Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My (Gym) Odyssey

The (Gym) Odyssey, 
Complete with Sirens, The Cyclops, Circe, and the Locust Eaters 

When I lived in DC, I was a card carrying member of X Sport Fitness. This place was heaven on earth. A personal Mecca to which I went to almost daily (or at least needed to). This place had everything I could possibly wish for in a gym:
  • 24 hour gym and pool access 
  • A 25 meter pool that I could always get a lane to myself and was heated to a nice 80 degrees (i.e. old lady temperature which I find the ideal temp to swim in), 
  • Free weight/kettle bell/and lifting machine for every part of my body  
  • A sauna and steam room for heat training and detox 
  • Cardio machines for the occasional warm-up and cross training session, and a full stack of People and Cosmopolitan magazines that I could read while doing it (only joking about that last one).  
  • Attractive suburban mothers :)

With the exception of ice baths for recovery, an outdoor 50m pool, and a row of computrainers, I could not ask for more. Ironically though, what is supposedly one of the healthiest places to go (a gym) is actually a huge psychological trap of anti-health. Below is a compilation of my various trips to this gym. While the individual incidences did not happen in a single trip they nevertheless actually did occur (with some hyperbole) at some point during my 6 month membership. If you are a gym member, I hope you can relate....

I pulled into the parking lot and immediately found a parking space. It was about 300 meters from the entrance, but that would be a good warm up. As I walk towards the door I am almost hit by a large SUV with a “I AM IM.” The man behind the wheel honks loudly with one hand and with the other “checks in" on Facebook that he is going to the gym.  He does a few more laps around the parking lot waiting for the closest spot. Before I take two more steps, another woman with “Coexist,” “Namaste” and “Yoga mom” bumper stickers almost hits me. “Watch where you are going a-hole” she screams. “Namaste to you too” I think.

I then have to weave my way through a line of cars waiting for the valet parking attendant to service them. Valet parking at the gym? Yep, people really need to get to their workout as quickly as possible with as little work as possible. 

Finally I get through the entrance and am greeted by a young, girl
Why do I doubt this?
behind the counter. “Good morning, how are you?” She says without looking up from her phone as she texts someone most likely about how bored she it. I swipe my card but before I can grab a towel. She asks: “Would you like to buy some of our new line of protein bars? They are really good and super healthy. If you are looking to get faster, stronger, leaner, lighter all at the same time, these will definitely help you do that.” “No thank you—“ “But, wait let me show what else we have on sale” “I really just want to work out, thank you.” “Well how are you going to without the proper fuel? Or the proper recovery formula after? Are you on a multivitamin? If you are not you should be.” She grabbed my hand and dragged me over to a large corner of the gym devoted to everything “healthy:” tubs of protein powders with pictures of ripped guys with six packs, protein bars that looked more like candy bars, and ready made shakes whose ingredients lists looked like the periodic table of elements. “How come the people buying those tubs look nothing like the guys in the picture?” I wanted to ask but instead simply said “No thank you. I really just want to get my swim in.”
“Well have you met with our trainers yet for your personal consultation? It’s free! They will give you a customized body routine to get you ripped in no time. They are all certified.”

“My coach gives me everything I should do, so I am set.”

She looked crest fallen.

“Well, OK, have a good workout,” and she shuffled back to her station.

Finally, I was able to grab a towel and headed towards the changing room, which were up flight of stairs (or escalator--yes the gym had one of those too so that you could get to your workout more easily) and through the cardio and weight room. The moment I had finished climbing the stair--I refused to take the elevator--I practically collapsed on the ground in an epileptic seizure. Bright colored spandex burned into my retina from every direction. As my eyes adjusted to the blaze, I watched a woman clad in nothing but LuLu Lemon and Athletica exit the escalator, then hop immediately onto the stair climber. Irony! 

Row upon row of cardio machines hummed as their occupants stair climber/walked/ran/row/spun/ elliptisized/ twerked up a “sweat.” Most of the people were more focused on People Magazine's spread on Brad Pitt's newest fling than actually doing work though. One gentleman who was so absorbed in his Men's Health Magazine just sat on the bike with the pedals barely moving. At least he's here though.

I weaved back in between the machines but by the time I had reached the weight room, my way was blocked by a "trainer" and his client. The client was doing what I assume was a dumbbell squat. Her back was curled and she was barely bending her legs. 

"Good. Nice...deep sit now...and back up...Good." The trainer, gazing at his iPhone, said absentmindedly.  "Keep it up...Feel the burn"

"Is this right?" 

"Yep. Keep doing just that."  

Yep, he's certified--certified in texting. 

The weight room was packed as always with the typical gym rats: high schoolers who would do 3 reps on the bench press, let out a nice grunt then "subtly" stare at themselves in the mirror for a good 5 minutes, men whose arms were the size of my waist and whose whole circulatory system was visible, women who had more body hair than I do and most likely could eat me for dinner with a side of creatine and muscle milk pudding. 

At last I reach the locker rooms! Now I can swim!
I am not sure about you but all I can think about as I put on my swimsuit is this scene from movie "Airplane!" 

All one can and should do in the locker room is just keep your head down, your eyes on the floor, your towel firmly around your waist, and get out of there as quickly as possibly. One glance up and your memory will be scarred permanently. 

To the pool I go. After a quick hello to my Eastern European Life guard friend who does not speak a word of English and sits all day reading German romance novels, I hustle to the pool deck but before I could dip one toe in the pool, a rather cranky voice yells at me from across the way. 

"I'm sorry the pool is closed for Water Zumba."

I glance up at her then glance at the two old ladies in the pool. 

"The entire pool?"


"Well, good since I am here for the class," and with out missing a beat of the Justin Bieber song that had just come on the instructor's boom-box I dove in. 

In certain situations, you just have to go with the flow but thats my two watts.  

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