WE ARE LOCKED IN COMPETITION TO THE DEATH AND I. WILL. WIN. IT.
Even if I have to cheat.
When I work out, I have various methods to make sure I'm really working up to my potential -- I keep track of my time, or I always increase my number of laps, or I watch my RPMs when I'm biking, stuff like that.
And I secretly compete with everyone around me and I always win no matter what the facts might suggest.
Here's how that works, and also how it began: One time, back when I was healthier than I am now and could run 3, 4, 5 miles without really thinking about it much, I was running on the track and I was on lap 32 or thereabouts. The track has 12 laps to a mile, so I was cruising into the end of my third mile and really, doing pretty good at it.
And then this guy comes out, and it's a pretty crowded day at the track and there's an aerobics class going on and so there's lots of people, and New Guy gets onto the track in his fancy shorts and mesh-y shirt that's just made for running and his tiny earphones and other stuff, and I instantly disliked him because, really, I instantly dislike almost anyone but especially I instantly dislike people like New Guy, who made a big show of being a runner and who got onto the track and who began running really pretty fast, in a very showy way, all fists and pumping elbows and making that phfwhooosh sound as he ran that only people who are annoying about their workouts make.
I saw New Guy coming onto the track and ostentatiously stretching in front of everyone, in the walking lane -- I always did my stretching off-track, outside the enclosure, because (A) I'm not showy and (B) My stretching is almost comically the exact opposite of stretching in that I am about as limber and stretchy as an Ent, so I don't like to do it in front of people -- and I passed him and then kept on going on my then-7-minute mile pace.
About a half-lap around, New Guy came whipping around the track, knees akimbo, phfwhoooshing and all, with a headband, and swept past me and another guy and some girls and did this all in front of the aerobics class, and (in my mind, at least) being snarky about how fast he'd passed us.
He did that two or three more times, each time seeming showier than the last, and on the fourth lap, the two girls he'd passed a few time, and much of the aerobics class, had finished their workout, and with most of the track cleared out New Guy stopped running.
He just walked a lap and then went off and I didn't see him the rest of the day.
Now, I acknowledge that it's possible New Guy was just doing a warm-up or something, or maybe that was his workout that day, as unlikely as it is that three sprints and a walk and that's it would be your workout, but what I assumed, because (I know) I am deranged and antisocial, was that New Guy had come out there to sprint as quickly as possible in front of the women and that when most of them left, he'd stopped, and what I thought was "Sure, you might have run those three laps faster than me but I'm still beating you because here I am into my fourth mile," as I was still chugging away on my own run, and I decided that I was better than him because I ran farther than him, even though he was faster than me on those three laps.
Since that time, I have become hypercompetitive with everyone around me when I am working out, even if they do not know it: When people work out around me, I am secretly comparing my workout to theirs and trying to find a way to justify in my mind that I am winning.
If I get on a treadmill and start jogging, and a guy is next to me jogging, I will check and see if I have my pace faster than his. If I do, I WIN. Or if he stops running before me, I WIN. I don't even care if he was there for an hour, three hours, ten hours, before I started running: If he stops before I do, I WIN.
(If he is still running when I quit, then he is a jerk.)
When I bike, when I swim, I do the same thing: I compare myself to people around me. And I make sure I win, because if I don't appear to be winning, then they are cheating.
For example: Are they swimming faster than I am? Their form is probably wrong.
(NOTE: I technically swim three different strokes, in rotation. In my mind, the strokes are (1) the crawl, (2) the breaststroke, and (2) the backstroke. In reality, I know, the strokes are (1) "something that might be the crawl but there's a lot of thrashing involved, (2) I suppose that's a breaststroke, but you are going awfully slow for a swimmer, so it's more of a treading water with a bit of drifting thrown in, and (3) "Am I going to hit the edge? I think I'm going to hit the edge. I better look. Not yet? Now? Am I going to hit the edge? Why have I veered into that lane?")
(NOTE, 2: That does not keep me from assuming you, my competitor, are doing it wrong.)
Are they going further than I am? They probably cut a corner; did you see the way that guy took the inside track on that lap? That's why he's ahead. (That is an actual thought I had.)
