Mile 587: An Introvert’s Guide to the Gym

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“I spent my life becoming invisible.
It’s hard to maintain, and it’s hard to get by.”
–Neko Case, “Nothing to Remember”

Miles last week: 51
Total miles: 587

One of the good things about the Internet (that seems like an oxymoron) is that I feel like people generally better understand the difference between introverts and extroverts. That, or the Internet really only exists so that you can validate yourself and I frequently peruse the geek board on Pinterest, which sometimes has pins that tell you it’s okay be an introvert–pins like this one:

Basically, introverts are introspective, watchful, quiet, and need alone time to recharge. This, of course, causes a whole host of problems and assumptions that are slightly beside the point right now. What we’re talking about today is how being an introvert can affect your gym time.

That’s right. There, unfortunately, can be a social aspect to working out. There are people there. And sometimes they try to talk to you when you’re huffing and puffing and generally being a disgusting, sweaty mess. It’s madness.

If you’re an introvert like me (I know–you’re completely shocked to discover this personal detail about myself), then social interaction takes a bit more energy than it does for extroverts, whether you realize it or not. At the gym, though, you need every bit of energy you have to concentrate on burning those calories and not dropping weights on your foot. You’re going to have to take some steps to make sure no one else there does anything annoying, like talk to you.

As an introvert who frequents the gym, I am prepared to share my wisdom with you. Just follow these tips to ensure that you have plenty of fortitude to make it through a workout without collapsing from conversation-induced exhaustion.

Buy noise-cancelling headphones.
Nothing says “unapproachable” like completely covering your ears with technology specifically designed to muffle all sound around you. The only bad thing is that they’ll make your ears sweat. It’s also not very fun when you break them and have to duct tape them back together, but your hair keeps getting stuck in the adhesive when you wear them. I heard that from a friend…who is definitely not me…

Pick one machine and stick with it.
If you’re getting up and moving around to different areas of the gym, there is a chance that you will accidentally make eye contact with someone. And we all know what eye contact leads to: acknowledgement of another person that you may have to speak to. Whether it’s a quiet hello or a mumbled apology for almost crashing into him or her, this is a needless expense of energy that you will undoubtedly need if you have any hope of being able to move after a few sets of squats. If you ever squat and fall over, just know it’s because you nodded at that person when he or she walked past you on the way to the water fountain.

If you must move around, make sure you have your phone.
Your phone is a vital tool in evading social interaction. I tend to wait until after I’m off the elliptical or treadmill and on my way to the paper towels (because I’m sanitary and clean off any machine I touch) before I tell MyFitnessPal how many calories I’ve burned so that I can avoid looking at any people–or, you know, where I’m going. I only SOMETIMES run into things, okay?

Just pretend you know what you’re doing.
Whatever you do, DON’T ASK ANYONE HOW ANYTHING WORKS. There are diagrams on the machines for a reason, y’all.

Close your eyes when using equipment.
This will make it look like you are concentrating and working hard on muscle definition when you’re really just trying to stop yourself from glancing around the room and looking like a creeper. On a side note–don’t close your eyes when using the elliptical or treadmill, as this may result in vertigo or personal injury. I also heard that from a friend…

So there you have it. The key to surviving at the gym as an introvert is essentially to avoid eye contact and act like you belong.

Good luck out there, introvs*.

*I’m so sorry. I was trying to make “introvert” cool and abbreviated. I see now that it was a bad idea and deeply regret my attempt at colloquialism.

Mile 536: Improv Achievement Unlocked

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“[scat singing]”
–Louis Armstrong, “Heebie Jeebies”

Miles since last time: 100
Total miles: 536

On Saturday, March 21, at 7:30 p.m., at the intimate Oklahoma Shakespeare on Paseo, my Level I improv class did our first ever improv showcase as Iron Turkey.

Stolen from the OKC Improv Facebook page

Stolen from the OKC Improv Facebook page

Since I’ve never had to get myself ready for a comedy show before, I sort of IMPROVISED. (See what I did there?) During the afternoon, I listened to the Comedy Bang Bang and Improv4Humans podcasts, and I popped in The Lonely Island’s Incredibad on my drive to the venue–because why not?

I don’t know if the podcasts and music helped or not, but my thinking was that I needed to surround myself with comedy so that some of it might soak in…or something. I was pretty nervous, okay? I’m not saying my thought process is logical, but it felt right at the time.

