Today is day 2 of a new resolution to go to gym everyday, to feel if a boost of serotonin could help with energy, anxious thoughts, and most of all concentration.
I go to a seedy gym in central Amsterdam which is actually quite endearing to me, for its shabbiness. There is a light in the movement studio which came untethered on one side and has been hanging at a rakish angle since I started going there. The movement room where we do serene yoga is like an industrial dungeon, with loud roaring pipes, no windows and sallow lights. Lying on a mat you can see outside a stampede of legs and feet pounding away on treadmills, going absolutely nowhere.
Outside the movement studio is the cycling (spinning) room where spinners can participate in trainings with a virtual teacher, a cheerful Dutch man who appears on a large TV screen in front of the bikes. You can choose which landscape you’d like to virtually spin through, so sometimes the teacher rides along serene Dutch meadows which are changed half an hour later for Meditteranean peaks.
In the main hall are a sea of exercise bikes, treadmills and cross-trainers filled with rows of people staring fixedly at TV screens ahead of them, or listening to headphones, striding pedalling or stomping doggedly on their machines.
There is an easy comaraderie in this detached scene. Yesterday when I got on the cross-trainer I felt like I was signing a deal with the devil. Gyms have always represented to me a world which is fat-phobic (burn, baby burn) and mechanical. I have participated in countless conversations along the lines of “why wouldn’t you rather jog in nature?” and have been committed to dance exercise which is conscious, and body-aware for the last 10 years. That said, I felt almost rebellious when I started my first cross-training. And strangely…I almost liked it. The tinny gym music, the sense of being joined with the fellow striders in a common purpose, the smells of sweat and determination, the sheer, sheer mindlessness of it all.