I got to thinking today that I spend an inordinate amount of time working out in the gym or training martial arts. I suppose these are probably healthy passions to have. Time that a lot of people would spend going out to bars drinking, watching TV, or whatnot, I spend training physical conditioning, coordination skills, and martial arts. Overall, I believe this has saved me quite a bit of money and generally kept me out of trouble. One downside to this lifestyle that I end up having to eat a lot to fuel my physical endeavors, which is a small price to pay I think. Another consequence is that my circle of friends becomes highly biased towards people I either train with or see in my training environment. Again, this isn't really all that terrible since I end up around people with similar interests to me and training an internal martial arts usually means that I meet a wide spectrum of people anyhow.
Still, it is sort of funny how I ended up being so interested in physically demanding pastimes. I think part of it simply stems from the fact that I was actually discouraged from physical activities as a child so I could study more. That was an unfortunate, misguided action from my father, and it certainly backfired on him in the long run. The most surefire way to make a rebellious kid do something is to try restricting him from doing it. Combining that with the fact that I lived in the middle of a sleepy retired neighborhood in Florida with no car meant that I had a lot of pent up energy and nothing to do with it except play lots and lots of basketball at the playground. When I finally started going to the gym (via parent chauffeur), I burned off that energy playing more ball and lifting weights.
Then there's the fact that I wasn't exactly the model of fitness for most of my childhood. Embarassingly, I was once 183 lbs, and that wasn't all muscle. Halfway through college, I went vegetarian, started eating 5 meals a day, and exercised like a madman. I was in the gym like 3 hours a day in the gym (over the summer anyhow, I don't think I could swing that gym schedule during the regular academic year). Needless to say, I dropped a lot of weight fast. Basically, I dropped about 50 lbs in a year. I was probably a little too thin at 132 lbs, but I was in really good shape and feeling pretty good.
Throughout college and graduate school, I forged a lot of my friendships in the gym. There's nothing quite like shooting the breeze while grunting under a heavy bar. Even better is the trash talk and attempts to make your workout buddies lose their concentration with off color remarks about other gym goers. I still have fond memories of spotters forgetting to spot me because they were checking out a blondie on the other side of the gym and the subsequent grief they got for the lapse in attention. The pain of sore muscles from a hard workout was a commonality amongst us all. We comforted each other with comments like "you pansy, you only did 3 sets with 45lb plates!" and "alright buttercup, you gonna lift like a man today?" The gym scene was definitely a little strange, but beneath the macho facade, there was genuine camaraderie. It may have been built by bonding over a painful activity, but it was friendship nonetheless.
Read part 2 of this blog post here.