There is an inherent competition in exercising and training, even if it's for something post-scholastic like my training for a future dunk. This competition starts in oneself, pushes him to do one more rep, then one more, then ten more of a different exercise. It is a natural extension, then, despite the mostly collegial atmosphere in a gym, to this sense of territoriality and selfishness that comes with one's training. How can there not be, when you are pushing not just against yourself--your physical and mental limits, which seem to be entities outside of your own body--but against Time itself?
This sense of competition will manifest itself, in some ways more subtle than others, against any who is perceived as an outsider, . So it was that I felt a certain swarminess and cockiness in the words of the youngster training next to me tonight as I did my exercises. This young man and his training buddy, both with close-cropped, lined hair, long Nike shorts and obscure, generic Nike jerseys, were tortured by a pleasant-looking man who I guessed was in his mid-30s, maybe some 15 or 20 years later than his boot camp victims. The trainer had them doing multiple exercises with a compact medicine ball--squats, lunges, partner abdominal work, and chest passing drills.
As the pair ran and shuffled and threw and pushed themselves into exhaustion, they passed into the corner where I stood doing jump rope drills. As the taller of the two approached me, he stumbled just a bit, seemingly surprised that I stood in the corner, previously unseen to him in his athletic concentration.
As the two received a well-deserved break, I walked past them to the water fountain, lightly breathing after a fairly strenous set of jumps, but nowhere near as exhausted as these two. The one who had almost tripped over me looked me up and down, and smiled, saying, "Ah, sorry, man, you came outta nowhere. Sorry to crowd you."
Kids these days! So cocky. I knew that inherent in his wording and body language was a message, strong though unspoken: "Let me just play the better man here, with the false modesty. Yeah, I'm sorry that my incredibly intense workout almost interfered with your minor little one."
I smiled, said it was no problem, and toweled off my dry forehead unconsciously as a kind of silent response.
I finished my workout, finding myself feeling noticeably springier and more on balance on my "rim touches." My stretching and training regimens seemed to work together as one on this night, as I incorporated the two stretches (plus a "butterfly stretch" for my hip flexors and groin, and two standing calf stretches) and one core strengthening exercise shown to me by my physical therapist.
Also, my calves felt noticeably looser as I jumped, and I felt myself able to hold my calf raises for a split second longer than before, and I felt better able to explode out of my squats on my knee to chest jumps.
As I walked out of the gym, I swear that the young man working out looked down his nose at me as I left.
Is it possible that I imagined all this, that the youngster was being sincere when he smiled and apologized to me? Is it possible that I'm seeing things that aren't there as some sort of defense mechanism to a perceived flaw in my training intensity? Maybe I...