My legs were screaming at me to stop. But the finish line was tantalizingly close, so I ignored them – as best I could manage when it feels like there’s a newly-graduated surgeon extracting a bullet from your quadriceps – and pretended I was a swift Kenyan runner.

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“My” group of Half Marathoners…me in red, my daughter Emma in blue…

I enjoyed a run through the park with 25,000 others a week or so back … Stanley Park in Vancouver, as a matter of fact.

The mass of multi-colour clad, multi-aged runners combined in a tidal blur of sun, sweat, and spectacular vistas of the snow-capped mountains on the north shores of Burrard Inlet. With the bright sunshine warmly carpeting our pathway, a prettier running location would be hard to find in this world.

It was a half marathon run, part of the Vancouver International Marathon held each May.

Distance running like this is not something I was naturally born to. I’m no Wayne Gretzky, who, I’m pretty sure sliced and diced his Mom’s hoo-ha figure-eight style on the way out at birth with his sharpened ice skates. HE was a natural.

I’ve been a slowly smoldering work-in-progress, one New Balance running shoe step in front of the other to where I stand today as a middle-aged middlin’ runner.

Pet Peeve time: Calling the race a “half marathon” inflames the ire in me because it makes me feel like I could only bother to run half the REAL race. The medal hung over my neck at the end declares, “RAN HALF“.

It’s like they’re snickering and cruelly announcing to me and the world … “real athletes run a full marathon, but YOU could only run HALF a marathon. Lazy Slob!”

Don’t worry… I’ll get over it.

All of this is really just an introduction to telling you that I didn’t like gym class in high school.

It was populated by jock types and smart-ass morons and squat, juiced-up gym teachers with bulky brawn, shrunken testicles, and even further diminished brains. The gym corner office was full of male and female Sue Sylvester wannabes. It didn’t make me feel “GLEE”-ful.

Gym teacher

To be fair, some things were OK, but most of the time my gym experience was being squeezed like a stress ball wearing regulation blue gym shorts. The atmosphere was suffused with wrestling room acidic-scented body odour and unattainable rope climbs and gymnastics pretzels. My life flashed before my eyes a dozen times while attempting to do the mandatory spread-legged vault over the pommel horse.

In my gym classes, participation wasn’t the desired outcome. It was either total mastery of death-defying contests or utter, adolescent, esteem-crushing failure. The good-looking popular girls in their cute boy-melting mini-skirts knew within minutes if you failed to jimmy up the rope to the gym ceiling. Who needed Facebook or Twitter?

Somehow, I scraped through with only semi-crippling psychological damage.

And now, fast forward to today’s gym world.

Fitness-Club

The modern-day commercial gym is an amusement park wonder to gawk at.

There are machines with handles and barbells sticking out in various directions, all laid out in beautiful straight lines. Bright spotlights peer down from above onto stationary bikes, and rowers, and treadmills, and ellipticals, and all manner of thingamabobs with names that only Dr. Seuss could have contrived.

Huge numbers of average folks throng to these high-tech halls of power and fitness to make themselves more beautiful and buff and just plain healthy. It’s good to see but I’m mightily confused – as I am by so many things in my life. Let me explain.

The guys and gals pour through the doors, and plunk down their hard-earned membership dollars. Then, like in the old smoky-hazed drinking parlours from a hundred years ago, the men and the women disperse in opposing directions.

Men drift off towards the big heavy lifting machines and barbell racks where bench presses and monster leg squats await tantalizingly like BBQ’d steaks and beer on a hot summer day. The 350 lb. “grunt” lifts soon begin and the muscles bulge and ripple. This is the “BRO ZONE”.

Meanwhile, women amble towards the organized group classes of TRXBOSU, Kick Boxing, PilatesSpinBoot Camp, Yoga and…well, you get my drift. Lululemon butt-hugging apparel bursts out all around like an untended field of pretty dandelions, music volumes crank up and movement begins. There is hard work to be done and sweat to be shed. One of the best things resulting from these classes is a killer “aerobic” workout that pushes the heart and lungs way beyond the comfort zone.

Now, maybe it’s just the gyms that I go to, or the small’ish city  where I live in British Columbia, Canada, but in most of the group classes that I stop in to participate, I’m the ONLY guy. It’s a lonely world for those of us with a Y chromosome.

yoga ine guy

…alone again…naturally…

WHY??

Why do my male brethren avoid the group workout in a room filled with the fairer sex?

  • Too much talk? Who can talk with a heart beating hard enough to be heard across town?
  • Not enough muscle aggrandizing work? Guys…there is no lack of muscle building activity in a TRX or Boot Camp class, believe me!
  • Music too distracting?  Maybe, but it helps to take the mind off the pain and make time zip by faster.
  • Female Intimidation? Are the men coming to the gym fearful of what women might think of them if they can’t keep up in a class setting? Are the “ball-busters” just too much for the male ego to handle?

I wish I knew the answer to my own questions.

Today’s world is taxing enough for a man who is trying to understand how the double X chromosome sex thinks. But then to run into a wall of confusion regarding his own gender-kind seems perversely mean-spirited.

Have I been somehow cluelessly parachuted inside a Twilight Zone world where I’m straddling a gender fence surrounded by a dark, murky haze?

Maybe hanging out with my BRO’s will clear the confusion in my head and remedy the lingering pain in my HALF MARATHON legs.

I’m heading off to the gym to think about this.

kid planking

Way to go BRO!

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