On Being a Horse’s Ass at the Gym

As part of an ongoing quest to experience more bliss and de-stressify the twisted circuitry of my cranky brain, I'm trying to get less pissed off about stuff. As it happens, the gym is a great laboratory for experimentation.

The gym is awesome because there are so many potential annoyances! I won’t even attempt to list them all. But current highlights include the constantly clogged toilets in the women’s restrooms, and meathead bodybuilders who, in order to prove their manliness, feel compelled to screw down the knobs on “adjustable” equipment so tightly that dynamite sticks are required in order to change the settings.

There is also the issue of my mental state when I arrive at the gym...

...which is fully caffeinated and amped for action.

Approximate size of Crabby's coffee cup:

Approximate strength of the coffee within:

The great aspect of this neurochemical “javactivation” is that it pumps up my motivation and endurance, gets me through strength training (ick), and makes for lovely little lightning bolts of euphoria as I dance on the elliptical to the pounding rhythms of my very odd playlist.

The downside of my hyper-aroused state? Minor irritations can easily explode into major rushes of self-righteous indignation.

The most heinous offense of late:  It’s the godawful television sets they’ve installed in the locker rooms, cranked up to high volume.

So I arrive in my own little cloud of pleasantly jittery pre-workout self-absorption and go to stow my stuff in a locker so I can start flailing and sweating, and I am brutally yanked from my anticipatory reverie by a sudden burst of senseless noise.

It could be the forced laughter of a talk show host sucking up to a celebrity with the IQ of a rutabaga, or the hysterical screeching of a game show contestant who just won a trip to Tahiti, or the braying of an infomercial pitchman trying to get me to buy a cat umbrella or an inflatable SUV or an electric toe jam remover. Whatever it is, it's pretty much guaranteed to be something unwelcome.

Unless they're broadcasting a public service announcement telling me precisely how to avoid being vaporized in an imminent alien attack?  I think the TV should shut the hell up. My reflexive emotional response to a blaring tv set that I have not turned on myself is: an uncontrollable surge of exasperation.

My next response is to scowl and sigh, and then I write irate letters in my head to the management and start imaginary worldwide Facebook campaigns to banish all public televisions (as opposed to Public Television, which can be annoying too with all those pledge drives but at least has stuff like Downton Abbey) and then I peer up at the tv set placed high on the wall above and wonder, if no one else happens to be around, if should try to clamber up on the lockers and try to find an off button and risk an awkward scene should an employee walk in unexpectedly, or if I'm not alone I might make a whiny comment about it to anyone who looks similarly irked. (And FYI, folks at the 24 Hour Fitness in Hillcrest, San Diego: the vast majority of women's locker room visitors polled HATE THE FREAKIN' TV! However it's possible there could be some sampling error due to the somewhat crazed demeanor of the particular pollster seeking opinions on this question).

On several occasions I've voiced my irritation to the personnel at the front desk (all very nice folks), and sometimes it's resulted in a reduction in volume and sometimes not.

But the last time I did this, I had an epiphany as I walked from the front desk toward my favorite elliptical machine.  It occurred roughly at the same moment I pulled out my mp3 player, put on my headphones and selected my current playlist:

Holy Crap what an asshole I am!

Are you ahead of me here?

I'd been creating this incredible drama in my head around my own irritation, repeating it over and over, day after day, and yet the answer was pretty simple:

Put your headphones on and pump up your music on BEFORE you go into the locker room, Crabby, if the TV bothers you that much. Moron!

And so I started doing that and voila!  Problem solved.

It does make me wonder though, how many other situations I could have avoided getting all riled up had I looked for solutions instead of getting distracted by my own sense of righteousness and weirdly personal sense of values. (Mindless TV is bad! Gyms shouldn't be hot! People shouldn't bring crying infants into movie theaters!)  I suspect there were lots of missed opportunities for happiness had I looked beyond my own view of how the world "should" be and just adjusted my behavior or expectations accordingly.

Sometimes it's as easy as asking myself "do you want to be all angry and annoyed? Do you like this feeling?" (Though unfortunately, sometimes the answer to these question seems to be "yes" and it takes a long freakin' time to let go of whatever it is. But weirdly enough, when the answer is a heartfelt "No!" I find I'm getting better at moving on).

Anyway, I'm sure I'll keep on being an asshole a lot of the time, as I've had 5 decades of practice, but I'm hoping I'll at least try to look beyond my own easily inflamed sense of indignation a little more often.

EXCITING UPDATE: So whaddya know?  On my last two visits to the gym the locker room TV's had been turned off!!!  Thank you, 24 Hour Fitness in Hillcrest, San Diego! 

Also, clever reader Lynn suggested this delightfully evil potential solution: the TV-Be-Gone!

How about you guys, anyone else find sources of irritation connected to working out? Or have other ideas for un-pissing yourself off?

Picture Credits:
Horse's Ass: deflam
Big Coffee Cup: abu
Strong coffee: sh0dan

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