Biking longer? Faster? Harder? They took the bike I wanted, and also my shoes aren't biker shoes. Whatever it takes, I am always competing against the people around me and always winning unless they are cheating.
And that is how today I found myself locked into another life-or-death mortal competition with the woman in the next lane over, who probably didn't know we were engaged in a titanic struggle but who lost, also, anyway, even though I twice got so winded that I forgot what I was doing.
I had to swim in the longest, worstest pool today, the LAP pool, which is where people are supposed to swim laps but I don't like to swim there because it's full of people who know what they're doing and wear goggles and turn their heads the right way and sometimes you have to share a lane with people like that and that's awkward because I can't swim in a straight line, and also the water is supercold.
So I try to swim in the "Sport" pool, or the "Warm Water" pool, or the outdoor pool, but each of them today at 5:50 a.m. was full of old people. There were old people in classes, old people in other classes, and in the outdoor pool, old people just walking around in the pool.
Sweetie, when I mentioned this later, said "Friday mornings are full of old people at the club," to which I said:
"Know where I won't be before dawn on a Friday morning when I'm old? Working out. Why can't they work out at 10 a.m., when the rest of us are at work?"
So I had to swim in the lap pool:
Which is longer than the other pools, too. But I got in and ignored the fact that the water had been shipped in directly from the North Pole and started swimming, and it wasn't long before I realized that I and the lady in the lane next to me were finishing about every fourth lap at the same time.
GAME ON, LADY!
She would pause a little as she turned around and I would pause a little as I turned around and I began trying to swim faster and faster to keep getting to the end of the pool before her and the result of that was that on about Lap 22, I got to the end of the pool and put my head up and was going to turn around...
...I know how to do a flip turn because I was on a swim team once and can do that but that's a lot of work right now, so I just stop and turn around and push off and go...
...and I sat there for a moment and thought:
"What was I doing again?"
I thought that, mind you, crouching in a pool with my swimsuit on, in Lap 22 of a workout.
And after a second my mind kicked in as Lady In Next Lane arrived at the end and I took off, swimming with all my might and I got to the end of the pool and turned and got back and did it again and I was on the end of Lap 25, at the far end of the pool, and I was about to swim the last lap, and it happened again:
"What was I about to do?", I thought, and stood there, for a second, dripping, staring at the clock at the far end of the pool before my mind rebooted and said SWIM! and so I finished the last lap and got out, none the worse for the wear, other than now I am worried that maybe I should work on how I breathe when I swim because I really don't think I'm doing it right.
The pool has two signs I found interesting.
Which is a perceived exertion index, and about which I thought "Is that necessary?" I mean, do you need a scale to let you know how hard you think you are working out?
"Oh, I thought I was working out really hard but now I guess it is only somewhat hard, thanks, handy numeric scale!"
I don't need such a scale; I know I'm working hard when my mind goes completely blank, the biological equivalent of that blue screen my laptop gets sometimes. Refreshing.
And do you need 10 levels of working out? How fine are the gradations you are making, here? "Today, I'm only going to exert myself to an 8. I was going to do a 9, but I thought I'd relax a little."
Isn't this taking it a bit far? Can't you just have a scale that says:
0: Not sweating at all/haven't changed out of street clothes.
1: Sweating, but not in the gross way.
2: Nobody's going to want to stand near you.
3: I think you just tore a muscle most people don't have.
And have that cover it? With maybe a final grade that says:
4: You don't have to make those noises, we're all aware that you are working out very diligently.
There is also this sign:
I wondered how they figured that out, and what happens if you exceed it. Would there be any spots left to stand in? Would all the people displace the water entirely and leave just a bunch of people standing in a sunken space? If so, is it a pool anymore and would the limitations apply?
You can see how my swim really cleared my head for some critical thinking.
Also: I totally beat that lady in the next lane.
Today's workout: Swimming, 26 laps.
Latest Weight: 251
Song that I listened to while typing this because I can't listen to music while I swim:
Everyday, by Elin Palmer:
PS: The picture at the top of the post is a listing of every workout I have done since I had a heart attack a few years ago: every single run, bike, or swim plus how long it took and how far I went.