The Gym (Or Building with Statistically High Amounts of People Wearing Muscle Shirts)

About one month into going to the overly crowded (and smelly) CCRB, the gym on the University of Michigan’s central campus, I made a blog post about my experiences.

Shockingly, I was sassy.

Deep within the archives of failed ideas it lies, filled with cutting edge humor and critical analysis of Whey protein and BCAAs.

I decided to give it a revisit.

It being the new year, I’m sure a lot of you are making your New Year’s Resolutions.  And I’m sure a lot of you are going to go to the gym.  Which is great.  But gyms are scary and the CCRB is no exception.  (Not exaggerating.)  The mistakes I made in the past few months made for some hilarious tweets, but I don’t wish that onto you.  Entering the natural habitat of muscled fuck boys can be a culture shock.  Here are my tips to survive the process:

  1. If you don’t like Keeping Up With The Kardashians don’t even bother walking through the door.  E! is always on for some reason, but don’t worry because Kim Kardashian will push you like you’ve never been pushed before.
  2. An hour long workout isn’t better than a 30 minute workout if half the time you spent checking your Twitter feed. (Guilty.)
  3. You’re not the strongest one, but you’re also not the weakest one.  Also, news flash, no one cares.  Lift what you can, not what you want.
  4. Form > Weight.   (www.bodybuilding.com is your best friend.)
  5. Quest bars > Cliff bars.
  6. There are three bars for cable curls at the gym.  Two of them are unbearably squeaky.  You will always end up with one of the two.
  7. Fashion goes out the window the second you walk in the door. (Once I saw a man wearing a shirt that said “My favorite color is no pants”.  I still have nightmares.)
  8. You will be intimidated.  But don’t worry.  Gyms are required to have at least a few guys from the Men’s Fitness magazine in the gym at all times.  Just ignore them and their 0% body fat and pretend they’re not real.
  9. Going with a friend really helps with #8.  (Love you, Jaime.)
  10. Check your form.  Check your form again.  Then check your form a third time.  Having bad form can lead to not even working the right muscles and even damaging others.  (Source: me)
  11. Turns out stretching is really important.
  12. Like really important.
  13. No one expects you to know where every machine is right away nor do they expect you to know how to use them.  Take some time to feel the place out.
  14. If you get strep or some other, I don’t know, rare disease that sounds like it’s from the 1970’s (ex: Scarlet Fever), don’t go to the gym.  This should be a no-brainer.  Even if you clean the machines well, it’s just not the best idea, especially for your health.
  15. Disclaimer: I forgot to follow 14.
  16. You should probably follow 14.

Unfortunately, though, most people that start going to the gym for New Year’s usually stop after a month, even if they’re aided by my world renowned advice.

Which is both annoying and understandable.

I mean, progress is slow and there’s a lot to learn.  After all this time, I’m still learning.  For example:  Did you know that if you don’t stretch after a workout, you might be sore the next day?  And if you don’t stretch after a workout where you work on a muscle group you’re not used to working out, you might be sore for the next week?

Believe me, I was surprised, too.

The human body works in mysterious ways.

But the gym is a mysterious place.  Any given machine is just as likely to be a tricep press as it is to be a really exciting sex machine.

If you take out all of the perverts (sorry for my last comment), you have people of all ages, either doing strength training , cardio, even yoga, with the intent to just be healthy.  Which, all jokes aside, is pretty damn cool.  You can obsess about your strength, your form, how you look, how sweaty you are, what clothes you’re wearing, but what really matters is your perspective.

Think of the gym as a break from life.  There’s a ton of activity going on at all times but if you really just stop looking around and just relax it’s a really peaceful, head-clearing place.  Calc 3 and Orgo 2 can’t attack me when I’m two sets deep into bench press. (Translation:  Calc 3 and Orgo 2 can’t attack me when my chest feels like it’s being ripped off my body.)

Whether you go to the gym and do yoga, lightweights, or intense lifts like squatting or deadlifts, just going is the first step.

And hey, you might get some pretty funny tweets in the process.

You got this.

I’ll see you at the gym.

Hopefully I’ll be a little less sore.

What just happened?

I don’t want to start off this blog post saying “What a crazy semester… [insert my life is a rollercoaster analogy here]” but I’m going to.  So deal with it.