I’d love to give you a blow-by-blow of the whole evening, but the truth is, I remember very little about anything I said or did during the twenty-five minutes of our showcase–and not just because I’m posting this a week late.

Stolen from the OKC Improv Facebook page

Stolen from the OKC Improv Facebook page

It’s kind of weird, actually. I remember awesome and funny things the rest of Iron Turkey did. There was definitely a sexually harassing gorilla in Madagascar, a unicorn war with bats, skydiving mastodon hunters, and a lot more. I know I was there–there is photographic evidence–but did I do anything? Probably?

I think this is called improv amnesia. It’s totally a thing…maybe…

I pretty much just remember the evening as a big blur of fun and some tasty pizza afterward at Sauced on Paseo with a few good friends. (Seriously–it was freaking delicious pizza. I highly recommend it.)

So, I suppose the next question is–did I accomplish what I set out to do when I decided to sign up for improv?

Stolen from the OKC Improv Facebook page

Stolen from the OKC Improv Facebook page

As for what I learned or what I got out of the last eight weeks, I think it’s hard to say in any sort of simple way. It’s kind of like weight loss that way. Most change is small and slow. You may not notice it because you don’t see yourself. You just have to do what you want, trust yourself, and keep moving forward.

I suppose I feel different. Maybe? I don’t really know. The filters are still there, but you can’t expect them to disappear in two months. As to whether it’s helped my writing or made me a more active participator, only time will tell. I do feel even more motivated to keep going.

Now that I think about it, I think that’s what I really got out of this introductory experience: motivation. Motivation to make funny things with great people. Motivation to keep trying to entertain people. Motivation to strive for more creativity. Motivation to spend more time with the people who make me laugh. Motivation to get over it and just do my thing.

Stolen from the OKC Facebook page

Stolen from the OKC Facebook page

I’m glad and grateful that I took a chance on something that I’ve been thinking about and wanting to do for a long time. I’m also grateful that no one told me I was wrong for it or looked at me like I was crazy (except for that one guy that I’m not even friends with, gah), and I’m unbelievably lucky that I got to experience it with six awesome people and a great instructor. Most of all, I’m super stoked that I get to keep doing it.

I’m leveling up. LEVEL II, BABY.

Gosh. For a blog post about a comedy thing, this got a wee bit sappy.

IRON TURKEY.

[gobble noises]

Mile 436: Make a Sound Like an Author

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“Go and make interesting mistakes. Make amazing mistakes. Make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.”
–Neil Gaiman

Miles since last time: 102.5
Total miles: 436

The surest way to send your week downhill pretty quick is to start it out on a high–like seeing Neil Gaiman on a Monday, for instance.

I speak from experience.

That’s right. Last Monday, a few friends and I attended the Emerson-Wier Liberal Arts Symposium at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha to see world-famous, award-winning writer Neil Gaiman. It was a rest day well spent.

Surprisingly, I found out about the event through my gym. When I saw the flyer in the window, I nearly had a heart attack. Neil Gaiman? In Oklahoma? FOR FREE? Sign me and three friends up.

His face was on our tickets!

His face was on our tickets!

Gaiman is responsible for giving the world Coraline, Stardust, Neverwhere (which I’m currently reading), American Gods, his famous “Make Good Art” speech, and so much more, including two episodes of Doctor Who. As someone raised in Chickasha, I can tell you that this type of thing does not happen often.

The month or so between ordering the tickets the tickets and attending the event was marked with much anticipation and coworker jealousy. Sometimes, I would silently squeal “NEIL GAIMAN” to myself and smile for what others probably thought was no reason.

The event was general admission, so my friends and I did have to wait in line for a bit, but it was a small price to pay. Before we entered, the staff passed out programs with question cards inside. If we so chose, we could write a question and he may or may not answer it later. I knew I wanted to ask something but had no idea what. He surely gets the same questions all the time. I mean, he’s Neil F-ing Gaiman.

Once the doors opened, I spent some time thinking about what to ask while continuing to chat with my friends. (It had been a long time since we’d all been in the same room, so some catching up was necessary.) At some point, I sort of mentally threw my hands in the air and wrote something down. Spoiler alert–he did not answer my question. NOW I’LL NEVER KNOW.

My question for Neil Gaiman: "What are you reading right now (besides this question), and how are you enjoying it (may or may not apply to this question)?"

My question for Neil Gaiman: “What are you reading right now (besides this question), and how are you enjoying it (may or may not apply to this question)?”

