Every morning I wake up at 5 a.m. and hit the gym. Even if I’m sick, even if I slept really late (like, say 9 p.m.), even if it’s cold outside, even if all my bones are broken, I go to the gym. It’s a routine. It’s cathartic. The gym is my mojo dojo casa house.
Last month, my roommate thought it would be really funny to change my alarm. As he explained later while he recovered in the Health Center after I strangled him, he wanted to show me that it was possible to still hit the gym before class even if I woke up at 6 a.m.
“Your first class is only at 1!” he tried to reason. Foolish.
Every minute of my day is planned out, from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. There is no time for “fun” and certainly no time for relaxation. So on that fateful day when my roommate set my alarm for 6 a.m., I had to skip the gym. Which ruined the rest of my day. I could feel my muscles suffering from underuse, and hear my breathing slowly become more like wheezing. But I had ten thousand pages of reading to do, so I headed to Sawyer.
When I walked in, I realized there was an easy fix to my problem. The magnificent Williams College, with its $1 trillion endowment, saw fit to invest in a bike desk. If you’re unfamiliar: a bike desk is essentially a stationary bike with an attached desktop, so you can hit the gym and study at the same time. Normally I don’t like multitasking, but it was necessary on this day.
If you’ve never tried out the bike desk and are intrigued by my description, don’t. I’m writing this piece as a warning. See, the first day it was fine. A relief, actually. I always skip leg day, so a lower body workout was definitely overdue. The bike desk became my outlet, my safe place. I stopped waking up at 5 a.m., and started inching closer to 5:30; I figured I could just use the bike desk instead of working out at the gym. I counted down the seconds until Sawyer opened at 8 a.m., making sure I was the first person through the door.
It became the strangest mind-body connection, so close to Pavlov’s dog experiment. After a few weeks, I stopped being able to do work if I wasn’t on the bike desk. If my feet weren’t actively pedaling, my brain couldn’t process the words on the page or the equations from my textbook. I got A-pluses on papers when my feet moved the fastest, and C-minuses when my feet were still on the floor of my dorm room.
Yesterday, I went to Sawyer after class, ready to grind. But, every single bike desk was in use. I hate confrontation, especially confronting strangers, so I stood there for a solid ten minutes, trying to figure out if I could ask for a desk or if I should just let it go. I thought back to that life-changing school assembly back in middle school where I was taught to address my emotions. Stop, breathe, and count to ten. Count how many fidget spinners are in your jacket pocket. Realize all your old fidget spinners from middle school are still there. Notice how many days it’s been since you did your laundry.
Somewhere along the way, I got lost in my train of thought, but after a few minutes, I suddenly remembered what I came here to do. The bike desks were still taken, so I figured I’d have to make do without. I noticed a girl in my history class sitting alone at a table and I asked if I could share the space. “Whatever, you loser,” she said. “By the way, your jacket smells really bad.” “Thanks,” I said nonchalantly. She’s so into me.
I pulled my course packet out of my backpack and started to read. It was hard to get into the flow at first, but I did it. I was successful even without the bike desk! I felt the knowledge pouring into my brain, instantly making note of all the key arguments.
“What are you doing!” the girl from history whispered. “You’re shaking the table!”
“What?” I wasn’t doing anything. I was just doing my readings.
“Stop, I don’t know, kicking?”
“Or pedaling? I don’t know, are you four?”
I looked down at my feet. And there they were. Alternating going forwards and backwards. Pedaling.
“Oh fuck, I’m pedaling!” I yelled.
I closed my course packet. My feet stopped. I opened my course packet. My feet started moving.
“Stop it! I’m trying to study!” she said.
“I’m not doing anything! It’s happening on its own,” I explained.
“You should go to the health center. It’s probably some weird drug you took.”
I then tried to explain to this girl that I don’t do drugs, and I’ve never done drugs, and only losers do drugs. She didn’t want to hear it, simply pointed me in the direction out of the library. I hiked over to the health center, utterly conscious of the small pedaling motion twitching in my foot every other step. When I explained the situation to the nurse there, she cut me off mid-way.
“This happens every few years,” she explained. “There’s only one way to solve it.”
“Do your fucking laundry.”