An interesting article is in the September issue of Harper’s, unfortunately not a link anywhere but here are some good excerpts. I spend two hours in the gym every day so it was particularly interesting for me.
Excercise expresses a will not only to discover but also to regulate the machinelike processes of our bodies. In the gym people engage in the kind of biological self-regulation that usually occurs in the private realm. Why, then, isn’t exercise private, kept at home with eating, sleeping, shitting, grooming, and masturbating? Exercisers make the faces associated with pain…the sort of exertion that would call others to their immediate aid. But they do not hide their faces. They groan, as if pressing on their bowels. They huff, they shout, they strain. They appear in tight but shapeless Lycra costumes that reveal the shape of the penis, the labia, the mashed and bandaged breasts, all without allowing the lure of sex.
The modern gym is an atomized space in which one does private things in public, with the self-concious loneliness of a body acting as if it were still in prviate. You are supposed to co-exist but not look closely, to wipe down the metal handlebars and rubbar mats to obliterate the traces of your presence.
The only truly essential pieces of equipment in modern exercise are numbers. Whether at the gym or on hte running path, counting is the fundamental technology. The only other location where an individual’s numbers attain such talismanic status is the doctor’s office. Turning to the gym you gain the anxious freedom to count yourself. Here are numbers you can change.
The person who does not exercise is, in our current conception, a slow suicide. He fails to take responsibility for his life. He does not labor strenuoulsy to forestall his death. An enigma of exercise is the proselytizing urge that always seems to accompany it. No one who plays baseball expects everyone else to play the sport. The gym-goer, on the other hand, is a solitary evangelist.
The consequences are not only the flooding of conciousness with a numbered and regulated body, or the distraction from living that comes with endless life maintenance, but the liquidation of the last untouched spheres of privacy, with the result that biological life itself has become a spectacle.