(Audio file attached)
Going to the gym has been something I know should have been doing for the past decade but have been mostly avoiding it. When I did sign up, I'd go sporadically then stop abruptly. At my previous residence in downtown Toronto, there was a gym included, however I rarely went. Mostly I'd take advantage of the aquatic facilities. Upon starting yoga, I would regularly use the gym area to do so. Similarly, this pattern has continued here in China (simply showing your location doesn't change who are, you must do so yourself). With this gym membership, the weights have only been done a few times and I'm otherwise there usedfor yoga. Now to be honest, the access to yoga classes was the intent of the membership, thus I am using it appropriately. Here are some of my gym observations since starting the membership:
1. The gym location I access is, like many, inside a mall. In Canada, I observed the gyms open quite early (~5am), and often the mall will accommodate this. Here, at least with this location, this is not allowed. Many people are up quite early in my area, so I doubt the gym doesn't open due to a lack of attendance. This beautiful park just on the other side of the freeway close by is FILLED with people each morning who are walking, doing Tai Chi or stretching. I'm talking in the neighbourhood of at least 300+ people, who are there around 6-6:15am! Granted the demographic may be different than those who have gym memberships.
2. This gym - Sport Fitness - allows children to attend! Obviously ones in NA require you to be 18. Admittedly, I haven't seen many kids, except in a few yoga classes and they come to my favourite one which, unfortunately, does draw some attention from the teacher. The reason the class is my favourite is because we are pushed hard, and this drawing of the teachers attention thereby reduces the intensity of the class. Stay tuned for a post about this teacher and why I enjoy his sessions so much.
3. Attending the gym seems to be a status thing over a strong interest in personal health. Don't get me wrong, there are a few health buffs I've seen around. From my limited observation in NA, it seems the majority of gym attendees are in quite good shape, and a small percentage are either new, or there for taking selfies and half-ass workouts. This seems to be the opposite here. I can say this with a little more confidence, as I'm typically at the gym 4-6 times a week for classes, which are held during the busiest times of day. I've seen people chilling in jeans, people just sitting around messaging, people conversing for long periods of time and so on. I'm not judging, simply observing and reporting. And if that's what one wants to do with their time, by all means. I'm curious as to why people would do so at the gym and not at a bar, restaurant or park?
4. Participants, if you could call them that, in group classes such Body Balance, Jumba and Yoga think it's ok to stop in the middle of class to take a phone call, send a voice message over WeChat or text their friends (many times with sounds going off). I've been told they think this is ok because they paid for the membership. If you are in the gym, out of people's way and not disturbing anyone, this is one thing. Being in the middle of a group class, having your alerts go off, and talking are all disrespectful. The Chinese culture is complex, they often talk of being in harmony with each other, and not causing conflict, yet they often do not engage with other Chinese people who are not within their circle of friends and in this case show no respect for people who are taking the class alongside them.
The gym has been a good spot to meet local friends and socialize, alongside pushing my boundaries a little. Last night, I tried a new class called Body Balance. At the beginning I was a bit nervous, having no knowledge of how the class runs, the routine, and of course not speaking Chinese. I was the only male, foreigner, and newbie in the class. But, there was several cute girls there, I figured it wouldn't hurt to try something new, and if I messed up, oh well, it would be an easy platform to talk with them about: "Hi, nice to meet you, as I'm sure you noticed, this is my first time in class and I am still learning. Obviously, you know what's going on and seem to be experienced, perhaps you could go over a few moves with me?!" Talk about smooth transitioning! The gym, and any group activities are easy ways to meet people because you immediately have something in common -- the activity! Besides, girls aren't usually hanging out in the free weights section, that's just a sausage fest over there. Plus, these classes, especially the Body Balance one will definitely whip you into shape! Hit the weights in the morning when nobody else is around playboy; you'll have all the dumbbells to yourself.
For the first few seconds of class, I felt a little out of place. It didn't take long to memorize the Tai Chi moves, but once I got those down, it was as easy to participate as with any other yoga class (both of which are in Chinese and I have no clue what's being said). The awkwardness only lasted a few moments and then subsided. In fact, I didn't really notice it disappearing until a few moments later when I was keeping pace with the instructor! The class was challenging but provided opportunity to push mental and physical limits. Nothing like a room with a bunch of fit hoties in yoga tights to keep your ass motivated! Whatever , your reason or method, try something new, it's better to try and quit then to quit before trying.
It's sad how much we let self-imposed limits control and deter us! Practice putting yourself in new situations and admitting to both yourself and others you are new and inexperienced but willing to try and learn. You'd be surprised at not only how pitiful such fear is but sad to observe the extent to which this controls much of people's lives! Make a decision, right now, to not let this person be you! We feel weak if we are not superior at all we do, this is incorrect! Owning up to something eliminates any weakness and allows you to start without having to worry about what others think because you have admitted you are just starting.