Finally, a student came out and introduced Mr. Gaiman to the packed house, and he filled the auditorium with his distinguished British tones for an hour and a half. He talked about where writers get ideas, the lie of writer’s block (after all, gardeners don’t get gardener’s block), read two stories from A Calendar of Tales, talked about working with his dear friend and colleague Terry Pratchett (who unfortunately passed away a few days later), and answered questions about everything from how he met his wife to what missteps he’s made in his career. The biggest laugh line came when he picked up a card and read the question, “How does someone get an agent?”

He paused, looked up at the audience, and said something along the lines of, “Go to a place where agents gather and make a sound like an author.”

It's Neil Gaiman--I promise!

It’s Neil Gaiman–I promise!

(I say “something along the lines of” because I, most unfortunately, do not have the auditory equivalent of a photographic memory. I’m getting older, people.)

He was everything you would expect a Neil Gaiman to be: wild-haired, engaging, thoughtful, insightful, funny, and just all-around awesome. Do I even need to say this? He’s Neil F-ing Gaiman.

In deep discussions about the event afterward and reading other bloggers’ accounts (such as Alyssa Grimley’s and Lex Selzler’s), I’ve discovered that different people were inspired by different aspects of the evening, whether it was hearing an author read his own work, hearing him assure amateurs that you should focus on making an interesting thing instead of getting a paycheck, or so many more things than I could possibly say here.

What struck me most was how much Mr. Gaiman is a storyteller to his very core. He took every opportunity to give us a full picture of every little detail of whatever he was discussing. When talking about how he got involved with Doctor Who, he launched into a scary-accurate impression of Steven Moffat. When talking about getting his start in journalism and lying about what publications he’d written for, he told us that he made sure to go back and write for each and every one of them so that he wouldn’t be a liar–just a bit chronologically inaccurate. He could have so easily answered any question with a sentence or two, but he took the time to give each his full attention and the Neil Gaiman treatment. He took the time to tell each story.

He made sounds like an author.

And that’s what was inspiring to me.

“Make a sound like an author” may have been intended (and received) as a joke, but as I continue to examine that night, I’m realizing what that really means. For me, “make a sound like an author” means “take every chance to tell stories.” Do it with every breath, with everything you have, with every word you know. There are stories only you can tell, and people want to hear them.

After I got home, I felt the need to somehow tell Mr. Gaiman how amazing it was for him to come to Chickentown (I’m from there–I’m allowed to call it that) and that he should come back soon and often, so I did the only thing I could think to do: I tweeted him.

And then this happened.

I'm @stonebarky, in case you were wondering.

I’m @stonebarky, in case you were wondering.

I hope you do, too, Mr. Gaiman. Or may I call you Neil now, since we’re Twitter best friends?

Mile 333.5: On the Importance of Letting People Pass You

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“To me! To me!
To you and you and you, you, and you.”
–“La Vie Boheme,”
RENT

Miles last week: 18
Total miles: 333.5

On both Monday and Friday, I left work early because of snow. I am not a terribly aggressive driver, so I took the entire forty-five-mile drive home pretty slow. People passed me the entire time.

Sure, I maybe could have gone a little faster, but I figured, why risk it? I drive a ten-year-old Ford Focus. I’ve probably spent more on repairs than it’s worth and most of the time I would like to send it over a cliff–you know, in a mostly “Sure, I’d like smash you into pieces but I’d also be sad if you were gone” sort of way.

I have a complicated relationship with my car. This is beside the point.

The point is, I didn’t drive any faster than I felt comfortable. My philosophy was that I wasn’t racing anyone. I was the only one going to my house, and those other people may know better what their cars are capable of. I just did my thing and tried not to worry about what other people were doing while I rocked out to the Rent soundtrack.

(Yes, you heard that right. La Vie Boheme, baby.)

For some reason, it is harder to have this non-racing philosophy in other areas of life. Like the gym, for example.

I am not someone who has mastered the art of not comparing myself to others. It’s hard not to see other people and think you should be doing what they’re doing because they are obviously superior beings who have everything together.

I’m worried it might be a permanent condition. I think I’m just always going to hate the ginger bastard gliding along at ten miles an hour on the treadmill next to me (well, now he’s a few machines down since I’ve been relegated back to the elliptical).

Seriously, what’s that guy’s problem? He doesn’t even break a sweat. What a jerk. GO RUN A MARATHON OR SOMETHING. I hope you can’t find a port-a-potty when you need it.

Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, but you can’t always be looking at what everyone else is doing. Trust me–I know how difficult this is. You can only try to do better than you did the day before.

