Gym’ll Fix It
Updated: Jul 1, 2020
I’ve started going to the gym. I’m a gym boy now. For those of you who don’t know the latest fitness jargon, gym is short for gymnasium.
I’m not doing it for my physical health; I’m doing it for my mental health. My doctor suggested it. I told him I was struggling and feeling sad and he said exercise was important and I should try joining the gym. He also recommended I go to therapy to work on my abs. He’s not the best doctor in the world. He gets himself mixed up: no amount of talking about my childhood is gonna give me the rock-hard glutes I’m aiming for.
I like talking to people at the gym. I just go up to them and say, “Hi, I’m Eric, I’m working on my depression.” Then I follow it up with, “So, what are you in for?” It’s a little joke. It’s what people say when they meet someone new in prison. I guess I am in a kind of prison. A mental prison where I’m behind big fuck off bars made of depression and anxiety, and sometimes I worry that no defence lawyer in the goddamn country will be able to set me free (I don’t know what that means).
I start conversations at the gym because the cold hard truth about me is that I’m fascinated by other people. Everyone has a story worth telling. My mum always says that about herself. She says, “Eric, they should make a film about my life” and because you’ve always got to back your mum, I nod and agree. I then sit back and mentally cast the film. My mum is very caring so I think she’d be played by someone like the lady who plays Fiz in Coronation Street. I’m very funny and wacky so maybe I’d be played by someone like Danny DeVito. And my dad is quite absent so he’d be played by “the concept of reasoned and civilised political debate on social media.” LOL.
I told my mate Joe about this and he said it was the worst cast film of all time.
“It makes no sense. Fiz is about 20 years younger than your mum, and Danny DeVito is about 50 years older than you. The joke about your dad barely makes up for it. In fact it makes it worse somehow. Zero stars.”
“Hush, Joe. I’m trying to write a blog about the gym.”
“Fine, carry on.”
When I say “so, what are you in for?” at the gym, no one ever replies. It must mean they’ve done something really bad. If you don’t reply to “so, what are you in for?” in prison it means you’re either a paedophile or were involved in the News of the World phone hacking scandal of the late noughties. I started to feel like I could trust no one at that gym. I thought of all the innocent children that these sick bastards must’ve got their hands on before. The worst part is – you wouldn’t know it to look at them. They’re just normal-looking people, totally unsuspecting, much like Savile and Jackson.
And what about my phone? What if these protein-fuelled perverts were hacking my phone?
I don’t really have voicemails that aren’t from Specsavers but there’s other sensitive data on my phone. I have a lot of screenshots of Facebook conversations with girls I like in there. Not in a creepy way. Sometimes I’ll just be having a good bit of banter with a girl so I’ll take a screenshot and look at it a few weeks later and think to myself, That was a bloody good bit of banter I had with that girl.I like to hold onto precious moments in my life. So what? Sue me — I need to look for a defence lawyer anyway.
But, if those screenshots get out I’ll be ruined. That’s me finished. I’ll be toast. Butter. Jam. Chocolate spread. Maybe like some hipster homemade marmalade. Stick some bacon on there, let’s go savoury. Man I get hungry when I’m thinking about my demise.
After about a week, someone finally spoke to me.
“You need to keep your back a bit straighter when you pull back mate.”
I was properly going for it on the rowing machine, all at sea, battling through treacherous waters, and suddenly someone had the gumption to take me out of my rowing machine/actual rowing cross-over fantasy. I was ready to take this bad boy back to the harbour, get off, roam around the small seaside town of Kick This Guy’s Ass and kick this guy’s ass.
“Mind your own business, pervert. I’m gonna kick your ass.”
“Woah, easy sailor, I’m not looking for any trouble. I was just trying to give some advice.”
I looked at the man and he was a meathead. A proper meathead. His head was a leg of lamb and it had mint sauce on it and his ears were made out of roast potatoes. Nah I’m just being silly, but he was very muscley. Not everyone reading this will have seen me in the flesh, but let’s just say nobody who has would use a meat analogy to describe my physique, unless that meat was a particularly brittle slice of spam. Even that is being too generous – I’m more of a thinly sliced, rotting piece of carrot that’s been pissed on (I smell of wee). I decided it was best if I backed down.
“Sorry, I’m just a bit paranoid because a chain of associative creative ideas led to me casting this whole gym as a bunch of perverts who hack phones.”
“No worries, easily done.”
When I calmed down a bit I remembered how much I loved talking to other people.
“I’m Eric, by the way,” I said. “I’m working on my depression.”
The usual deafening silence followed. Well it wasn’t really deafening, that doesn’t make any sense. The silence was actually probably quite good for my ears. I spend so much time listening to loud music on my phone and also loud, raucous laughter at my gigs (when other acts are on lol) that I worry about the long-term implications. It was good to get some peace and quiet for once. But I was worried this geezer was mugging me off like everyone else.