Currently? I’m jittery off espresso (not surprising) and I’m in this constant state of “I’m totally on top of my classes” even though I haven’t been to them in three weeks (also not surprising).  But more realistically and with as little sarcasm as possible, here are the facts:

  • I have 15 days before my fall semester ends and I’m back in the wastelands of the U.P..  (Wastelands can be used both as a physical description and as a social one.)
  • I’ve downgraded from thinking “9am classes are too early!” to thinking “10am classes are too early!” to thinking “11am classes are too early!”
  • I’ve been going to the gym.  Yes, your local sarcastic gay asshole friend on Facebook has been going to the gym.  Did he just post another 440 word response to anti-vaccine memes on his newsfeed?  (Guilty, I’ve actually done that.)  No, he’s posting a link to”100 best protein shake recipes 100 calories or less.”  How things have changed.

Other than those three bullet points, those three central parts of my life, life’s been both stagnant and reactive.  I’ve joined clubs, I’ve dropped clubs.  I’ve started listening to NPR podcasts, I’ve become a pretentious asshole filled with odds and ends of information because of NPR podcasts.  I’ve declared my major, I’ve rethought my major.  I’ve petted dogs, I’ve cried while petting dogs.

To cut the melodramatic repetition short, I’ll say this isn’t a post about how my life has changed for the better (Thank God).  This isn’t a post about how TEDxUofM made me rethink my life, or how I want to have sex with Jad Abunrad’s voice somehow (Sorry, NPR reference).  This is just a post.  An update.  I mean, it’s been five months, something’s had to have happened in my crazy beautiful life, right?

Five months have passed since my whiny post about how I’ve turned into a quirky hermit.  Since then I’ve had my first boyfriend, first real break up, first skinny dip, first real date.  I’ve lost friends, I’ve gained some, I’ve reconnected with some and I’ve lost touch.  I’ve had three viral infections and enough awkward experiences to write a book about (future blog post idea?).

We had to write a meditation for one of our final papers in English last year, meaning we thought about an idea (e.g. happiness) and wrote about it.  I’d like to think this is like that, a reflection on what the hell’s going on down here in Ann Arbor.

This post isn’t supposed to be filled with groundbreaking wit, it’s not satirical or relatable.  Just me.

No major event’s happened.  My dog hasn’t died (*knocks on wood*), some hilarious event that can fill aprox. 500 words hasn’t happened to me, I didn’t go through some life changing experience.  The closest thing to life changing is I go to the gym now and I can look in the mirror and if I orient my body in such a way I can indifferently say “Wow, look at that slight improvement)”.  I’ve just lived, I guess.   (God, I sound like John Green.  I hope owning up to it makes up for the fact.)

The thought of “The Future” is constantly on my mind, though.  I mean, who doesn’t worry about the job they’ll have in ten years.  Will I be married?  Will I have kids? But by spending time worrying about these things that actually don’t really matter, I’m missing what I have now in these Gorgeous College Days filled with ramen noodles, Twin-XL beds, and Grindr.  I’m thinking about when my dog’s going die rather than petting it.  I’m thinking about if I’ll be married rather than paying attention to the guy I’m on a date with.  I’m clinging to ideas rather than things with substance and value.  Constantly grasping for purpose when in reality it’s right in front of me.  I have my classes, my friends, my family, my dogs, my hobbies.  My.  I have things.  Why worry about what will replace them with they fade, move away, die when they’re right here?

Instead of stressing about Medical school or my orgo exam or my grades, why am I not getting up from this computer and knocking on my friend’s room to hang out?  (Probably because this post will never be fake deep enough to outweigh the C+ in Orgo I’d get wasting my time typing it, but that’s besides the point.)

The semesters over in 15 days for me.

I’m already half way through Sophomore year and I (painfully) remember high school like I was there last week.

While that might be true, I don’t care anymore.  Yeah, time flies.  Yeah, we don’t live forever.  But, you know what?  We do live.  And if that’s for another five minutes or another five years, I’m fine with it.  As long as I’m doing what want, what more can I ask for?  Experience doesn’t have an extension button.  And, no, I don’t mean I need to constantly be occupied with events and activities, I don’t need to squeeze life to death.  That’s not living, that’s fearing you’re not.  I said I want to live doing what want to do, not what some teenage heartthrob book wants me to do.  And, no, I don’t mean I’m not going to hug death enthusiastically with open arms right now, I have finals to pass.

This isn’t a declaration of my newfound maturity (I’m literally 7 years old).  I know I’ll look at this in a few years and cringe.  But I do think it’s something.

Whether it’s just a blog post or a meditation.  I think I learned something while writing this in the past hour.  Life isn’t about how many Facebook friends you have, or the most likes you’ve gotten on a picture.  It isn’t about your LinkedIn connections, or  how many people you’ve slept with.  It isn’t about your income nor is it about how many frat parties you’ve been to.  It isn’t about who you know in Greek.  It isn’t about what clubs you’re in or what your major is.

