On Easter I Stayed at the Gym for 24 Hours and Wrote a Novella


The short answer is just because.

The long answer is:

Last November, I got a membership at XSport Fitness: Lakeview, Chicago: 24/7/365. One day, I was at the gym and I thought:

“I wonder if I could stay here for 24 hrs? No one would probably notice. But what would I do? What if I wrote a novel? I wonder if anyone else has done that. Probably not. So I could be the only person who’s ever written a novel in 24 hours at a gym. Okay maybe that’s been done. But this gym? Probably not. So I could be the only person who’s ever written a novel in 24 hrs at the XSport Fitness Center in Lakeview, Chicago? Cool. Let’s do it.”

The muse speaks differently to everyone.

So I did it. I planned it out. I made a packing list. I turned down two social invitations.

And I stayed there from 12:10 AM Sunday, March 27th to 12:10 AM Monday March 28th and wrote something that could qualify as a novella based on length.

When I left, I put my hands in the air in a silent pose of victory for no one except for me.

That is why I did it. For that moment.

Do the ideas that are itching at you, even if they make no sense. They’re there for a reason even if you don’t understand why.


What was it like?

It was both harder and easier than I thought it would be. The easy parts were from 12:10 AM to 7:00 AM and from 9:00 PM to 12:10 AM. Since almost no one was there during those times, I could stay in the women’s locker room and type without feeling out of place or attracting the attention of the cleaning staff.

All other time crawled by.

What did you do?

I divided my time between the weights floor, the cardio machines, the group fitness room, the locker room, and the sauna. I sat and watched as much TV as possible.

I did not sleep.

I wrote on my laptop in the locker room or typing on my phone while walking or cycling very slowly.

Were you actually just homeless?


Did anyone notice?

No. No one noticed. Workouts don’t last for very long so other patrons weren’t there long enough to notice that I was doing anything unusual.

If I’d fallen asleep, though, I’m sure I would have attracted attention.

What about the staff?

Most of the staff stays at the front desk. It was also a holiday, so there weren’t many personal trainers.

The only person who definitely knew that I was there for an unusual amount of time was the woman on cleaning staff. She saw me charging my phone and eating a bunch of peanuts, but if she cared at all she didn’t let on. She had other things to worry about.

What did you bring? What did you eat?

I brought (and ate):

  • Change of underwear, socks, and sports bra (later I wish I’d had a full-blown change of clothes, just for the psychological help)
  • 3 servings of protein powder
  • 2 snack packets of tuna
  • 1 cup of dry roasted peanuts in a ziplock bag
  • A spoon
  • My Blender bottle
  • A water bottle
  • 1 small notebook
  • 1 larger notebook
  • A pen
  • A jacket
  • My computer and charger
  • My phone and charger
  • My wallet
  • Keys
  • Shampoo
  • Body wash
How many grams of protein did you eat?

Including the food I ended up buying at the gym: 209.

Where did you eat?

Most of the food that I brought wouldn’t look too out of place in a gym where people down protein like it’s their job. It was a little strange to eat the tuna in the locker room.

Someone did comment on that. They said it smelled good. But they were lying. It was Thai-style tuna and it did not feel great to eat that after drinking a bunch of vanilla ice cream-flavored protein powder.

I did end up purchasing some food from the gym: a peanut butter chocolate protein shake (which tasted amazing), a calorie-free red bull, and a protein bar.

What did you learn?
  • If you want to make your life feel longer, stay at the gym. I had never felt time move so slowly. I actually thought it was going to stop and I was going to be stuck in my own, strange version of Groundhog Day.
  • People look weird when they’re working out and you’re not. When you’re working out alongside them, there’s always a competition or camaraderie, but when you’re not and you also have no intention of exerting yourself, you’re just like: dang you look weird. Why are you doing that to yourself?
  • If you look like them, people assume that you are like them. No one looked at me and wondered, has she been in here for 16 hours? Because I was dressed like someone who was working out, so why would I have been there longer than everyone else?
  • The night guard doesn’t give AF. I saw him when I walked in and saw him when I walked out. Engrossed in YouTube videos on his phone both times. Seems like a chill dude.
  • Protein smoothies are incredible. Food is a powerful motivator.
The most interesting thing you noticed?

I became my own worst enemy. As the day went on, I was less and less able to do the things that I wanted to do, like write, or be physically active.

I knew that my mental strength was failing but could not stop it. I also knew I could not be aware of the extent to which I was not not perceiving reality. That was strange.

What’s next?

I don’t know. This challenge came about organically from the ether inside of my brain space based on my current obsessions. When something crops up, though, I’m going to say yes.

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