a website for an LGBT swim team. I hadn't swum on a team since high school, which suffice to say was some time ago. But, it seemed like it might be exactly what I was looking for: lots of classes, good workouts, new people, and affordable. After gearing myself up to wear Speedo in front of the people I’m hoping might one day be my friends, I went to my first swim practice.
As it turns out, I may actually like it. The workouts are great, the people are friendly, the coaches are helpful, and even though I’m in Lane 5, reserved for ages 70 and above, I haven’t completely forgotten how to swim.
It looks like there IS life after the gym. Finally.