Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Armed with my iPod and a book, I went to the gym. I also had my brother for company. While at the gym, my brother put on the TV that I eyeballed every now and then, watching news on CNN and then later the movie The Bourne Identity on TNT.
On treadmill and stationary bike, I burned more energy today than I had over the last couple of workouts. So I should have returned home a happy person, right? But I didn't. Not exactly. Rather I returned with this thought that has been growing only heavier with time.
I have been thinking, why did I 'need' my iPod, or a book, or TV at the gym? Was I seeking to multitask to be more productive? Or was it because I did not enjoy the gym and wanted to distract myself from the banalities of the workout?

I can rule out the first option; I wasn't seeking to multitask. The truth be told, one of the reasons I went to the gym was to get a 'break' from the reading + writing I had been doing earlier in the day. And yet I had carried a book with me to the gym. Do I enjoy reading? Yes, I do. But my idea of a break from reading is not exactly another reading, even if a non-academic one.
Moreoever, while at the gym, I read the book only part of the time I was on the bike. So if I really loved reading, why did I not read it all that time? So what was I doing the time when I was not reading? Watching the TV.
Was I watching something important or interesting on TV? No. Not really. If I had planned to catch up with the day's news or to catch up on the market performance, I would have put on those particular channels. But I did not choose those channels, which I could have as there was no one else at the gym other than me and my brother.
I realized that the book, music and TV were only distractions from the activity I was engaged in: running and cycling. Was it because I thought these activities didn't require my attention and that my attention would be better served by being elsewhere while I jogged or biked? Or was it because I thought I needed to have my attention away from running and cycling?
A positive answer to the first question cannot be the correct explanation because even while at the gym I was well aware that I wasn't employing my attention optimally.
That a positive answer to the second question might be the likely explanation has been bothering me. If I need to divert my attention from the activity I am engaged in, then it tells me something about my attitude towards that activity. It means that I don't enjoy running or cycling. I go to the gym not because I enjoy working out but to be fit and not gain weight.
So it might be that, at least in this case, I am interested only in the outcomes (of the workout) but not in the process (of working out).
Now I know that not everything that we do in life is fun or interests us, however, we do it it because we think it is important. Well, how many people I know would be glad to continue their jobs even if they didn't need to work for money? How many people I know would be glad to continue working out in gyms and fitness clubs even if they had the physiological state of being fit and healthy forever?
There is something to be said about being absorbed in the activity that one is engaged in. I guess it is similar to Thoreau's idea of walking. Contrastingly, it reminds me of the book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in which the author, Robert Pirsig, takes his bike to the mechanics and is put off by sight of the mechanics working on his bike with loud music blaring in the background.

1 comment:

  1. hmmmm..looks simple..but thought provoking..