A Love Letter to Laziness (By Way of Hate Mail to Health)
My experience taking a Weightlifting Class at CSU
Written by Cameron Mays
I am not sure why I decided to start working out. Perhaps I wanted to shed some pounds. Perhaps I wanted to build some more muscle. Perhaps I was hoping an Apollonian response might counter a Dionysian lifestyle and help me bask one last time in the fleeting sunset of youth. Either way, the class called walking for aerobic exercise was not offered in the spring and the next easiest seemed to be weightlifting.
The first day of class set much of the standard for how the remainder of classes shall occur. I arrive at Cleveland State’s Physical Education Building at 8:30 AM. My class starts at 9:10. This gives me just enough time to generate the angst needed to fuel my day and not enough time to do anything about it. I wait in the Recreation Center. I am a heretic in this Cathedral of Cardio. The parishioners wear tunics made from nylon and spandex, I wear Levi’s and Dr. Martens. From the nave I listen to the ghostly echoes of the choir in a stirring chant known as “Hips Don’t Lie.” My class is in the catacombs of the Cathedral, sub-basement Room 17. Lit only by the torches of outdated fluorescents, I descend into my classroom.
The class is like any other classroom at Cleveland State. There are no windows, it is incredibly hot, and the ambience of unidentifiable machinations provide a soundtrack. My classmates are incredibly silent. I decide to gain their mutual dislike by breaking the ice. I express to the professor my excitement to “pump some iron” this morning. It is at this moment I am informed we will not be “pumping some iron” this morning, instead, going over the parameters of the class.
The professor is a recent graduate of a name-brand college. He passes out a questionnaire to gauge our knowledge on working out and our weightlifting goals. The questionnaire is fairly predictable. Despite quitting CYO Cross Country in fourth grade, I decide to put my workout experience at zero. I figure this might prompt him to be easier on me. I was stumped with one question: why did you take the class? I want to write down “to look like Jimmy Page without the costly habit of heroin.” I realize it is better to have one scholastic enemy and since I have already chosen my classmates, it is best to keep my professor neutral. I write down “to learn more about weightlifting.” Easy. Simple. Harmless. A total lie.
Class ends with the same joyless silence it began with. We are fortunate to be let out at the same time as the Men’s Lacrosse team. As I navigate a blond-haired forest smelling of cheap cologne, I make my way to the terranean level. I am free from the catacombs and back to a world where the general annoyance is the weather
Very little has changed since that first day. My general aim in working out varies between doing the bare minimum possible and getting in the kind of workout that makes you need a cigarette. I have learned several tricks and elements associated with the class and workout culture in general. For starters, the importance of a post-workout snack. Taking full advantage of the room’s mimicry of conventional ovens, I generally bring with me a California Pizza Kitchen Signature Pepperoni Frozen Flatbread frozen pizza to eat later. The heat of the room fully cooks the pizza by the time the workout is over.
I have also learned about the preferred modes of public address. The fragmented sentence reigns supreme. Names are replaced with “bro.” The fist bump is used for two separate purposes: to indicate social alliances and to acknowledge the triumph over suffering. In a way, this new language embodies the utopian ideals strived for generations and I am glad to be embraced by a language blind to differences. In another way, I feel like I am being lobotomized every time I compliment a fellow “bro.” I assume this is what Hegel was anticipating when he came up with contradictions.
The class seems to be 25% student athletes, 70% regular joes, and 5% Project60 posse. By all virtues except age, I should belong in this elderly crew. I have little interest in classroom success, I only listen to music made before 2000, and I still call jeans Levi’s. As this class has proven to me, I am more Kendall than Khloe. It can be difficult relating to classmates whose sense of mass extinction-related doom originates from Cold War paranoia as opposed to climate change catastrophe. I now consider skipping class not because I fear embarrassment or working out, but because I fear the interactions with the Project60 posse. I am sure this publication might be too “hippie dippie” for such a crowd, nevertheless, I will do my best to cover my tracks lest I get beat up.
Mrs. 60 generally comes in anywhere between twenty and thirty minutes later, assuming she comes in at all. She partakes in one of two workouts: the abdominal crunch machine, or watching everyone else workout whilst wearing a maroon coat and matching faux fur hat. I am inclined to believe this may be the first time she has ever engaged in such recreation, as the aforementioned hat stays on during the duration of the workout. Her preferred hydration is San Pellegrino.
One of the few freedoms we are granted in the class is the choice of music on the classroom speaker. I generally yield my democratic voice to my peers. I don’t want to cross-contaminate the music I love with the activity I hate, therefore, I would request Neil Diamond or Journey. Considering I am only interested in partial torture, I opt out of music suggestions. My contemporaries usually go contemporary; we cycle between rap, hip hop, and Spotify’s “Big Booty Mix.” Mrs. 60 is in complete opposition to such music and regularly requests Bob Dylan. For reasons stated earlier, I am unable to support Mrs. 60 on this quest. Should her petitions go unanswered, Mrs. 60 has found impromptu, a capella covers of doo-wop classics to be her next line of attack on the front to play music that appeals to her.
These tales might encourage one to take the class or perhaps even workout. I advise against this. Considering society has largely abandoned physical labor as the preferred way to make a living, I propose we abandon physical activity as the preferred way to measure one’s self worth. Should that proposal still not dissuade you, I offer the following alternative paths I believe to be more useful in achieving the aims of a workout. I should mention that my medical training is limited to learning about Thomas Eakins’ “The Gross Clinic” in art history.
Replace meals with coffee and cigarettes, the muddier the better.
Psychoactive drugs are becoming more widely available and mainstream.
Take the bus.
General health improvements.
Smoke more cigarettes.
I am afraid of working out. I have always found a strange disconnect between the people that work out and the people who don’t. My fear is that if I continue working out, I will lose the essential quality of myself: pessimism. If the worst part of my day is getting up early to spend an hour in the gym doing strenuous work, I am afraid of the broader consequences to the minor things that make me upset. Perhaps I will come around to the automobile. Perhaps I will want to have children. Perhaps I’ll take those silly messages the Surgeon General puts on my pack of Camels seriously.