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“At 23:56 on 23rd October 1963, Zambians rose in reverence of the Union Jack, the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom, for the last time as it lowered, signifying the end of British rule in Zambia.”

― Precious Mwansa-Chisa

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Dooderonomy 40

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Gyms can be confusing and intimidating places. The gym I go to is within a known hotel of Lusaka and draws all kinds of patrons. This also includes visitors to Zambia who are staying at the hotel. The first kind of people who make use of the gym are like me: the regulars who are not very fit and not that very toned but are committed and turn up every single morning. We don’t care about how we dress or what others might think. We use the exact same machines every day, slogging hard daily to burn 20 calories so that we can have a triple cheeseburger for breakfast.

The second type of people who you come across at the gym are the ones who care more about looking good than working out. They put in a lot of time, effort and money into their appearance. When they slip up and forget to coordinate their outfits, I shake my head in utter disappointment.

The third type are the out of town visitors who randomly pop up for a couple of days. They haven’t packed much workout gear and sometimes turn up in casual shoes and khakis. The other issue is also that they hop between machines and sometimes I end up not getting to use my everyday machine because there is someone who is busy watching business news updates on TV.

The fourth type is what I call the Demoralisers. These people are on such an advanced level of personal fitness. Demoralisers can be further grouped into the Terminators and the Rambos. The Terminators are hugely built and from looking at them you know that these are the people who use the 45kg dumbbells.  I once was benching around 50 kilos, which I was proud of. Between all my manly grunting a Terminator walked in and straight away started to dead lift 120 kilos. He then reached for dumbbells bigger than my chest. I quickly found myself in the sauna.

The Rambos are the most deceiving. They are very relaxed and take their time before beginning their workout. When they walk into the weights training room you are confident of impressing them with your lat pulldown. However, when they finally get to the same machine, they will lift way more than you and with such obvious ease. Then they will give you a small sarcastic smile and again force you to make a run for the sauna. The problem is that when you are getting over your inadequacies, the same man will walk into the sauna and put you to shame with his six pack and you again hurry out of there. The only place you can hide is in your own house.

I count my sessions at the gym as personal time and I use noise cancelling headphones to immerse myself in a world of my own. I am always on the elliptical. During a recent trip to the gym I noticed people kept glancing towards me. This was rather obvious and after a while I assumed that they were all impressed with my workout and I pushed even harder. I made sure that the speed on the screen was indeed impressive and people paid more attention to me.

I was enjoying all the attention I was getting. After a while I was done with the elliptical and then headed out to the weights room. I went straight for the bench and before starting my set I looked at the mirror. What I saw was a bright orange design with funny cartoon faces of men with different moustaches. It was refreshing to see something so bright and cheerful in a very serious and mundane environment. The design however felt familiar. Within a second, I realised that what I was staring at happily was my own boxers! It now all made sense to me why people were staring at me. On the elliptical they saw a sizeable man with torn black shorts. I asked one of the guys I speak to at the gym why he didn’t tell me. He said he tried but I was distracted by my music and he couldn’t get my attention. I stopped being a regular at the gym for a while.

Dooderonomy will resume later, until then, goodbye.

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