Perhaps the only way to fix this comparison disorder is to constantly pretend I’m driving in the snow and trying not to die. Apparently that’s the only time I remember that everyone is doing their own thing and I’m the only one going to my specific destination.

It’s not a race.

Unless you’re in a race.

Then it’s a race.

But you probably shouldn’t be in a race all the time.

If you are, you should probably rethink some things.

That’s a post for a different day.

Mile 315.5: I Know We’re Broken Up, But…

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“So be wise and keep on
Reading the signs of my body.”
–Shakira, “Hips Don’t Lie”

Miles last week: 52.5
Total miles: 315.5

Oh, Elliptical. I’m sorry–Lipty. I know you like it when I call you that.

I promised myself that we were through, but goddammit, I just can’t stay away from you.

The treadmill hasn’t been treating me too well lately, Lipty. I know it doesn’t mean to. It’s just that sometimes I push it, and the treadmill pushes back. It’s not the treadmill’s fault. It’s mine. This is what I get for trying to increase my running intervals, and right now, my left hip is paying for it. So, I’m feeling a little bit like an old lady and I need a friend.

That’s why I’m here. Well, that and the fact that all of the treadmills were taken the other day. I can’t believe that bastard is cheating on me on top of everything else. What a jerk. Do you have any cake? No–wait. Don’t answer that.

I suppose I’m a little lucky, though. Seeing no available treadmills sent me back to you and made me realize that you wouldn’t hurt me like the treadmill. With you, I’ve never questioned whether I should start looking into joint replacement.

Don’t take this for more than it is, Lipty. I’m only here because my left hip has decided to start protesting higher impact and I’m trying to prevent self-injury. I’m out of here after my new Dr. Scholl’s Sport Insoles (which are specifically made for all-day shock absorption and stress on the lower body joints) start to kick in and I feel a little more like my normal, older-than-young-adult self. This is purely physical.

SportInsoles

I had to buy the boy ones.

Don’t look at me like that, Lipty. I can’t help it. I need the treadmill. But right now, I need a little safety.

We’ll have fun while it lasts, though.

Mile 263: Five Theories for the Existence of Adult Stress

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“I knew what I had to do and
I made myself this solemn vow:
I’s gonna be a lady someday,
Though I didn’t know when or how.”
–Reba McEntire, “Fancy”

Miles last week: 33
Total miles: 263

Like everyone, I went through puberty sometime in middle school, but I don’t think I really started to feel like an adult until I realized that Penny gets an abortion in Dirty Dancing and Reba McEntire’s song “Fancy” is about a mother prostituting her daughter. In my childish innocence, I legitimately thought that Penny’s doctor was mean and had dirty knives (which I imagined were caked with mud because sometimes my imagination is literal) and Fancy was going to a big party for which her mom made her a nice red dress.

Of course, upon this realization, my mother’s wary looks at my sisters and I dancing our Holiday Barbie (who had a fabulous and sparkly red dress) around to Reba McEntire started to make a lot more sense…but that’s beside the point.

Soon after these revelations, the stresses of adulthood began to set in–money, career, the limited availability of Pepperrollies, etc.–and because I’m a human and thereby seek causes for effects, I have to assume that there is a single, solitary reason for all of the stresses and bad things about being an adult.

I have some theories.

1.) The aliens are messing with us.
I think of this as the Men in Black theory. Somewhere, there are aliens shaking our galaxy marbles and rocking our world. This is obviously why there are earthquakes, car accidents, headaches, and doctors’ handwriting.

2.) Obama.
Sure, there are good things happening with the deficit, health insurance, and the economy, and he’s accomplished a lot of stuff. But I have to go back to work after a three-day weekend. THANKS OBAMA.

3.) Clear wool.
Maybe there really is wool over our eyes when we’re growing up, but it’s clear, obviously, because we need to see so we can learn to read. Then, one day, we are lured into vans, rendered unconscious, and taken to high-tech facilities where the wool is surgically removed. Our memories of the facility are erased, and we start to see things we didn’t before, like bills in the mail.

Mars Source

Mars
Source

4.) Mars.
Once you reach a certain height, your head gets within range of Mars’s special mental gravity (you know, the one that affects your horoscope) and your childlike innocence is pulled away. Once it’s gone, you have to start worrying about car insurance and your health and such.

