The Prison Gym

I figured it was time to share more about what this gem of fitness center is like at Yankton.  First off, it’s a total mad house.  Picture your local gym on the first Monday after New Years Eve.  Everyone’s resolutions are in place and they are starting the new year off on the right foot – focusing on their health.  Now put four times as many people in there.  All guys.  That packed.  Every day. 

It is also as utilitarian as a gym can get.  Cinderblock walls, black rubber floor, giant wall fans trying their hardest to keep the air fresh.  With so many people using the gym there has to be a schedule.  This one, however, is unwritten.  No one ‘signs up’, nothing is posted about it, you sort of figure it out and find yourself in the thick of the scene.

There is simply not enough equipment for people to work out alone.  You need to join a car.  “Ride with a car if you want to work out” they say.  A car is a group of inmates who work out together, and they workout using the same equipment, at the same time, on the same day of the week, every week.  Say it’s chest day and you’re on the bench press.  Once you finish your reps, you swap out with the next guy, while the other two people change the weight, and then that person gets started.  This goes on, this continuous movement, until you all finish your workout.  The equipment is being used non-stop.  It allows more people to use the gym, time for you to rest between sets, and a good amount of motivation – as well as a spotter.

I am congizant of not lifting enough that I could get hurt, but at the same time, there’s not much of a tolerance here for lifting light.  At first, it’s over bearing, but you have energy to burn, people spotting you, and the key to putting on real muscle is heavy weight and low reps…  It’s a style of lifting I never did while training on my own and I’m growing fond of it.  It also helps when you have to stick to your schedule and you start seeing gains more and more each couple of weeks.

The other type of common workout is a circut.  So if it’s Tuesday night, at 5:30, it’s back day for me.  I know the guys who have the 4:30 slot, and if they finish early we jump in.  I know the guys who come at 6:30, and if I finish early, they get started.  On Tuesday we run through clean presses, t-bar rows and front raises with plates all in a row, then rest.  But with 4 people there is someone at each station the entire time.  No excuses or time to slow the pace lest you slow everyone down.  Next we perform dead lifts which at first I was hhesitantabout but have grown to enjoy, especially now that I’m comfortable with the exercise, using proper form, and increasing my weight.  Lastly, my new favorite, pull-ups.  You’re toasted at the end.

I can walk out of the weight pile and find a ppickle ballgame almost immediately.  So you go right from an hour of heavy lifting to an hour of cardio.  There are several of us who have pretty competitive games.  Would I rather be in Boise doing anything outside – yes.  However, I can’t do that right now, I’m here.  So this is how I make the best of it.

I’ll take a breather after that and have a protein shake plus peanut butter to get a few calories in me.  What happens next wouldn’t happen at a gym in the outside world unless you knew a lot of people at that specific place.  I’m walking around, cooling off, drenched in sweat and someone yells over asking if I want to join them for burpees and their ab routine.  What the heck, I have nowhere to be, why not.  Add in the fact that it is humid here, the gym has no AC and we wear thick cotton t-shirts.  Everyone sweats like we’re in a hot yoga studio – I think I’m actually the only one who enjoys that aspect of it.

We head back to the unit when they call the controlled move and I shower, make a snack of oatmeal, protein powder, peanut butter and trail mix, then get in bed to read for a couple hours.

People take their eating seriously here.  With the amount of protein you need to consume to grow, and the calories we are burning, eating is a past time.  I eat my entire breakfast, lunch and dinner plus 2 other times throughout the day.  I’m so close to putting on that 15 lbs but I’m burning far to much fat so while I gain weight I’m also losing it.  A good problem to have I guess.

The final part, the one thing (of many really) I am really looking forward to about working out when I get out of here, is the time between dinner and starting a workout.  We eat dinner at 4:30 or 5:00 depending on what slot we are in.  Lately, we’ve been on the 5:00 slot and rec call is at 5:30.  So that means I go straight from dinner to exercise.  It would obviously be enjoyable to have time to digest, but that time would come at a cost – missing my slot.  Back to my favorite quote: If is not up to me, it means nothing to me.  Not sure how I deal with it but we all do.

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