Way back when I still worked for my previous employer, an automotive supplier in OurTown, we moved to a new office building which included, for the first time in my own youthful existence, a ‘Fitness Center’. It was mostly just an open area, where folks could have aerobics classes, or other forms of strenuous (or not-so-strenuous) exercise, on the theory that fit employees will work harder and be happier, and cost less in health coverage. The center also contained a large multi-station weight machine, a couple racks of free weights, a few stationary bikes and a rowing machine.
For my purposes, the main feature of the fitness center was the showers. Those enabled me to ride my bike to work during the months when the roads weren’t snow-covered (it was about 5 miles from my house to the office, which I could cover in about 20 minutes), and to do short workout rides on my lunch hour a couple days a week (there was enough time for me to get in about 12 miles, shower and get back to my desk in a little over an hour).
Of course, when I was showering after my workout, lots of other guys were in the locker-room at the same time, having done their own lunch-hour workouts. One group of guys were into body-building – they’d lift weights with the specific goal of building large, well-defined muscles, and they’d spend a fair bit of time in front of the mirror, making sure that all their work was paying off in terms of how buff they looked.
Now, at this point, I should say that, all the cycling I was doing in those days (upwards of 3000 miles/year) was having its effect on my own physique, such as it was. Specifically, my legs got very strong, and chiseled-looking in their own right. Check out any avid cyclist’s legs, and they’re probably pretty tight and ripped-looking. But I didn’t have a ‘Body Beautiful’ by any stretch of the imagination – I didn’t do any lifting, or anything to build up my upper body, or shoulders, or anything like that, and I still had a round gut that was a couple sizes too big. I just liked to ride my bike, and I liked being in good aerobic shape. At least, good aerobic shape for a fat guy.
So one day, having completed my lunch-hour ride, I was drying off after my shower. One of the body-building guys was getting dressed at a nearby locker. As I got dressed to head back to my office, he nodded in my direction, and said, “You got really nice legs.”
Uh. . . excuse me?
“You got really nice legs,” he repeated. “How do you get those?”
Okay, now this was really, really weird. Looking back, even a couple hours later, I suppose I understood that he was just talking out of his body-building focus, expressing admiration for something he was trying to accomplish for himself. But right there, on the spur of the moment, it felt the least bit creepy. Suddenly, I had a deeper, existential understanding of what women talk about when they say they feel like pieces of meat when men check out their bodies. You know, I might even have been flattered if one of the women complimented my strong, manly legs as I sauntered through the gym after my ride. But another guy. . . in the locker-room. . . both of us half-dressed (or less). . . not so much.
I mumbled something about riding my bike a lot, and hurried to get dressed and get out of there, while my body-building co-worker pressed me – you don’t do any lifting, or leg-work? Only cycling?
Yup, just cycling. Well, gotta go. . . big project. . . see ya ‘round. . .
I felt bad leaving him standing there like that, but I’m pretty sure he just turned and started checking out his own legs in the mirror, wondering to himself, “Cycling, huh? . . .”