Lately, getting to the gym has been a struggle. Used to be, I was pretty good about it—four, five times a week, even when I was feeling a little logy. No, especially when I felt a little logy, because I chose to believe what all the women’s magazines I write for have said: That working out gives you energy, even as you expend energy climbing endlessly to nowhere on a machine made by someone who must have had a terrible childhood. The theory defies everything I learned in Mr. Budin’s physics class at the Bronx High School of Science, but then, I was never very good at physics, and I needed as many reasons as I could muster to get my fanny on the cardio machine.

I worked out as much as the masochists experts say you should not because I’m so virtuous or an athlete or find the “scene” scintillating or enjoy watching middle-aged men do things with weights that are only going to make our health care crisis worse.

No, I went to the gym for two simple reasons. 1)  I was just vain enough (I look better when I exercise) and 2) just mentally unstable enough (I’m in a better mood after I’ve worked out ) to know that if I don’t, I will become someone I can’t be around. Which is a problem considering I’m stuck with myself, and so are my kids and arguably, my husband. I went to the gym in the same spirit in which I brush my teeth: There is little enjoyment but not doing it wasn’t an option, either. I felt gross when I didn’t go.

Hence my dilemma. I’m becoming less vain as I get older—overall, an excellent development, one I that gives me a sense of peace and relief, but one which is nonetheless significantly reducing my desire to exercise. I no longer feel terribly gross when I skip the gym for a day, two, or even three. In fact, it feels like the natural order of things—why would I go to the gym, really, when it’s not going to make as much of a difference in my appearance as it used to? My second reason for going to the gym is still there (I’m still plenty depressive) but now that I care a bit less about how I look, the ratio of vain to blue is off.

Does this mean I need to become more depressed and emotionally off-balance to compensate for caring less about my looks, to ensure I get a healthy amount of exercise?

I hope not, because then I’m just a hop and a skip and a deep global recession away from bag-lady city. For all I know, that woman who wears everything she’s ever owned and mutters to herself on the street was a 41-year-old mom of two who simply lost her vanity, upped her mental instability, saw her 401-K go down the crapper and now gets her exercise by wandering from homeless shelter to homeless shelter.

Sorry, I have to go. To the gym. Now. And I’m cannot wait to get there.

Photo by: Steve & Jemma Copley, CC Licensed