A Radiation-Free Zone

I joined a gym yesterday. Walked in, signed up, and paid the first and last month’s fees for a year-long contract.

Five years ago, I vowed I’d never belong to a gym again.

In our old town, I went to a gym about five minutes away. It was a basic Planet Fitness; no classes, no spas, no bells and whistles. There were weights, mats, trainers, and cardio machines. I could roll out of bed and be on a treadmill within fifteen minutes.

Where I’d be confronted with the numbers. Glorious red numbers blaring out beautiful, beautiful statistics. I focused on those numbers like my life depended on it.


If I was the Queen of Planet Fitness, then those numbers were my royal subjects, ready to execute my every command.

Command #1: The time elapsed should either stay constant or get higher. None of this “shorter workout” business. Ever.

Command #2: My pace should either stay constant or get faster. Faster, faster, faster!

Command #3: Burn as many calories as possible. Duh.

I was “that gym girl.” People commented on my workouts. A few girls commented on my body. The words were complimentary, the looks were impressed.

Meanwhile, I was falling apart.

So I quit. I didn’t stop exercising altogether, but I used the elliptical we had at home and I ran on the streets. I took myself away from the place that, for me, was like a nuclear wasteland–even after the blast was over, the toxicity remained. It lingered in the way I felt there, the rush I got when I walked in the door.


I didn’t want to walk in that door anymore. I needed to cleanse my body from the poison. I needed to be on my own.

I’m clean now. I still have stains on me, deep ones that will never go away, but the poison is gone.

Yesterday, I walked right back into the fallout zone. My Geiger counter went off, but only slightly. Enough to remind me of who I was before. Enough to make me sad about how much time and life I wasted on a machine, staring at a display and running in one place while the world whirled by around me. Not enough to make me not sign that paperwork, though.

Because I’m different now. I don’t want to be a gym rat anymore. I don’t want to spend my entire life there. I’d rather be on the roads than on the treadmill, but when your only option is to exercise before your kids wake up, and when 5:30 am means pitch-black, twenty degrees and black ice, you need another option. Especially since I’m considering running a marathon next fall.


(Granted, I may be a massive cold-weather wuss, but that’s another story entirely.)

The gym isn’t an evil place. People get healthy there, people find camaraderie there. For me, though, it was unhealthy for a long time. It was my everything, and that’s just plain messed up.

Now, it’s just there. It’s neutral. It’s another place to work out, and working out is just part of my life now.

So I’m going to go to the gym. Not every day, and probably not much at all when the weather gets nice.

I’m going to go to the gym. I’ll see the numbers in front of me, but I’ll let them be what they are. I’ll let myself cut a workout short. I’ll have hard runs and easy runs. I’ll let numbers be numbers instead of a measure of my self-worth.

I’m going to go to the gym.

Because the radiation is gone.




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