Tongue in cheek, earlier this week, I wrote about my lack of a beach-ready body which was my motivation yesterday to wheeze and pant through an exercise routine in the gym. Unusually, I had left my earphones at home which allowed me more space to pay more than normal attention to the other gym users.
Going to the gym can be intimidating for the first-time user. I have been a gym bunny for many years and so somewhat immune from the pressures of body shaming. As a daytime user, there is always a group of middle-aged and older women sharing the space. However, they are always slim and trim and seem to be able to run or row forever without the stresses I feel.
Whatever ambitions I have I know that I am there simply to prolong my life. Staying a little bit fit is a good first line of defence against the ravages and illnesses of time.
There is always another group that can intimidate. They are younger, both men and women, who eschew the cardio machines to pump weights. And the weights they use are, by my expectations, prodigious.
My leg strength is quite good, and, on the leg press, I set the machine at 80kg which is in the middle of the range of options. Say it myself, but I was impressed. I was followed onto the machine by another, maybe younger, but leaner user. I sneaked back afterwards to see how much weight he was pushing. 150kg. How the f*** did he do that?
We need to digress for a moment. Earlier today I clicked on an article in a spam email from Men’s Health, titled Researchers Suggest That Half Of Men Are Shaving Their Legs.
It was an amusing little piece meant to attract attention, and it did. For what its worth the trend started with swimmers and cyclists and is now seen as an aesthetic enhancement. While half of men may be doing it, there is an equal number of women who think it is something between silly to gross.
What then caught my attention was a video on the same page about the UK use of steroids. Official statistics in the UK suggest that there could be around 60,000 UK users. Unofficially there may be up to a million who inject themselves. That would be one in thirty men who use steroids.
Clearly, these are not professional athletes. They would be banned immediately. The video suggested that steroids are easily bought on the internet. I tried. They are right. there are thousands of sites selling online steroids. I was confused by the range and testimonials. Many men must be buying these steroids without any medical understanding.
I suppose I knew what was going on, but I had no idea that it was so prevalent. There are always people at the extremes of behaviour, but this is no longer at the extreme. It is now mainstream.
I think that it says something about how men now perceive themselves and here we are again with self-perception issues.
Rightly, women have a new and strong voice for equality. There may not yet be gender equality but there is an irreversible trend in that direction. While some of us have been educating our daughters to believe that they have the same rights and opportunities, it has an implication for our sons we didn’t see. We have not helped them understand their new role.
From a historical position of dominance and control, many a man is now feeling subservient and unable to understand their role in society. They are confused. Maybe, pumping up with steroids is a symptom of men trying to find a place in a world which is changing around them faster than they can react.
Maybe, even thinking about a beach-ready body shows I am just as insecure.