In truth, I was going to put 'severely dislike', but the copy just isn't as strong.
With just about 6 months to go until my wedding, I made the decision to get in better shape. Like a lot of people in their mid-thirties, the idea of the gym sounds much better than the actual place and what it represents. I'm certainly all for becoming active, and I commend those that I know who are addicted to the gym and the many positive benefits it contributes to one's life.
But I hate it.
And I'm not alone.
Last night, after gorging myself on bacon-layered fried chicken sandwiches and whipped cream strawberry shakes, the reality of today's first workout session set in. It may have been raining curly fries just moments earlier, but now depression set in.
I'm not obese by any stretch of the imagination, despite what my Wii Fit tries to tell me. What I am, without question, is out of shape. My lack of athletic opportunities, combined with a recent ACL injury, have left me with even less weekly physical exertion than years prior. I even stopped playing any form of baseball or softball, which had kept me mobile for at least one day of the week for over 20 years straight. And despite the aforementioned landslide into the ranch-laden euphoric worlds of Jack in the Box, The Angel and I generally eat healthy. But I do get winded after two sprints, which is a problem.
I wanted to get in better shape for the big day. More importantly, The Angel is committed to a training regiment of her own, and I want to support that. I even reluctantly agreed to take part in one of those Boot Camp intensives next spring. She was pleased, and more than willing to help out. She used to do her own bit of personal training during college, so I agreed to let her map out a program designed with my needs involved. No running. Exercises to help alleviate my back pain and regain knee strength. And a mix of activities so I don't get bored.
Today, I dragged my lazy ass out of bed and tossed on the closest pair of mesh shorts for my first workout. I strapped on some gym shoes and quickly ate some half-assed breakfast consisting of turkey sausages and swiss cheese. This would later turn out to be a catastrophic mistake, as in just a few hours I'd be reeling from dizziness due to lack of food. Moron.
There are so many things I dislike about the gym, but the one that stands out the most is fellow people.
I love people, I really do. I especially love people in certain surroundings, usually ones that involve bringing people of all walks of life together. Bars. Music festivals. Parties.
Naturally, you would assume the gym would be a welcome community for the people-watcher in me.
Unfortunately, people in this setting drive my irritation levels to overriding levels of judgement. I try to stay calm, knowing full well that my irritating disposition towards them is both a contradiction of what I stand for, and a symbol of my growth into becoming an angry old man, of which I most certainly will be.
We had recently signed up for a new gym, mostly because we didn't enjoy the settings of our last gym. This new gym, a YMCA, had an indoor pool and basketball courts. For me, this was the best a gym could do in enticing my presence. I also like what the YMCA stands for in the community, and overall think they do a fantastic job for those that live near them. Maybe this experience would be different from past ones.
I pretty much hated it right away.
Here, in chronological order of today's experience, are the reasons why I and many people like me loathe the gym.
First off, entering the parking lot, I was met with two to three morons. Really, I don't mean to be cruel, but that's the only way I can describe them. They sat there, in their cars, waiting for parking spots that were closer than the ones towards the back of the lot. Now, in general, this pisses me off at any public establishment. Not only are there cars backing up in a line because you need the spot three spots closer, but it's just ridiculous.
Especially at a gym.
Isn't the whole point of going to a gym to get exercise? It's gonna be okay Jenni, just park in one of the forty opens spots less than 30 yards from where you are.
And before you think there was a reason for these people to need to wait for a closer spot (say an injury or the elderly), think again. They were young adults, just not wanting to park farther away.
I entered the gym.
I head towards the mats to do some warm-up stretches and crunches. I didn't bring my iPod today, but it wouldn't have mattered anyhow, because the sound emanating out from a nearby weight room was deafening in its fury. Grunts. Grimaces. Huge breaths. And shrieks of strain. I couldn't see who, or what, was making these noises, but it must have either been a man having a heart attack or The Ultimate Warrior. Possibly an elephant.
Monica Seles in her prime had nothing on this guy.
Seriously, if you're that HUGE dude, find a gym for professional weight lifters. I'm not impressed by the fact that I can't see your neck, I'm saddened that you feel the need to make a spectacle of yourself. And not for nothing, but mixing in a little leg work wouldn't hurt.
Entering a machine room, there's a guy doing chest press with jeans on. His clothing choice has nothing to do with me, but I hate this guy even more than the gym. Two guys around him have knit hats on.
Despite a clear sign indicating that no cell phones are allowed, a gentleman is having a loud conversation with what I can only assume is his wife. It's not going well, but he seems to not care about the rest of us forced to listen in.
I go to use the captain's chair for some ab work. Unfortunately, the orange tanned 'sweet' dude that used it just before me has left a layer of gleaming dew slathered on the entire contraption. He smiles as he gets off, clearly impressed with himself and his workout. Perhaps the chair wouldn't be so doused in sweat if he had decided to wear something other than the aqua blue tank top he chose.
If the description of his presence revolted you, it should. Because this is exactly the kind of thing I've seen at every public gym I've ever been too.
And if you think the open area looks or smells bad? That's nothing compared to the locker room. Sometimes, it's downright abhorrent.
I can't explain this to you, nor do I comprehend it, but for some inexplicable reason, many old men feel comfortable walking around nude. They'll engage you in conversation, all the while sagging a mere few steps from where you're trying to change. Some of them even shave at the faucets, fully nude.
There's nothing quite like washing your face, only to look up and have Yogi's own personal light saber inches from your eyes.
I mean, come on!
A trip to the pool usually is my one sanctuary, except that apparently pool laps are a fairly popular aerobic activity where I live. I now have to juggle my time spent with others, waiting for an opportunity to thrash around in an overly-chlorinated pool of water.
For the record, I don't swim with goggles. I don't like them. I do not need you to point this out to me. Do you think I'm not aware that I'm not wearing them? Why do you feel the need to impart your knowledge onto me when I'm clearly not someone who even makes eye contact with anyone else.
Which, while were at it, is another point about the gym.
Everyone thinks they're an expert, and because of this, they like to stop your forward motivation to offer "pointers". Many times, they're often at odds with what someone else says.
If I wanted personal guidance, I'd hire a trainer.
In the end, that to me seems the best avenue for health fitness.
Free from the smells, the intrusive behavior, the squinted looks of skepticism.
A personal trainer in a private facility seems like the future to me.
Because I hate the gym. I really do.
And I hate it, because most of all, I don't want to be there.
I want to be in a bar. At a music festival. Or prepping for a party.
Which is the real reason we all hate it anyway. We don't want to do the work to get the results, whatever that means.
Day 2 starts Saturday...
Kurt Edward Larson just published his first book, Finding the Super-Hero Within. It does not contain any stories on gyms, though it does have an awesome anectdote on an intense intramural game of flag football.