The Gym Bag

Inspired By Mark Haz’s Cal Rugby Bag

The other day, I went through my old gym bag looking for some old tape and a baseball for my athletes to use before training.  I was fascinated by all the gadgets I came across while digging deeper and deeper into the land of memories and assortments.  The horrible smell, the chalky straps, a graveyard of past champions that now lay quietly on the dark while the new generation of gym bags walk around prideful and tall.  I am putting together a little museum…. I guess you could call it, of not only my medals, but everything from shoes, shirts, straps, belts, and all the things that have sentimental value to me from over the years.  All things that have helped me along my way.  Of course this museum of some sort is only for my eyes and viewership, for this “stuff” to others is pure trash and rubbish.

I then started to dash quickly around the room like a kid on Christmas, lining and organizing all my treasures. I was reminded of an old blog I once wrote, a blog that has seemed to be forgotten, by myself and others, a blog that was once my favorite, that needs to come back to life. So….. to anyone who has a smelly gym bag….. this one’s for you.

A long stare at his old blue gym bag as it sat lop-sided beside him on the subway bench, waiting for the 7 o’clock train. There were no words being spoken from his long chin and stubble covered face, just a stone cold look and a thought of how this gym bag hasn’t been replaced by now.  How has the bag with so many stains, broken straps, and holes gone this long without being put to rest. A small crinkle in his forehead asked the bag if the old blue warrior was growing, and getting bigger over time.  It looked as if the bag had grown at least a foot since the night before. He would know because the bag and him have been training partners since college back at Cal, and it was only last night that he stocked it with plastic bags full of supplements of all different colors and textures.  He regretted not cleaning his two shaker cups better the night before while preparing for this trip, as he could smell them both seeping from the inside of the bag to his nose.  Still no emotion, as his eyes glazed upon the bag with straps that were hanging on by a single thread from all the abuse they have seen.  How they haven’t broke by now will always be a mystery.  Some say that trying to figure out weightlifting can lead to madness, for the sport never, and will never make sense.  His head titled slightly down, and the crinkles in his forehead smoothed back out.  His eyes hadn’t blinked since he sat down, and the thought of becoming mad haunted him.  How do you know when you have lost your mind?  He asked the bag while looking back up.  This time words came out from his mouth, while the person sitting across from him grabbed her two kids and scurried them away to the waiting bench three vending machines down. The bag did not reply. The bag just stared back at him while slightly molding itself deeper into the bench, as if to say he was done, and could not carry on from here.  The yellow Cal label on the front of the bag facing him was turned brown from the years.  He was saddened by the fact he just now noticed how worn the bag really was.  His body still hadn’t moved, but his eyes started to frantically flicker back and forth as if he couldn’t figure out what to look at.  Memories of slamming the gym bag against the wall out of anger.   Dropping the bag down on the dusty gym floor while walking over it to get from resting bench to platform.  Laughing weightlifters in the car after a long day of training, while his best friend and biggest supporter of so many years laid defeated in the trunk under boxes and old books.  Memories and reminiscing of how well he used to treat his new bright blue bag when he first got into weightlifting, or back then just weight training / body building / wide feet power looking snatches and pose offs with his friends.  A gym rat that had no plans or ideas of what he was doing, or wanted to do.  All he knew back then was he loved the weight room, and the lifestyle the weight room produced.  The blue bag was just as important as the weights.  Just as food and bed are to recovery.  Belts and coffee, chalk and music, all a family that you grow to know and love throughout this lonely sport of weightlifting.

A small smile crept across his face as the noise from a train passing by broke his long stare, waking him up to a darker than usual subway full of old newspapers and a cold gust of air coming from the stair case that led outside.  He rubbed his hands together to get warm, while thinking about all the different ways he was going to treat his bag better from here on out.  He opened his mouth wide while rubbing his cheeks with his hands to try to snap out of his trance and wake before the day passed him by.  A weightlifter must learn how focus on both weightlifting and everyday life, sometimes at the same time.  When these two completely different worlds meet they can cause doubt, confusion, and the worst of all….excuses.  Learning how to be a weightlifter is the hardest part in learning how to be a weightlifter.  The bag made a small noise from something inside moving out of place.  He patted the bag with a broken smile and whispered as if he was talking to a puppy, “You know what I’m saying, right boy?”. The bag looked back with a glow of appreciation and relief.  The bag was just as much a weightlifter as the man, and the man knew he was just as much part of that bag as the bag itself.  The man felt lighter from their talk.  A sigh of understanding and respect.  He was at first blind sided and taken back from how old the bag truly was, but was now proud of himself and the bag for keeping an honest relationship, and continually staying the best of friends.

The man pulled his hands away to straighten out his clothes in anticipation for his train the he could hear down the tunnel moving his way.  The light from the train opened the subway up with a new perspective.  The newspapers were not scattered around the floor nor were they dirty.  The floor was clean and the vending machines where glowing bright.  There were more people than he thought there was hustling and bustling around as if an army was forming to attack the day.  The man opened his wide eyes and quickly turned to his bag, hoping that his bright blue Cal bag was young and strong as he always knew it to be.  The bag laid half dead as its shadow crept down the bench towards the man.  The man’s eyes followed the dark shadow running into his hand that was structurally there supporting his excited lean towards the bag.  The man noticed his hands.  He picked both of them up and turned them side to side in front of his face.  They were torn, bruised and old.  They were stained yellow from the cigarettes he once smoked.  Old chalk lived deep under his nails, and the blood paintings that webbed across his hands from broken blood blisters made sure that he was just as broken and used as the bag sitting beside him.  The man has aged with his bag.  The man then realized sitting on that subway bench, that he had become his own gym bag.

Long live the smelly gym bag


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