5.) Exhaust fumes.
This is sort of the opposite of the clear wool theory. Here, exhaust fumes actually cause you to hallucinate worries you didn’t have before. Think about it. Once you start to drive, you’re around cars a lot more throughout your adult life. Before that, you’re a kid and not stressed out about anything, and after that, you’re old and probably realizing that the things you worried about weren’t so important. IT ALL MAKES SENSE.

None of these theories are proven–yet. However, I assume it’s just a matter of time before I’m receiving a Nobel Prize for unlocking the secrets of the human race.

You’re welcome.

Mile 230: A Conversation With Myself

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“I’m looking for some back and forth with you.
Are you feeling the same as I do now and now and then?”
–Foo Fighters, “Back and Forth”

Miles Last Week: 50
Total Miles: 230

Now that I’m about halfway through Level 1 improv, I think it’s time I checked in with myself about how it’s going. The talk was longer than anticipated…


Hi, Amanda.

Hey.

I know you’re excited about The Walking Dead coming back today, but I’m going to need you to focus and answer a few questions.

Okay. But Better Call Saul starts tonight, too, so I can’t make any promises.

Fair enough.

So, whatcha wanna talk about?

Improv.

Yay!

So I take it that means it’s going well?

Yeah, I mean, I laugh a lot. It’s really fun, and I’m definitely learning a lot. I’m not super great at it, but I always look forward to it every week.

That’s great–but you decided to join for a lot of reasons. How’s the rest of it working out? Are you using improv skills elsewhere? Are you participating more? Are you feeling more creative/funny?

Um…

Uh oh.

What’s that supposed to mean? You asked a lot of questions in a row. I was just trying to decide which one to answer first.

Sure you were.

Whatever, Amanda.

"Talk to Yourself Hat" by Kate Hartman Source

“Talk to Yourself Hat” by Kate Hartman
Source

Let’s just take them one at a time. Are you using improv skills elsewhere?

Well, I’m writing this blog post. That’s kind of improv-y.

You’ve been thinking about this since yesterday. That’s not at all improv-y.

Oh. Good point.

I know.

Well, no need to get cocky about it.

Just answer the question.

You’re mean.

No, I’m not. I’ve just learned that I need to be firm with you.

You are me.

I know. I’m not proud of it, either.

You’re doing that mean thing, again.

Okay, next question. Are you participating–without being prodded?

Um…

Good lord.

Hey, now. I’m participating. I’m just still working on the whole “prodding” thing. It’s only been four weeks. Changing behavior takes time.

I suppose that’s understandable.

I know.

Don’t do that.

What? You can, but I can’t?

Pretty much.

You’re the worst.

I’m you.

I’m aware.

Still, come on. You can jump out there. I know you want to.

I know. But the other people in my class are so creative/funny/quick. It’s slightly intimidating. I might screw up.

There are no wrong moves in improv. It’s one of the rules and everything.

I know, but…

Are you so arrogant that you think you are the one person who can mess up improv?

Ouch.

Besides, it’s not like you are a stranger to trying something and failing. Do I need to remind you about the Planking Challenge of 2013? Or the NaNoWriMo disaster?

You bastard. How dare you.

Life’s hard. Get a helmet. And jump out there–literally. It’ll probably be more entertaining that way.

I’m working on it. And you’re still mean.

Yeah, yeah, whatever. Are you feeling more creative/funny?

Um…

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Well…

What’s the problem?

I wouldn’t say there’s a problem, per se. I just think I tend to go to the most obvious thing and not necessarily the most creative. I’m still working on that, too.

Well, just say something creative/funny right now.

Eek…

You did it, didn’t you? That squeak thing you do when you don’t know what to do?

No. Shut up.

You were expressly told to work on not doing that.

I know. I am, but–

But changing behavior takes time. I know.

You’re sympathy is overwhelming.

As for the “obvious” thing, sometimes you just have to say the obvious thing to get it out of your head and then you build off of that. Plus, sometimes the thing that’s obvious to you isn’t obvious to everyone else.

Fair point.

I know.

Not again.

Anyway, I can see that we’ve made progress but that there’s still some progress to make. It’s okay, though. We can do it.

Did you just say something moderately encouraging? It’s like I don’t know you anymore.

I’ll be ignoring that.

You would.

You would know.

Mature.

Look who’s talking.

Whatever. We’re agreed, anyhow. We’ll keep working. We’ve got this.

Yeah. You’re not so bad.

You’re still mean.

Ignoring that.


That wasn’t so bad, I suppose. It’s good to check in with yourself every now and then. I have some things to work on, and I’m going to. It’ll be good. It’ll be fine. I think.