My first workouts were at a gym which is part of a well-known nationwide chain. I chose it because it was huge and I figured it would be easier to fade into the background there. The workouts were pretty simple — half an hour of circuit weights, followed by about 45 minutes of cardio in front of a TV playing Dr. Phil or Oprah.
The cardio machines faced the free-weight floor, which I found to be just about the most intimidating — yet fascinating — place on earth at the time.
Frequently, a gentleman named Larry would work out there. Larry was in his early 60s, I think. He had a well-defined, balanced physique, and his lifting was admirable. He was all business, used impeccable form, and even though he had plenty to be proud of (he’d be totally pumped by the end of his workout), he never strutted or preened in front of the mirrored walls like some of the younger men. I figured he had been a bodybuilder at one time, but was now just lifting for fun.
One day, about 6 months after I had first noticed him, Larry happened to look in my direction, and I smiled. He smiled back. For another six months, we never had a conversation, but would exchange a friendly glance on most days. I don’t think either of us was interested in socializing.
Still, Larry was really inspiring to me, and so several weeks — or possibly months — after our first smiles were exchanged, I went over and introduced myself so that I could tell him so. I told him that his hard work and consistency had been a good example for me, and had influenced my workouts for the better.
He thanked me and said, “I was thinking the same thing about you.”
You could have knocked me over with a feather.
As it turns out, Larry had only been working out for about a year (same as me)! He was there on doctor’s orders, following a health scare involving his heart. His ripped appearance was 100% natural, and had been acquired over his 30-year career in construction.
Suddenly, I had an unexpected ally in the gym, and even though we never had another conversation beyond “Hi, how are you?” we were an encouraging presence for each other.
You just never know who your allies are going to be.