I will admit, I am not the world’s most competitive person. In my family that title is in contention between my brother and my cousin. Growing up I learned that if you were good enough to win against either of them than you would immediately be hit with ‘Best two out of three’ followed of course by ‘Three out of five’ and so on and so forth.
And you always knew it was coming because if you managed to beat either of them then they would get so worked up by the thought of losing that their skill levels would actually decrease with each game they were forced to play to prove their dominance and therefore your continued winning streak was thus almost a guarantee.
I learned very early on that escape meant that after a few games you needed to maneuver yourself into a losing streak. The trick was that you couldn’t look like you were losing on purpose. If they thought you were throwing the game, you would never be allowed to leave. It was a matter of pride and the reason that sometimes monopoly tournaments went on for years.
And I mean that literally. My cousin used to take a polaroid of the monopoly board and write everyone’s currency on the back along with real estate details and how many rounds were won or lost during that bout.
Then his photo and camera mysteriously disappeared one day.
I disavowed all knowledge.
I’m not sure these are the best skills to learn in childhood, but learn them I did and they have served me well. While I did learn to be sneaky, I also learned what games I was actually good at playing. I learned how to deal with irate people who were behaving in an unreasonable manner and I learned how to lose gracefully. I also internalized my self esteem instead of depending on outward validation.
I also learned that overly competitive people can be fun to play with, if you want to indulge your slightly evil side. While most of my ‘no cookies for you, now go to your room and think about what you did young lady’ moments were due to me letting that side of me out to play, I have found that occasionally the gym is good way to indulge myself.
Especially since I’m already not getting the cookies.
I had time to indulge myself in evil this week actually. I was on the treadmill at the gym. Now I know a lot of people start with clearly blocked out times for speeds and such, but I don’t, not really. I go to the treadmill after I have stretched and done my weights for the day so my body is limber. Still I start at a low speed for the first five minutes to warm up. Then I press the button to go up one point. (I start at 3.0 for warm up so one point is 3.1, fyi) Then as I adjust, i hit it another time to go to 3.2. I keep going up until I am walking as fast as I care to and then I stay there as long as I can before reversing the process. Then I do my five minute cool down.
Simple right? And not at all evil.
Wait for it my darlings, the evil cometh.
So I get on the treadmill and I am aware that at 208 lbs I am not the sveltest person in the gym. I am not lifting massive amounts of weight. I am not running a thirty second mile.
But walking, walking I can do.
For a really long time.
Onto the treadmill next to me stepped a woman quite a bit younger and quite a bit lighter than me. She was the kind of thin that doesn’t actually come from working out but rather from not eating. I’d seen her around the gym, usually in a group of others and usually talking rather than doing anything. You know the group I mean, the ones who have the well put together outfits, the expensive water bottles and are actually wearing a full face of makeup. They are amusing to watch. It’s like a strange sort of social club.
And I’m not knocking anyone’s routine, to each his own. It is however, more that they tend to go to the gym because they have been told they need to go to the gym, not because they actually have anything they want to do there. Occasionally they go onto the treadmills for a few minutes.
I’ll admit, its really the makeup that gets me.
I go bare faced to the gym thinking it is better not to have anything between my skin and the world when sweat comes pouring out of me. The woman next to me had no such qualms. We both put in our earbuds and started our machines. She glanced over and saw that I was starting at 3.0. She flashed a smug look and set hers to the same. It was clear she thought she’d have no problem keeping up with me.
My warm up ended and I hit the button. Her eyes flashed to my screen then immediately did the same.
The fun begins.
Okay, I kept the evil giggle inside. And since my muscles were already warmed up, it didn’t take me long to bump up my speed another notch. She followed suit.
And kept following suit all the way until I reached the highest speed I was willing to go. Her look of smug altered to a look of determination I remember well from my childhood.
Because occasionally, I refused to pretend to lose.
Once I reached my maximum speed, I settled in for a long stretch of walking. While my oh so competitive neighbor at first looked relieved by the fact that the speed was not increasing, as I didn’t slow down or stop, her look of determination came back.
She was not going to let me beat her.
But there were many unoccupied machines at this time of day so I wasn’t blocking anyone else from exercising and I can literally walk for hours.
Plus I hadn’t finished my actual work out.
As in most gyms the treadmills face a wall of mirrors and this one offered me a spectacular view of the scene. As I’ve lost a little weight yet wear very stretchy exercise pants, I have not purchased new ones. As long as they don’t fall off my body I am fine with them. My pants are no longer skin tight though and instead of stopping just below my knees they now are almost ankle length.
(Its kind of frustrating actually, I haven’t gone down another size yet, but as I’m losing weight all over my pants are getting longer faster than they are getting looser, all my jeans now have cuffs and anything that started out capri length is now almost full length, ah the world of weight loss fashion. A topic for another time.)
I also have my rather worn in cheap cotton t-shirt on. My hair is tied up messily at the back of my head, I am sweating and have no makeup on. This is me at the gym. I am not an awesome sight to behold.
By contrast my companion has an exercise ensemble complete with matching scrunchie, socks and sneakers, a neat, jauntily swinging ponytail and as stated before a perfectly made up face. It was flawless.
At the beginning anyway.
I don’t think she used waterproof products though. Or if she did, they weren’t sweat proof. I started off walking next to someone who looked model-esque and ended up walking next to a Tammy-Faye Baker impersonator. i could practically hear the ‘pray for Jim,’ sobbed out across the viewing audience.
Mostly though it looked like she was melting.
And I thought I was the wicked witch.
It was strangely fascinating to watch as I walked. Although I will admit when her sweat started affecting her lash glue and her false lashes started to go askew I had a hard time not cracking up.
But containing laughter is a good workout for your abs, right?
I expected her to stop her competition then, but she was having none of it. she pulled off the lashes and dropped them into the empty cup holder on the console and kept going.
I kept walking.
And despite the fact that I was listening to a History of Byzantium podcast (excellent podcast by the way if you are into history) and not music, I may have added a little bounce to my step and hummed slightly under my breath.
Eventually, she decided it wasn’t worth it, stopped her machine and stepped off. She returned a few minutes later to retrieve her lashes. I finished out my work out and then slowly started lowering my speed for my cool down.
I know, I was a little evil. In my defense, I really only slightly tweaked the workout I was planning to do. And I most certainly didn’t have a cookie afterwards.
I will admit that I am also a little bit proud of myself. I pushed myself to a little faster speed for a little longer than I planned and my body was still fine with it. which I suppose means I need to adjust my work out again. It is also something I could not have done six months ago. I think because I compete against myself and tend to set my goals based on working to improve so that today’s me is better than yesterday’s version, I occasionally forget to look outwards.
After taking control of my weight and exercise I may not be sylph slim and ready for a Paris runway (not that that is actually my goal), but I am not hobbling around with achy feet because my tootsies are complaining about carrying around my weight anymore either.
Sometimes I forget that.
So I guess competition is on occasion good for me even though I prefer to avoid it.
Ah, learning through evil.
Probably not an impulse I should have validated (cause I still feel a little guilty about melting treadmill girl), but I suppose we all learned a little something. I learned I’m getting stronger and she learned not to judge a book by its cover. Maybe. I don’t know. She may have just been annoyed and not learned anything. The next time I saw her she was on a treadmill next to one of her friends. They were walking at a low speed a steady stream of conversation flowing between them. She looked none the worse for wear and I clearly didn’t disrupt her routine, so my guilt faded and my amusement remains.
But yeah, still no cookie for me.