Social Distancing in the Gym – Part 2

By Terry Boyd
The GYM Trenton

It was the longest walk of my life. Or so it seemed. A teenage boy walking back from what was to that point, the worst rejection of my short 16 years of my High School career. Let me explain.

I attended East Northumberland Secondary School where I had the best schedule which included a spare right after my lunch period. The spare was meant for a study period, but for my purposes was perfect for playing euchre, ping pong and staring at my high school crush. She was one of the popular girls and hung out with her friends who also shared the same lunch and spare. I carefully applied my Clearasil and bathed in Polo cologne daily in the hopes that some day she would look my way. I had no courage to meet her, tried accidentally dropping my chocolate milk carton in front of her and her friends which resulted in laughter, not the pity I had hoped for.

Each month there was a dance, either D.J. or the odd time a Disc Jockey. This night was the perfect night for a dance. It was the perfect storm, so to speak- it was a D.J. dance, it was the perfect temperature (not too sweaty), and after applying the perfect egg-shaped amount of Alberto Extra Hold Mousse and carefully combing with my flip comb I looked as good as I was going to get. I went with a friend and his girlfriend, and immediately knew I was a third wheel and would soon be on my own. When I entered the double gym “We’re not Gonna Take it” by Twisted Sister was echoing wall to wall, it was the perfect teenage anthem for a perfect night. She was there, with her friends and I was determined that my extra spritz of Polo was not going to go to waste.

I have been in several situations that have required courage, Moxy, machismo, call it what you will, but this was especially troubling. I had to make my way across the double gym and in front of a large crowd of my peers and risk rejection at the hands of my crush. I felt I had a solid shot. I waited for the perfect song- “Somebody” by Depeche Mode. It was a slow song; it was romantic and told my teenage love story to her without saying a word. Prodded by my friend and his girlfriend, who just wanted me out of the way I walked, or rather scuffed (cool way of walking) to her and her group of friends. Time was wasting as the song was already playing, I looked at her with my best Patrick Swayze pout, hoped she could smell my Polo and asked her to dance. Her response was a very polite “no thank you”, I threw my hands ridiculously up and down in the air and said, “oh dang”. I am not sure why this was the response I came up with, apart from being shut down I looked like a 4-year-old having a meltdown. I walked, rather super-scuffed my way back to the empty spot against the wall, recognizing the massive fail of my deodorant. All eyes were on me, “Somebody” now played in the slowest speed known to man, and without turning around knew that “the crush” and her friends were now snickering as I slumped away. Red faced and completely demoralized I decided now was the best time to go home.

Monday brought a whole new set of challenges, for now I had my spare and lunch with the snickering girls and my “crush”. In the week previously, the Phys. Ed.  Teacher Mr. Enright had introduced our class to the intramural room where there was a universal weight set. It was a quiet place, and no one ever went there so I decided with my face still red from the Friday night before that I could not face the girls and was better off saving myself any further humiliation and would go there. I had found my refuge, and while in this place of safety might as well lift some weights. Monday turned into Tuesday, then another few days, then weeks and months. Recognizing that pairing is an integral part of behaviour I now know that I associate lifting weights with safety, accomplishment, and refuge. Lifting weights was and is my safe place.

There are many men and women who associate lifting weights with an assortment of various feelings, more times than not these are deeply personal. Some refer to lifting weights or exercising as a religion, a safe place, a place of security, good mental health, physical fitness, and accomplishment. For some it gets them out of bed in the morning, and for others it is their go-to for hard times. It is a healthy alternative to other coping mechanisms like drugs and alcohol.

The Gym here in Trenton like all other gyms was shutdown yet again on December 26, 2020. At the time, the safety protocols were in place and had been for some time including masks, equipment cleaning, limited numbers, social distancing, and hand washing. There were no related cases of COVID from The GYM- zero. The rating scale enacted by the government included lowest to highest levels of green, yellow, orange, red and grey. In this area we were considered in good shape and until December 26th were in the yellow zone. Overnight the government scrapped the ratings and jumped our area three spots to a lockdown at the grey zone shutting down small businesses. While their may be cases of COVID coming from small businesses I am not aware of any. However, Walmart, Shoppers Drug Mart and McDonalds all had cases of COVID and were not required to lockdown like small businesses in the area.

I would prefer to not get too far into politics, not the intent of this article. If there is any way I can help those who are affected by the virus, I would like to be a part of that I will not hesitate to do so. I do question why if we did exactly what we were required to do with marked success- the road to flattening the curve, protecting the vulnerable, then why shut down my gym. The carte blanc approach with no actual statistics to support shutting down a business that has done what it was mandated to do and has been successful makes zero sense. We have convinced the membership that we can do it, we can make a difference, let us all work together has resulted in closing.

Let me circle back to my High School experience. Every single person who goes to a gym, who exercises, lifts weights, or plays sports has a reason. For a lot of people, it is the answer to mental health, coping and the dark days of winter. It is important and in my mind it is essential. When I read that exercising is something people can do as I look out the window at the snowstorm, we are currently experiencing I cannot help but feel angry and frustrated. Are gyms more essential than liquor or cannabis, you bet your ass they are.

When I walk into The Gym now it is empty, for me it is the saddest place on earth. Shutting down every gym in Ontario despite its success in containing the spread of COVID is cavalier, obtuse, and far from reasonable.  It is most definitely political and is most definitely a smoke screen to give the appearance of positive action when the reality is since the shut down the impact of closing small businesses has had little to no affect other than the small businesses who will never be able to recover economically.

Gym’s are essential; they are people’s safe place, coping mechanisms, mental health aids, and a way for some to get through the pandemic. An arbitrary decision to shut down these places is a decision to severely impact people’s lives. But hey, what the hell there is weed and booze available, get that into ya.

421 Dundas St. Trenton