It's the question I fear most every single day of my University life.
I'm sitting in my room. Nothing fancy, just relaxing. The music is on shuffle, the screen is on Facebook, and my mind is in "vacuous blob" mode. Staring at an article on the changing nature of the Internet. I have a study group tomorrow, and it is absolutely vital (to me) that I come up with 3 good points to discuss, and avoid looking like a total vegetable, who's only purpose in the meeting is to stop the chair from flying away in the breeze. I scribble down 4 dull and terrible points (which is the same thing as 3 good ones), and press Control and S. A solid day's work there, JB, now go and grab a cup of Earl Grey. By God, you've earned it!
But then the question comes and his me sideways. I know it's coming, but I never know when it's coming. The timing of it always catches me out.
"Mate, you wanna come to the gym today?"
What sort of question is that? It can come at any time, but the answer will always be the same.
I stumble for a moment.
"Oh, erm, what time you going?"
The answer is dependent on the timing of the question itself.
Occasionally I stand tall, and I refuse. After all, I have just spent the past 15 minutes doing work, I am pretty burnt out. But the worrying trend, recently, is a yes escaping from my mouth.
I want to go to the gym?
But why? There's nothing there for me! Gyms are where athletes push the very boundaries of what their bodies are capable of, or where bodybuilders go to burn off that last bit of pesky fat. It's certainly not where regular folk like you and I should be at all, let alone socialising and actually working out there.
In a house of 8 men, where I reside while I endure university ("men" is such an over-used word), going to the gym is seen to be a symbol of manliness and testosterone-fuelled credibility, though I'm not sure exactly why, or when it developed over time. Spartans never proved their worth in battle by lifting a heavier rock more times than their opponents. A veteran of the two world wars in the 20th Century was measured by his mettle, not by how much he could lift in one go, because its such a ridiculous way of assessing somebody.
And assessing somebody IS something that does go on, no matter how much gym-goers deny it. See that guy "doin' curls in the squat rack"? What an imbecile! Why doesn't he just go the whole hog and teabag the rowing machine while he shouts racist abuse at a treadmill? See that moron with matchsticks for arms thinking he can bench 100kgs? Just go home pal, I'm sure your lettuce leaf of a lunch is going off in the fridge. And that size 6, toned brunette in the super tight leggings on the cross trainer?... You can stay. Then there's the fucking huge mirror they put on one wall so you can even assess your own miserable time wasted on lifting bits of metal around. "It's so you can check out your form, bro". I'm sure it is- I'll tell you one thing it's absolutely 100% NOT for; checking either 1. yourself out or 2. the brunette on the cross trainer. But just in case she sees you, you end up just looking at yourself, just to be safe.
There is nothing positive about gyms at universities. From the overenthusiastic spin class instructor screaming at you to cycle a little bit more, despite the fact that you're sitting on a stationary object, quite literally going nowhere in life, to somebody who, until about 20 seconds ago, you classed as a friend urging you to do one more lift while you silently cry inside your own head "MAKE IT STOP! I DON'T WANT TO LOOK LIKE JODIE MARSH! I JUST WANT TO GO HOME AND BE NORMAL!", and it has to be inside your own head, because if you shout out like a Russian hammer thrower, you will get shifty looks. Yeah, it's okay to push yourself, but come on, do it quietly.
Why regular citizens of planet Earth visit the gym is beyond me. To be stronger? To run faster? To jump higher? Why? What is there to aspire to? I'm sure when we leave University, employers will jump at the chance to employ somebody who can squat well, or who can bench more. Maybe in the future, companies will choose who to employ by simply holding a massive arm wrestling competition, in a twisted mash of The Apprentice vs. Gladiators, where the strongest and fittest people on the planet get the best jobs, while the weak are left to wilt and die in the street like the useless shrubs they so deserve to be.
Can't we all just accept our bodies for what they are and do something constructive with them instead?