Well, it finally happened.
After weeks of speculation, rumors swirling from one gym to another, I found out the news that I’d been dreading. Yesterday, I arrived at my gym to discover large announcements pasted on all of the front doors. At the end of this month, it will be shutting its doors for good. I’d heard a couple of months ago that this gym, which I’ve been going to for years, would be closing in August. But I didn’t want to believe it.
For a time, it felt, at least to me, that this gym had to remain open, that it couldn’t just close down. Despite the pesky gossip, it would continue to represent a vital part of my community. Every time I went inside, people were always working out, interacting at the machines, purchasing memberships along the large section of sales desks by the front counter. Sometimes, I even heard people happily singing to themselves as they exercised, either to the music booming from the speakers along the ceiling or from their own headphones. Based on all of that dynamic evidence right before my eyes, this hopping, energetic place, with its steady stream of patrons, had no reason to disappear.
Unfortunately, I just didn’t want to accept the reality. And now I find myself in serious mourning for a gym that had been such an important part of my life.
For nearly a decade, I’ve been a regular member at this very gym, nestled in a quiet, suburban subdivision just minutes from my home. Usually, I’d go there in the evenings, when less people were around, a holdover from the pandemic. Since that era, I had stopped using the machines and I’d only take advantage of the racquetball courts. That’s been my place to find peace and reflection, which I’m sure might seem ironic due to all of the echoing noise that bounces around inside. Yet the meditative quality of consistently hitting a ball, figuring out the angles as it returns, feeling myself grow stronger with every swing, provides a place for me to think clearly while also feeling productive.
Most of the gym’s longtime employees in the evenings know me by now. They often smile and wave me in without having to swipe my phone app because I come so regularly. Even though this contact is brief and without much conversation, I appreciate that warmth. It stays with me as I walk across the carpet that’s seen so many feet before mine and head straight inside the nearest open court.
There have been times as I’m hitting, swinging, gathering up the random balls around me, that I notice the members outside the court’s shut door and appreciate their efforts. Through the glass, I feel a closeness with those passing by as they do their lunges, lifting weights just a few feet away, jumping on and off crates with evident concentration. Just like me, they’re trying to make progress, to improve themselves, and that focus helps to keep me inspired, too.
While most of us don’t know each other, an unspoken kinship floats throughout our spaces and unites us during these sessions when we’re randomly brought together. Mini communities blossom multiple times a day within that building, which motivate, stimulate, and celebrate life in so many fantastic ways, keeping us wonderfully connected. Now all of that vivacity will vanish forever and for reasons I quite honestly don’t understand.
Because I’m just a mere member among hundreds of others, I will never know the actual reasons behind this decision. In my view, though, whatever the circumstances, I’ll always feel angry that more couldn’t have been done to preserve this safe haven. I understand, to a degree, the corporate bottom line and the blur of other potential factors that might have influenced the powerbrokers involved. But, in the end, a gym that had been a community staple, a place that routinely experienced vigorous use, will be dismantled, leaving behind an undeniable, quite needless abyss.
With all of the ugliness that happens in today’s world, the intolerance and mistreatment flowing through the news each day, this gym’s steady reliability always sustained me. I felt less frightened and insecure knowing that I could enter those large doors every evening and feel phyically stronger, better able to face uncertainty, as a result.
Now that outlet will be gone in a matter a days and I can’t help but grieve this impending loss. Although it may sound overly dramatic, I do feel as if a significant aspect of my life has been suddenly ripped away, almost as if I’m mourning the death of a loved one. And, in a sense, I am. It’s a complicated mixture of lamenting the death of this gym and all of the positivity it represents alongside the possible interruption of my own development.
Fortunately, at least for now, there’s another location of my gym just a few minutes farther away. I’ll need to adapt to the necessity of entering a different branch’s doors. While relieved that I’m not entirely without options, I am wary at the same time, wondering how long this gym will last. Even with any indications that this gym might also have plenty of faithful members, all sharing the same motivations that I do, I’ll still question its future, never feeling entirely at ease. Also, the trust and the extensive history of my past gym won’t be within me anymore either. When I went to this new location yesterday, navigating streets I’d never traveled before, walking through a larger, unfamiliar parking lot, I felt that reality as a stark coldness within my chest.
But these emotions are a natural part of grief. Its discomfort demonstrates the terrible awareness of loss. So, at this time, my heart’s filled with great sadness for the gym I’ve eagerly attended over such a significant period of time. I feel sorrow to consider the empty building to come, a shell of its former liveliness and refreshing sense of support. As its demise nears, I’ll feel the pain of this inevitable passing. But I’ll also remember how much I grew within my gym’s solid walls, appreciating the sustenance it provided to me over the years. Despite every attempt to regard this disturbing change in my small corner of the world from a philosophical perspective, though, I can’t escape the fact that I’m in serious mourning for a gym.