Deborah Armstrong

Why it pays to work out at the gym.

Deborah's Diary

Forget the health benefits. There is more to working out at the gym than you may realize. It’s a writer’s paradise, or at least it is to me. Let me explain.

Warm up and cardio – the time to raise your heart beat and burn fat. It’s also the time to watch people. Watch the interaction between men and women as they talk to each other. Take note of the body language and the language used (eavesdrop). Watch the smiles, the laughs and the flick of the hair. Look for tattoos or other interesting body features you can use in your story.

Lately, I’ve been looking at tattoos. I’m not a fan of them. I think most of what I have seen are ugly and were not given much consideration before the ink was applied. Today I saw a young man working out in a muscle shirt. His arms were exposed. My gaze was instantly drawn to his tattoos. He had dragons! My hero (Book 4) has tattoos, one of which is a dragon. This man’s tattoo was the dragon I’ve been trying to imagine – the color, the placement on the body, how it really looked. Eureka!

Now, I’m not one to approach strangers in the gym, but I had to talk to this man. He had what I wanted.Without hesitation I asked him if his tattoo on his right arm was a dragon. When he said yes, I asked him if I could look at it. I quickly explained that I’m writing a book and my character has a dragon tattoo. I couldn’t get the look right in my mind and his looked perfect. I asked if he would mind if I had a closer look. He may have thought I was a bit nuts, but he agreed. I scanned his arm, admiring the detail and the placement of the dragon starting at his wrist right up to his shoulder. The dragon’s neck and head were concealed by the shoulder of the shirt. Brazenly, I pulled the neck of his shirt down so that I could see the dragon’s neck and head. I noticed his surprise, but still I carried on with my examination.
“Are you going to color it in?” I asked him since the dragon was a pale green outline.
“Maybe when I’m old,” he replied.
“I love his head,” I said with genuine awe.I loved the eyes, the flaring nostrils and the fire.
“It’s Chinese,” he said, clearly wanting me to let go of his shirt and let him escape.With reluctance, I freed the young man and let him continue his workout and I did the same. I spent the next thirty minutes pedaling on my stationary bike while I thought of my dragon. I knew how to describe him now. As I was working on my dragon, I couldn’t help but notice the young man with the tattoos kept circling around in my cardio area. I wondered if he wanted me to stop him for another look or if he was wondering if I had a tattoo hidden under my T-shirt and yoga pants. Not in this lifetime.

Weight training – the time to build your muscle and core strength. It’s also the perfect time to talk about sex with your trainer. Rudy is seventy-nine years old with the body of a forty-year old man and the face of a fifty year old. We have been friends for years.Nothing gets me through twenty reps of heavy weights better than talking about sex, relationships and body parts with him. He gives me things to think about for my writing and I tell him what I’ve written. He’s the only man I would let say to me, “on your back and spread ’em.” When it’s been a really good workout, we pause and share the invisible cigarette of satisfaction.

Rudy’s also my book pimp. His support of my writing has really touched me. Every time we have a session he’s read one more chapter of the book and gives me feedback. Today he complimented me on a scene that took me more than a few tries to get right and one I still doubted . He said something like, “Man, you really nailed that scene. The way his mother talked… What a character! This is a really good book.” Another reason to work out at the gym – forget the body, it’s great for the ego.

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