Soldier to Student…

Today, life for me is a rather different matter compared to how it was just six months ago. My day used to begin at seven AM, with BBC Radio 4 news and the sensation of having just emerged from a deep freeze, as my mind attempted a mental inventory of the rest of my body. A partially effective shower later and I would be in the mess hall, shaved, smartly dressed and working through a stodgy breakfast, while my brain took a second stab at the physical inventory. By eight, I would be at my desk and just about through the fourth layer of security before I began a days work that was surprisingly dull, for all the significance it carried. Suffice it to say, those of us engaged in matters of National Security still despise MicroSoft’s Windows, still gossip like teenagers and still engage in petty contests to impress the boss… The best part of the day was my gym time in the evenings.

From my bed, to my breakfast to my workstation, I never had to leave the site; if you worked over a weekend you might not get ‘outside the wire’ in two weeks or more with a gym, a bar, a church, social activities and a life where your colleagues, are your friends, are your neighbors – it can be a true fishbowl. And I guess it was not so different from university life, in some respects – though the timings are offset by at least three hours or more! Where it does start to get different is the world around you. When I get up now I don’t start running through the strict timings of my day, I just try to recall the ones that matter. Instead of all eighteen hours of my conscious existence being accounted for, it’s two hours, every other day. The freedom gets perplexing sometimes, but it only takes about a week and half before you completely abandon your daily shaving regime, stop fussing over the shine on your shoes and even contemplate the necessity of a morning shower. Not so much de-institutionalized, rather re-institutionalized back into being a student, I have gleefully abandoned almost every element of my old life, bar one. After eight years of it, I cannot bare to miss my exercise.

With a host of options in a city like New York – only when you’ve spent ten bewildered minutes in front of three drinks coolers trying to work out the specific character of your thirst, can you really appreciate the majesty of a true consumer culture – finding a gym is technically easy and practically impossible. Normally, I would go to the university gym, but that’s not necessarily for everyone. The gym is always busy, and I’m getting past being an undergraduate by… well, I’m past being an undergraduate. As someone who’s been fit all their life, and in a professional capacity, I really wanted a little more. So, after a week of free trials and footwork, I finally settled on Crunch, near Union Square.


For me, running in NYC is almost a total non-starter. Yes, you can go out to the Park, or along the rivers, but I don’t live near any of those. I once ran a 10k in the Afghan desert, and that was less daunting, and more effective, than trying to run while constrained by New York traffic, so a good range of machines I can always get to makes all the difference. The weights more than matched my needs but the real difference was the classes. In the Army, you don’t just go out and run, or do push-ups in lines. We were always pretty good about mixing up fitness and providing different challenges and I still much prefer to vary my workout as often as possible, so getting to sign up for a different thing each week keeps me in good nick, and keeps me interested each session. It’s a lot better than just going down on your own and slogging through a routine you clipped from a magazine, or worse, just trailing round the equipment and giving it a bash. Having someone lead you through your exercise makes you work harder and better, and a trainer is just as good as a military PT – though I do get nostalgic for the name calling sometimes!


Whilst it seems a little extravagant to join a gym, there are deals to be had, particularly as a student. If it seems like something you’d want to get into, check out this deal on Crunch Gyms. They have a great offer across the summer when school is closed, so if you’re in the city over the summer, go for it.
Crunch Gym
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