In The Land of Monsters
I was always afraid of the gym. Of the monsters that lurked within. A land of giants I had no place intruding.
Sports, fitness and I were never on very good terms, especially when I was a teenager. I was the academic, the imagineer, the dreamer, the geek, the nerd. Whichever way you cut it, there was very much a difference between myself and my “sporty” peers. I’m not going to say “jocks”, because growing up in England we never had that kind of tribalism. But I was a peaceful soul who preferred to bury himself in books and science fiction; they were the brutes who pushed me against the corridor walls, gave me physical and mental torment for my lack of caring for my appearance, for my indifference to their ways. I didn’t even support a football (soccer) team, which in England is nearly as much a capital offence as non-support of rugby is in New Zealand.
Teenage Beastpup in England
So picture me as a young man going through puberty, being inspired by the muscular physiques of bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jay Culter, Flex Wheeler, Markus Ruhl… monsters, stirring something within me. A desire to be more. A desire to change. To express myself through growth.
But I was scared.
No matter how much I wanted it…I felt I could never, ever join a gym. It would be torture… I’d be like chum in a pool of sharks. Surely from the moment I stepped foot inside my tender, nerd-like nature would be sniffed out by the others, and I would be mocked, tortured anew. Or even then, could I handle seeing how skinny I was compared to the others, when my body dysmorphia took over? Or would my family and friends even understand and join in the mocking that I, the twig, was trying to change himself in the gym? And people would see how sexual it was for me. How much I wanted it… I could never be normal enough… could never get over all these mental hurdles…
Until the day I did.
Moving to New Zealand in my early 20s brought a lot of changes and positive adjustments to my life. Away from my past, I was free in a new place to start anew. It took many, many months of convincing myself still, but at last I had enough of always wanting and never having. At long last… I was going to join a gym. It was now or never.
And so my mission began.
Because I couldn’t just walk in there! Oh no. Couldn’t just waltz into the natives encampment… I had to disguise myself first. I had to present myself to the tribe as one of them. Prior to going to the gym, I took myself off to the local sportswear store which was in of itself terrifying as a place I’d never stepped foot in. I despised those overpriced, branded goods put together in sweatshop factories by kids overseas… but for this, I would make the leap. I bought my clothes… a gym bag. Looked up online, I think, what people normally took to the gym… water bottle, towel. It took me a week to psych myself up but finally… I did it. I entered the land of monsters. I went to the local gym and like a meek doormouse, asked the young lady at the reception if I could join.
Everything that happened after was so very, very different from all my fears. I was welcomed. I was taken in, I was given my induction by helpful trainers… they equipped me with the confidence to be in that environment, and weren’t intimidating at all! Nor were the other guys there… everyone was just doing their own thing. No torture, no mocking. Just a common pursuit. Fitness. Growth.
The years since have been a blur; a lot has happened in my life. But the gym has always been there… it went from feeling like an alien outpost, to something else. Home. I am at home in the gym. I live for it. I know it. It has become my playground. My stomping ground. And just this week I looked in the mirror, now that I have grown, and I can see staring back at me:
I am now the monster I was afraid of.
I made my dream come true, and in the process lost my fears. And I’ll say to anyone; you can have this too. You can be it. But if you still have your fear, I understand. But you don’t have to be afraid of the monsters. You’ll be one of them if you want. You just have to work. You just have to leave fear behind.
- Beast June 2017