Sweat & Smoke

Sweat“Have you been swimming?”
It’s an innocent enough question. In defense of the woman that asked me, I was standing in front of the locker room, the locker room that connects to the pool at the gym.

“Umm.  No.  I just sweat like a beast.”

I am really good at making casual conversations come to an awkward finish. I tried to rescue the conversation, I did.  To be honest, my sweating isn’t something that even embarrasses me.  I will never be accused of just posturing at the gym.  I look like I have been working out and working out hard just a few minutes after I step on to a treadmill.  Sadly, the same holds true when I step out of an air-conditioned car bound for an outdoor wedding in August.

I know I left you hanging this weekend.  Did I go to Zumba?  Did I “join the party?” Am I still there?

I went.  I sweat.  I will go back.  I actually snorted and laughed loud enough to attract the attention of a friend the first time there was any shaking of the ta-tas. I cannot see a woman shake her shoulders and not hear Penny from Dirty Dancing shouting “God wouldn’t have given you maracas if He didn’t want you to shake ’em!”

I didn’t love it enough to turn my back on running and the dreaded elliptical machine.  I have finally admitted to myself that I can not run every day of the week.  If I do not take a break I hurt myself.  I just do.  I was not built to be a runner.  I am… top heavy.  I am not light on my feet.  I read Born to Run.  I watch Danny Dreyer’s Chi Running videos, I visualize.  And I run, every other day.  In between I do whatever I can to keep the mojo and keep moving because one day off becomes three becomes a week becomes a month.  So, I will run. And on my off days perhaps I will Zumba.  I laughed.  And I sweat.

I sweat.  Because it feels good.  Because it clears my head.

sweatBecause it makes me feel like I am taking time for me and that I am important.  I feel healthy.  I make better choices, choices about what I eat, what I do.

But not all of those choices are easy.

There is a man at the gym. He is an older fella, in his grey  sneakers and his dress pants.  He wears a plaid shirt and he keeps it neatly tucked in.  He walks on a treadmill and he gabs with everyone.  He is friendly but if you point at your earbuds and smile he doesn’t chat you up anymore.  He is pleasant.  But that is not my favorite thing about him.

He reeks.  And not because he sweats.  He reeks of cigarettes.  Reeks.  I pass him on the stairs sometimes and I wonder if I smell like smoke when I walk past someone later.  It doesn’t just hang on him, it follows him like Pigpen’s swirl of dust and dirt.

And I love it.  I love the smell of smoke.

Not all of the time.  When I am with my kids at a park and I smell smoke I whip my head around and give the stink-eye to the teenagers that are sitting on a picnic table.  When I am in line at the grocery store and I can smell the checker, they have just come back from a smoke break, I don’t breathe deeply.  It doesn’t smell good.  It is out of place.

But at the gym, during my hour, the hour that Kelly is just Kelly not Mom, I’ll be damned if that cigarette does not smell delicious.  Running alongside him today at the gym I got to giggling.  Ludacris was singing in my ear “I wanna, li-li-li-lick you from your head to your toes” and I imagined myself letting those words escape my mouth.

kellyI am not a Smoker.  Not anymore.  But I am not a Non-Smoker, either.  I prefer to think of myself as a non-practicing Smoker.

I would spend some more time trying to reconcile this, my desire to be healthy and fit combined with my love of the smell of a Marlboro, but it isn’t new.  Ten years ago I celebrated my 26th birthday with friends.  We were talking about our newfound love of Les Mills’ Body Pump.  I had a beer in one hand and a smoke in the other.


These days I don’t have a cigarette in my hand.  And I still love the gym. Some things change and some things stay the same.

I still wear overalls more often than I should.  But I don’t perm my hair anymore.  I am going to put fitness, quitting smoking and not perming my hair in the “Good Things I Need to Keep Doing” column. Sniffing old dudes that reek of smoke at the gym – I am putting that in the “Quite Possibly Creepy But It Won’t Kill Me” column. Feel free to debate me on this.