These things matter to people and they  are important, I’m not that cynical.  Sometimes, yeah, Facebook is super important to someone, and so is Greek life, that’s fine.   But there’s a difference between something making your life important because of what it is at face value or adding to the experience.  I should be going on dates because I enjoy them and I like company, not find someone to marry.  Because that’s not living.  These are ingredient, not the whole recipe.  Life is about all of these things and none of these things and a 20 year old guy in college can’t write down What Is The Meaning Of Life because honestly?   There isn’t one.  The Meaning of Life isn’t a multiple choice question, it’s a fill in the blank.

I didn’t need to let The Happiness Project or some other get-better book to tell me what I need to do to feel fulfilled.  I didn’t need a teen movie, I didn’t need the latest Hunger games movie (actually, I take that back).  I needed this.  I needed to realize that, hey, life’s what you make it and it isn’t the actions you do in life that give you happiness, it’s the motives that power them.  What matters is your own interests not what some Buzzfeed article list tells you to do.

What matters is you.

Until next time.

(Hopefully within the next five months.)

How to Become a Hermit in Two Months: A Guide by Yours Truly

Two months have passed since that glorious period of socialism, academics, general enrichment, and above all, a time where actual gay men actually lived near me.  (It was a golden era, I’m sure you were aware). Last Saturday marked the two month anniversary of my painful departure from Ann Arbor, Michigan to my bland, and occasionally surprising, homeland of the Upper Peninsula.

After leaving the gay oasis that is Ann Arbor Michigan, I decided to do the unthinkable.  I opened my Grindr app when I got home (a gay hook up app, I’m sorry I’m not civilized), deciding to humor myself to see what the UP had to offer.  I looked in horror to see the closest gay man, a mere mile away from me, had the name “Bear hunter,” having his profile picture a blurry, close up shot of what I’m assuming was his chest.  I’m not sure why he thought a blurry, close up shot of what was probably his chest would appeal to anyone, but I’m sure his pasty white 40 year old skin is happy in a Walmart somewhere.

Let me put things into perspective.  Grindr shows you the closest gay men in a certain radius away from you.  That radius is determined by the amount of gays in a given area.  The app will show you only 100 gay men (I know, that’s definitely not enough to satisfy my needs).  So the radius is determined by how far away the 100th gay man is.  In Ann Arbor?  It’s two miles.  In the Upper Peninsula?  It can get up to 150.  No, not 150 feet, literally 150 miles.  That almost goes out of the UP (which is 173 miles), there are more gay men in Ann Arbor than there are in the entire UP (well at least on Grindr).

A lot has happened since Bear Hunter.  Now gay marriage is legal, exams aren’t constantly on my mind, and I’ve started eating organic granola.  (I’m even seeing an orthodontist).

Everything has changed.

The social aspect of my life has changed drastically.  At the moment, my life is a combination of banana crunch cereal, Insanity, work, Orange is the New Black, Sense8, and some more Sense8.  I’ve committed more time thinking about Lito and Hernando’s future than my own.  I think I’ve hung out with possibly four different people this summer.  I almost have more dogs than that. (Mom, trust me I have friends).

Besides work, Insanity has taken up the majority of time.  Nothing says healthy like moving quickly in front of a television while a shredded gay man screams at you for an hour.  No, seriously, Month Two of Insanity is practically impossible.  I have to suffer through vigorous knee bending (I am actually 92 years old) and watch Shaun T (shredded gay man) just power through what I can barely do.  To top it off, there’s this girl in the workout videos whose job is to make sure you know she’s better than you.  She never takes breaks, she has perfect form, and she truly wants to make you feel like shit.  Her name is Tania and she does not feel happiness.  I am hoping you can hear the hostility in these sentences.   And to make it worse, she’s in pretty much every workout.  The last thing I want while my 92 year old knees are in excruciating pain, is to have Tania honestly just kill it.  But, actually?  It’s been worth it.  Even though I’m in pain for an hour everyday, I can finally look in the mirror and say “Wow, look at that mild improvement.”

Other than Insanity and making pizzas for the entirety of Marquette, not much is on my schedule.  Almost completely isolating myself from my friends and turning into a literal sloth is a lot easier than it looks.  Just follow these tips:

  1. When you see a container of Gourmet dog food, try it.  It’s gourmet for a reason, and the risk of losing that friend because you’re eating dog food is outweighed by the incredible taste.  (This is not a dog food ad).  I’m like not even kidding at this point.
  2. Talk to your dogs more than you do to people.
  3. Watch this five minute airplane safety video.
  4. Watch the entire series of Game of Thrones.  Twice.  (I consider myself a productive person).
  5. Tell yourself looking at someone’s Facebook profile is the same thing as hanging out.  (Because it is).

