Yesterday I attended my first boxing class at a gym in my neighborhood. It all started because Busan's been bugging me for over a year to have an "activity" that we share. Bypassing saxophone lessons, skiing and tennis, I finally decided, fine. Boxing is something that I like and has always been something that I've wanted to get more into. And there are signs for boxing gyms all over the place, even in my tiny neighborhood, so why not give it a shot?
I've also had what we might call "anger management issues" in the past, and lately I've noticed that they've been resurfacing a bit. Nothing that I can't handle -- I've never been one to flip tables, throw lamps, scream or punch holes in walls. But it's just that an old (very old) tendency to get worked up about things and not be able to just let them go has become an issue again. It's unnecessary stress, and one of the easiest ways I've found in the past of working with it has been to get my aggression out in the form of high impact physical activity. When I'm stretching out after a hard physical task, I can feel all of the built up tension slowly flowing out of my body, and for me it's just the easiest, most effective way to get rid of extra stress and relax.
Now, here comes a generalization, but I've been around it long enough
to know that when Koreans diet, they generally diet hard and fast. It's important
to realize that "diet" in Konglish is not just about food -- in fact,
the word just means literally losing weight. In whatever way. And while I
was at the gym yesterday, I noticed it printed backwards across the
outside of the fifth floor windows.
"Diet" is not something that
Koreans joke around about. For the most part when I've seen a coworker,
friend or student say they're going to diet, the intention has been to
go to extremes to remove as much weight as possible, as quickly as
possible. I've seen people go on all-liquid vegetable shake diets for an
entire month, when no other thing, even a tiny cup of instant coffee, ever crosses their lips. I've had three co-workers decide to lose "a little"
weight by deciding that lunch just no longer mattered. I've had students
say they are joining a gym program for the summer to lose weight only
to come back five weeks later an obvious thirty pounds lighter.
all fine, and I'm not here to judge. For the most part these are short
term things, and I don't think there is the psychology connected to them
that implies eating disorders, in these cases (although that is another
subject entirely, as is the societal pressure that may push one to decide to lose a large amount of weight in the first place) -- for the most part, it's just that most of the
Koreans I've known have seen losing weight as a fast and hard,
get-over-with-as-quickly-as-possible kind of thing. It might not be the healthiest possible course of action, but neither is smoking, so who am I to judge?
That having been said, despite the fact that early on last year I put on about fifteen pounds that I wouldn't necessarily miss, I don't necessarily mind them, either. And going to this gym is certainly not motivated by their presence. I accept that increasing my physical activity by this degree will inevitably result in weight loss, I'm not in the game to win it, in that particular way.
And I think someone needs to tell my 코치님 that. We spent the hour going in rounds: Round one: Five three minute sessions of straight jump roping, broken up with thirty second breaks in between. Round two was assuming the boxing stance and hopping up and down for the same duration. Round three was a straight fifteen minutes of shifting between three different activities: 1. Shoulder a barbell and do twenty squats. 2. Drop the barbell, and do twenty leg-lift crunches. 3. Sprint back and forth across the gym three times.
It's fine. It's not what I expected. I thought we were just signing up for ordinary boxing classes, with drills and technique, but it's fine. She wants to build up our base energy before starting the actual boxing training and throwing us into the ring. I don't mind doing hard workouts, whatever form they may come in, and as long as we get to the actual boxing eventually. But what came after was a little more annoying.
At the end of our workout, she spent a good ten minutes scolding my boyfriend for only signing up for Saturday sessions and grabbing at the slight softness over his belly (he lives in Seoul, an hour and a half away, and is already a member of a gym there, he justified himself by explaining, and he's only signed up here because I wanted to and he thought it would be nice to do it together) and then turning her attention to me. I've signed up for the daily pass, so if I commit to coming every day, she can -- here, let me feel your thigh.
Busan, sensing trouble on the horizon, did his best to step in at this point. Oh, she's really strong! Her muscles are great, especially for a woman. And her endurance isn't great right now, because she hasn't worked out in over a year, but she will build it up fast -- but she's really strong! Her body is good!
She wasn't having it. With her hand on my inner thigh, she shouted, "힘!" Oh, you have a very strong muscle base, but there is 지방 on top and, oh -- here, see on your sides here? A lot of extra 지방. Let me feel your stomach. Now, see, feel my thigh. Totally hard, right? Run your hand down my stomach -- nothing soft at all, right? If you come every day, within three months I can have you-- what do you mean you can't come every day? You have other commitments two nights a week? Well, the gym is open until midnight, so there's really no excuse.
Hold your horses, there, partner. Did I ask you to do anything whatsoever with my 지방? I like my 지방. It's mine.Your body's awesome, but I don't necessarily want mine to look like that. I know the Korean ideal involves not an inch to pinch anywhere, but I like being somewhat soft and round. Beyond not minding having fat present on my frame, believe it or not, I actually like to put a belt around my middle and for it to have something to cinch.
I understand she's just doing her job. I know most of the people who pass through the gym are probably on one of these "diet" kicks -- their main objective is to lose weight, and to lose weight fast. But I have no illusions whatsoever of "making the perfect body", nor do I have the desire. This is a hobby, an activity I'm pursuing for fun and to relieve tension. I'm not about to have someone in my face turning it into a guilt-fest, and yet another source of stress. And the second someone in that gym demands that I hop on a scale or asks about what I've been eating is the second the shit is going to turn real volatile, real fast.
So. 코치님 and I are going to have a little chat. And hopefully these guys and I can come to an understanding. Because, despite very nearly dying of a side cramp, and having extremely sore shoulders this morning, I had a good time yesterday, and I have felt very relaxed since I finished the work out. And I'm coming up on half-days at work, and would like to be able to drop in on the gym on the daily without having my progress tracked in thigh squeezes and tummy softness evaluations.