The dumbbells crashed against the floor. I turned to see Moka lying on the bench, her arms dropping downwards.
“How was that? Good, huh?”
Moka glared at me, panting.
“It’s good when you feel the pain,” I say. It’s proof you’re alive.”
“Then I’ve never been so ‘alive,’” Moka retorted.
It’s been a few weeks since I first dragged Moka to exercise with me. Everyone in school was shocked that Moka, the stereotypical Computer Science genius and antisocial library dweller, was frequenting the gym.
It all started with a random discussion about a math problem. Moka was explaining the solution, which nobody else had thought of.
“If the thought process can be compared to a tree, each branch develops when a certain assumption is made. You may think you’ve enumerated all the possible situations, and upon finding no feasible solution, you give up. But you actually didn’t realize that your initial assumptions were false, so you’ve reached a branch where no solution exists.”
“Interesting perspective,” I said.
“When you deal with these kinds of things all day, you have to try to make some meaning from it.”
“You never get tired of solving theoretical puzzles?”
“Sometimes. But it’s not like I have anything better to do.”
“Like you just said, if you limit yourself to doing things you’re familiar with, your life will never change. You may think you’ve tried everything, yet you wonder why things turn out as normal. Maybe you can try things from the earlier branches.”
Something in this must have resonated with Moka, for the next day she met me at the gym after school. Watching her sweat on the elliptical, I realized that she was an outlier, her willing attitude a pleasant surprise. The only others in the gym were athletes. It occurred to me that those who benefit most from exercise are those who also resist it most. They think the gym is just a niche for jocks, somewhere they don’t belong. Inspired by Moka, I was determined to see more students using the gym.
So, I signed up as a gym leader and was given the opportunity to give grade-wide talks about my personal fitness journey. I organized weekly training sessions for girls, in which I give either a 40-minute Pilates or yoga class during lunchtime. Also, if there is a newcomer to the gym, I make sure that they know how to use all of the machines with proper form. My efforts have made the gym a less intimidating place for my peers, and I am proud to notice a significant increase in the number of people coming to the gym during my shifts as gym leader.
In particular, I’ve been focusing on encouraging more girls to hit the gym, because in gyms girls are a rare species—usually only found in the aerobics corner, steering clear of heavy lifting as if weights were the plague. They believe they are intrinsically weak, and this self-fulfilling prophecy is difficult to rectify. Having been there, I know that the best way to overcome the fear couldn’t be simpler: just take it one step at a time (pardon the cliché). Another problem with girls is that many attempt to “shortcut” weight loss through eating disorders, which are rampant amongst teenagers. To persuade girls to get fit in a healthy manner, I devoured psychology and sports science books, and reminded them that if they wanted to have a better body, there is no replacement for time or effort.
My personal influence may be small—there’s a limited number of people I can speak to, as well as a gym holding capacity—but the changes nevertheless make me feel warm and fuzzy. I’m on a mission to not only develop gym rats, but more so to build muscle and character and to help the other Mokas of the world “feel alive.”