I’m hoping the next two months are a little more eventful.  The most exciting thing that’s happened this week is my mom bought a new kind of cereal.

What has my life come to?

Two more months.

Then Sophomore Year.

Let’s hope I don’t die of boredom beforehand.

The O’Hare International Airport Marathon

This past March I ran the Ann Arbor Half Marathon. Somehow I suffered through sobriety on a Saturday night, woke up at 6:00am on a Sunday, and ran 13.1 miles through out the city of Ann Arbor.

I’m as shocked as you are.

I had never run 13.1 miles without stopping once in the past 6 or 7 years since I started running and I had minimal training prior to the race. And to make matters even worse, it was so cold that the cups of water they had out for the runners before the race were frozen.

Optimal conditions, right?

But somehow I survived.   I got through the 18-degree weather drinking half frozen cup after half frozen cup of Gatorade.

But that half marathon was nothing in comparison to the physical turmoil I experienced at Chicago O’Hare International Airport from approximately 9:05am to 9:15am when I was forced to sprint from Terminal C to Terminal F to make a connecting flight.

I don’t know exactly why a 6:00am flight from Orlando to Chicago was delayed one hour but I do know some things:

  1. I had 10 minutes to complete a supposedly “15 minute walk” from terminal to terminal.
  2. It wasn’t a 15 minute walk.
  3. It wasn’t even a 15 minute run.
  4. I know that if we missed the window to board our second flight, we would have had a 10-hour lay over in Chicago.
  5. I know that United Airlines doesn’t believe in happiness.
  6. I know that these truths are all I need to conclude that United Airlines is guilty, and that I will someday, somehow avenge them for what they have done to me.

The actual time spent in Orlando wasn’t much better (just kidding I had a great time, mom). With a diabetic mother being forced to wear an eye patch due to an eye injury, I knew from the start this trip was doomed.

Let’s start at the hotel.

Superman’s incredibly strong.   Aquaman’s great with water. My family’s amazing at returning to the resort when the housekeeping’s cleaning. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1pm, 5pm, or midnight; the housekeeping is always half way done cleaning our room. I’m not complaining about the service we received at the hotel or housekeeping in general, I’m just not sure if our room was actually that disgusting or if someone actually pin pointed our location and then send it back to the housekeeping staff when we were about to drive back to our room so they would have been cleaning and rearranging my dirty underwear the second I walked in the door.  I consider it more of an achievement than an actual inconvenience.

But that doesn’t even begin to cover the shift.  Here are some other note-worthy skills we have/lack:

  • Inability To See A Fork In A Bag That Contains Exactly One Fork And One Sandwich
  • Ability To Own Four Pairs Of Crocs Yet Still Feel The Barbaric Thirst For More (congrats mom, this one goes out to you)
  • Inability To Pronounce Cirque du Soleil. (Circus due soli?, Circ du soleelee?)
  • Inability To Use A GPS Properly (Mom, it said turn left, turn left.  You can only turn left.  Why are you asking which way to turn how are you legally able to drive)
  • Ability To Kick Ass At Dave & Busters (4,175 tickets, cough cough)
  • and my personal favorite, Ability To Befriend Six Year Olds Only To Have Them Insult Your Ass Five Minutes Later (Sorry Allison…better luck next time?)

We are a family of many talents.

But this week wasn’t all bad. I did (like always) achieve greatness. First, I didn’t burn. Wait, this deserves its own paragraph:

I didn’t burn.

After hearing again and again “Zach, why did you spend 20 minutes applying sunscreen if you’re just going to sit under an umbrella”, I came out on top.

The Victorious Blindingly-Pale White Boy.  Has a nice ring to it, right?

Secondly, I finished House of Cards (Francis Underwood, how could you) and read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Harriet Vanger, how could you).

And lastly, I learned that mothers wearing an eye patch shouldn’t be allowed to drive.

Or go on water slides.

Aside from a few speed bumps (and can you expect anything less from the Carlson family?), we survived.  We set off every alarm at the airport because of my mom’s pump for her diabetes, but we survived.  We broke the TV and the teapot the first night, but we survived.

But, Florida was great.  A much needed break from break.

Florida we’ll see you in a couple of years.  Hopefully without an eyepatch.