34 responses to “Sweat & Smoke

  1. On the train home. Definitely one of the more, ahem, interesting posts.

  2. Pingback: Toe Socks, that’s what’s up. | Excitement on the side

  3. I would love to have you in my Zumba class, however I think we would turn into a bunch of giggling school girls and that is a “no no” when you are teaching, but participants, please laugh and have fun because we teachers like that! Shake what ya mama gave ya!

  4. Well I’m a sweater…like bad….I knew there was something more to our attraction ;)

  5. I thought you were going to say the guy on the treadmill was smoking. Remember those days? (Well, I don’t either because when I was 10 I was not at the gym, but it wasn’t so long ago that people did this).

  6. Smell is such a powerful sense. I find it’s the thing that takes me back, that unlocks a memory I didn’t realize I still held. This post was my first introduction to you… and I’m intrigued. Proceeding to stroll around…

    • I love it when I don’t even notice that I have smelled something and I am flooded with memory seemingly out of nowhere. Thanks for stopping by. :)

  7. Ah, overalls and permed hair with a cigarette — it’s like you walked out of the Side Lobby :) I’m right there with ya on the sweating thing — it’s why I can’t run in the morning — it takes too long to cool down and then I want to take a nap and then it’s noon and good lord why even get out of the running clothes at that point or shower because the day is half over and on and on and on.

  8. I’m not much for the cigarette smoke – but with sweating, I am right there with you! I was working out the other day, and the trainer walked up to me and gave me a towel. “Seriously, you should use this.” Thank you trainer :p

  9. I refuse to disagree with you on any subject. You could snap me like a twig,
    That’s a compliment, by the way!

  10. Sorry, but I can’t stand the smell of cigarettes.

  11. American cigarettes smell better than Canadian cigarettes. It’s a good thing, and a bad thing.

  12. It’s been nearly 10 years since I quit and yet, still, if I’m walking without the kids and the person in front of me is smoking I will sometimes walk close behind and just smell it and remember what it was like. At the gym though, it makes me gag! So I’m not with you on that one ;)

  13. IdenticalTwinge

    Do you like the smell of gasoline? That’s right up there for me with a fresh cigarette. And Bodypump?! I had to live in Goldsboro for an entire year before they had any Les Mills classes. When my manfriend came home from Afghanistan, I suckered him into going to a Pump class with me. He made some snide remark about doing Jazzercise with a weight-lifting granny in the back row and that it would be a waste of time after working out for 7 months straight. He wasn’t so talkative the next morning when he tried to sit down to use the toilet after doing 100 squats.

  14. I am so glad I’m not the only one who enjoys the smell of smoke. I go outside with my coworker on his smoke break just to smell it. And I think non-smokers should get to take 5 minute smoke breaks too. I’m just advocating for a fair workplace, really. But seriously, he rolls his own cigarettes. They smell divine.

    And I’m super pale and turn really red at the gym within the first few minutes of starting a workout. In the group exercise classes people always ask me if I’m OK because I’m so red. I feel ya.

  15. It has always been my opinion that people who do not sweat like beasts when working out, are simply not working out hard enough. :)

  16. Eric pretty much wanted me to congratulate you on being FP’d over here.
    Smoker or non-smoker, it doesn’t exactly help breathing in second-hand smoke for the fun of it, cancer-wise. :)

  17. Oh I know where those pictures were taken!!! Cardinal St, wasn’t that the name of it?

  18. “Non-smoker” sounds like that person at a party you don’t want to get stuck talking to…it’s going to be a discussion about something that makes you want to say, “oh, jesus, can’t you just shut up?” while you smile the plastic smile and wait for somebody, anybody, to rescue you. I like your term, Kel. Besides, non-practicing can mean that one day I just might, and right now that’s good enough for me. I’m also a non-practicing runner, writer of famous novels, eater of healthy food and a bunch of things I haven’t even thought of yet.

  19. I used to be a tobacco cessation counselor and your words about being a non practicing smoker are SO true…most of my clients didn’t want to quit, but they did quit, but they didn’t want to be a non-smoker, either!

Gimme some love!! Please?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s