“So what are you in for?”
“Just keeping this up, mate,” he said, pointing towards his own body.
“I used to be like you, you know?” He said.
“Huh,” I said. I genuinely didn’t catch what he said. Maybe that silence was worse for my ears than I thought.
“I used to be like you, you know?” He said.
I caught it this time and I panicked.
“What? An emerging comedy star? A unique voice? A lifeboat of originality in a sea of mediocrity that ironically uses quite hackneyed metaphors? What happened, Tony? Why did you give up? Am I wasting my time, Tony? Is fame an illusion? Tell me what you know, Tony!”
“No, I mean I used to be built like you. I used to be skinny. Also my name’s not Tony, it’s Pete.” “Sorry, Pete. How did you get so big? Was it cognitive behavioural therapy? I hear that’s very good.”
Pete then proceeded to tell me how he turned himself from cheese-string into a full roast dinner. Turns out therapy wasn’t involved at all and that it was mainly due to hard work and protein shakes. He then kind of became my mentor. Over the next few weeks he showed me how to use all the machines and how to conduct myself properly in a gymnasium environment. Turns out you’re not supposed to go straight in with, “hi, I’m Eric, I’m working on my depression.” Even if your name is Eric and you are suffering with depression, it’s a bit too much. You need to say things like, “Hey, nice crunches man,” and “Dude, can you just spot me for a second?”
It was great advice, and following it has almost made me a couple of friends. But not proper friends, more just people that I nod and say hello to every time I see them. Not proper mates, like Pete.
Yeah, that’s right, I did start to see Pete as a mate. We even went for a pint, at a pub called The Station in Kings Heath. The pub is right opposite the gym and it’s the perfect place to undo the hard work you’ve just put into exercising. But sometimes you need to reward yourself; even Pete knew that, and he’s a fitness freak. We talked about all sorts of things. It was kind of banter about nothing too serious. I figured Pete wasn’t the type of guy to talk about feelings and stuff because he’s so macho. I think it’s a chemical thing more than anything, all that testosterone blocks the pathways for emotions in your body (I’m not a Biologist but that sounds right). But I was telling him about something – I think it was the film about my Mum – and he got this look on his face like he wanted to say something. Like he’d been sitting on something for a while, but his arse cheeks were getting sore now and he needed to get it out.
“You know I used to be depressed as well,” he said. “That’s why I joined the gym.”
“Oh, right,” I said. “How are you feeling these days?”
“Good, man. Good.”
The huge amount of testosterone in his system prevented any more feelings from coming out, but what he said gave me food for thought.
We were in the gym the following day, running on neighbouring treadmills. On the treadmill, I follow Pete’s lead; whatever pace he’s got it set to, I have to match. That day he was proper pushing it. We started off jogging, but every 30 seconds or so he’d crank up the pace until about 3 minutes in we were full on sprinting. I could barely breathe, felt like I was gonna go flying off the treadmill. But then I just picked up the pace. I just did it. It’s weird when you’re exercising at a high-intensity, because you feel like you can’t do it, but then you push through some sort of barrier and on the other side you feel like you’re flying; you kind of feel detached from your body, above the pain and the physical exertion. I felt this incredible high. I felt happy as fuck.
And when I was in that state of bliss, I started to digest the thought fodder from the day before. I looked at all the people around me, all the toned beautiful people. And I looked at Pete and thought about how he used to be depressed. And then I looked back at these people and saw them differently. Before, I just viewed them as jocks and meatheads but maybe all these people at the gym are actually working on their minds, whether consciously or not. I felt a bit stupid that I’d never thought about this before. Why would people put so much effort into exercising if it wasn’t to make themselves feel good in one way or another? No other reason makes sense. When you push through that barrier I was talking about earlier, it’s a mental barrier. The exercise makes us feel stronger, not just in our bodies but in our minds. When you proper smash through a work out, at the end of it you feel kind of invincible.
When you think about it, how can you ever really know what’s in the body and what’s in our minds?
Eventually Pete slowed down the pace and we went back to a light jog. I looked at Pete again and honestly I think I realised I was in love with him. I’d figured this deep thing out and it was because of him. I told him as much.
“Pete, I love you, you absolute meathead.”
He nodded, as if to agree. His testosterone blocked him from doing anything more.
But then the strangest thing started happening. I looked around at the people in the gym, and they all started to fade. Seriously, they just faded, until eventually their bodies disappeared.
“Pete, what the fuck is happening?”
He looked at me and smile.
“Eric, my work here is done.”
And then he faded too. Then he disappeared. And it was just me. In the gym by myself. On the treadmill. Happy as fuck.
That doctor was right about going to the gym.
Anyway, that’s about it.
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