Let me preface this piece by saying that my recent columns have been very politically driven, and I’m ready for a break. Every news story I read makes me cringe, so today I’m going to attempt to deliver some lighter writing. Here’s to hoping I succeed.
I’ve been going to the gym more often lately. It’s a nice break from my academic life and it gives me something to do in those awkward hours in the middle of the day. I go when it’s fairly empty up at Teagle, when the crowd is mainly composed of middle-aged runners and a handful of students. When I started going to the gym at the beginning of this semester, I had very little sense of what to listen to. I found that my standard “walking to class” playlists heightened my awareness of the arduous process of running and made me want to stop immediately. Once I realized that most of my music wouldn’t do, I began perusing my friends’ workout playlists. I found some fun tracks that were more upbeat than my selections and kept me somewhat engaged throughout my workout. But even with these songs, I still found myself returning to the painful sensations of running. I was hopeless at first; I thought that no matter what I listened to, my run would still be equally as dreadful. That was until I started watching HGTV and listening to middle school-era pop and punk.
Now, I’m not one to typically enjoy either of those things. I grew up with the occasional viewing of House Hunters (my mom was a real estate agent for some time), but HGTV was never my channel of choice. No, I, like most young people, chose to watch literally anything else. Still, as I was flipping through the channels on my treadmill, I found myself unusually intrigued by HGTV. I didn’t want to watch re-runs of How I Met Your Mother or the latest episode of Iron Chef; no, I selected HGTV among all of the channels. It promised a true escape and distraction, and I was immediately on board.
At the time of day that I usually exercise, the show that plays on HGTV is usually Property Brothers. It’s a reality show about two brothers who help people renovate and reassemble dishevelled homes to turn them into their dream estates. This show is strangely satisfying to watch. I’m not on the treadmill long enough to see the full transformation of homes, but I usually get to watch new homeowners strike down the walls of their homes, scrape off strips of ugly wallpaper and transform wooden doors into dining tables. Something about this show makes me feel involved, and it definitely distracts me from the fact that I’m simultaneously running at 5.1 miles per hour. There’s drama, comedy and, of course, DIY endeavours, so what more could you ask for?
Maybe my strange love for HGTV would be more normal if it weren’t supplemented by a soundtrack of middle school music. I have a system now, whereby I play HGTV with closed-captioning on the treadmill and listen to a playlist that is a jumbled array of mid-2000s pop and emo pop-punk. It’s a playlist that includes anything from Fergie’s ’06 hit, “Fergilicious” to Motion City Soundtrack’s “The Future Freaks Me Out” and it even features tracks by My Chemical Romance and Justin Timberlake. I find it’s the perfect mix of energetic and nostalgic, and while running is still running, I’m a lot more engaged than I was before. These are songs that I know all the words to, that I can silently mouth the lyrics to as I’m struggling for breath on my run.
The combination, strange as it may be, has really been working for me. I need the occasional moment of distraction, where politics and cultural warfare cannot permeate my mental space. And while my gym sessions only last 45 minutes or so, they have definitely given me a bit more spring in my step.
Anita Alur is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Millennial Musings appears alternate Wednesdays this semester