Me, my wonky back, crappy hip, and dickie knee have a combative relationship with the treadmill at the gym. It’s a complex love-hate arrangement. I am hopelessly co-dependent on its big plastic arms and its fast-moving rubber tread, because of said back, hip, and knee and the sheer unadulterated amount of sitting to work I do.
And because the great hunk of unyielding plastic and electronics is my muse.
Yeah—go on, laugh.
We visit often. I plug in, space out, try to ignore the whinging body parts and walk. And walk. That’s it. That’s all we do, there’ll be no actually running done, because God forbid that would hurt. At about the ten minute mark things change. Not only are the limbs looser, but so is the brain.
Detached from the ball and chain of keyboard, screen, desk, and chair, my thoughts are free to get all happy-slappy and flit about. At about the ten minute mark, there is often dialogue in my head, by fifteen minutes, I’m no longer in the gym I’m in my work in progress or sometimes, somewhat unhelpfully, in another work I’ve got no particular progress on, but it’s suddenly come alive.
Instead of the wall of video screens, I can see my characters doing things, hear them saying things, watch them move about and fill scenes with their energy. They wink at me all complicit and secretive while I sweat, and when they’re doing that I can forget the swelling in my ankle, the grinding in my neck, and the dude beside me who’s doing something awkward involving spontaneous grunting and flying body fluids.
When this first started happening, I freaked the heck out. Voices in my head, first sign of madness. Confirmation I’m weird. Until I remembered slogging away at the gym was how I often solved day job problems so I figured it was only slightly weirder to be solving imaginary ones. Be nice, go with me here.
I was quick to embrace the weird, even kept a note book and pen with me so I could write stuff down, because I didn’t trust it was a real thing. But the treadmill as inspiration and me are long over that tentative new relationship stage. When I realised this was more than a quick affair, I dropped the notepad because I trust the muse in all its electronic, flashing light, emergency stop, hydraulically lifting glory to deliver.
Of course I realise I’m being used. Both before and after me, that hunk of gym tech embraces other people, works its magic on their bodies and brains without a second thought to loyalty. But I’m okay with that. We don’t need to be exclusive because I learned something from that relationship I can take to the cross trainer, a walk at the beach, pulling weeds in the garden, or scrubbing soap scum off the shower glass.
Activity that has your body moving can flick a brain switch to blow open doors to creative thinking. And if you trust it, it will come.
And though body parts still protest, it’s well worth the sweat.
Ainslie Paton is a corporate storyteller working in marketing, public relations and advertising. She’s written about everything from the African refugee crisis and Toxic Shock Syndrome, to high-speed data networks and hamburgers, and for everyone from George Clooney to Barry Humphries – as Edna.She writes cracking, hyper-real romances about strong women and the exciting men who love them. And she dances when no one is looking.
Her next book, Floored, is available for pre-order now.