Let’s Get Physical

Well, it’s almost the end of the year, which means it’s almost time for me to make a lot of empty promises to myself about being a better person, doing things differently, making changes. This year is a big one for me, though. I’m turning 35 in a few months, and I have to face the sad realization that I have the muscle tone of a newborn and the lung capacity of a three-pack a day coal miner.
This cannot continue. So this past weekend, I decided to take charge of my life and do the unthinkable – I joined a gym. As a permanent member. With a laminated card and everything.
Part of what has kept me out of gyms all these years, aside from inertia and reality television, is that they intimidate the crap out of me. Everyone is so focused in the gym – they have coordinated outfits, vitamin water, things that measure heart rate, and oh god, shower shoes!
I had been talking about joining the gym down the street from me for the past year, but always found some reason not to take the plunge. I would walk by at night and look up at all the muscular silhouettes running on the treadmills that faced out onto the street, iPods firmly secured, water bottles perfectly poised, and I’d think, “My god those people are sweaty. They’re totally fogging up the windows!”
But then a bit later, after I had time to reflect, I would think, “I wonder if those sweaty people wiped off all their sweat after they left?”
Then finally, I would be left with a sense of envy. Not of their sweat, nor of the person who had to wipe up their sweat, but of their commitment to becoming healthier.
So on Saturday, after much deliberation and a few failed walk-bys, I pulled open the giant doors to the gym, walked up to the front desk and said, “I’d like to speak to someone about a membership.”
A lovely and high-spirited young woman named Maya beamed me a smile, and then handed me a form to fill out that essentially said a) if I was somehow dismembered during my tour of the facilities, I would not sue and b) that I promised not to steal all their ideas and open an identical gym of my own. I told her she should put her money on dismemberment.
After I had signed all the appropriate forms, Maya began by telling me what their hours of operation were, but I was completely distracted by some heavenly and altogether unexpected smell coming from somewhere on the first floor.
I stopped her in mid-sentence, “I’m sorry, but, what is that delicious odor?”
She sniffed the air, smiled and said, “Oh, you must mean our deli. We have a smoothie bar and health food counter over to the left.”
I looked in the direction she pointed and saw the source of this delectable scent: row upon row of perfectly golden rotisserie chicken, slowly turning on a spit and basting in their own juices.
“Wait… you have rotisserie chicken here? And smoothies?”
“Yes, we have a full delicatessen. It’s really quite good. Why don’t I start by showing you the locker room, and then we can go through all the equipment on the first and second floors.”
She took me downstairs to the locker room, and before I could tell her that the odds of me actually taking a shower here were even more remote than me starting a competing gym, she had already led me straight into a gaggle of half naked women who seemed oblivious to my presence. I’m not sure if it was some repressed traumatic high school P.E. class experience, or perhaps just my 1% Amish heritage showing through, but I’ve never been a fan of public showering.
After leaving the locker room, Maya brought me over to what she called the meditation area, just outside what she called the stretching mat area. “Here’s our meditation area where you can come to relax. As you can see, we have a koi pond, miniature waterfall, and lemon water for you to enjoy.”
“Wow – this is so nice! Hey, um… can we eat chicken down here?”
“I’m sorry?”
“Chicken. Can we eat the rotisserie chicken down here by the koi pond? I’ll bet it would taste nice washed down with some of that lemon water.”
“Uh, no. No, we don’t allow food in the meditation area.”
“Oh, okay. I was just wondering.”
Our next stop was the first floor of equipment. This would be my proving ground since I had already exposed the fact that I didn’t know the meditation area protocol. I couldn’t let on that I was such a complete gym newbie.
“Now here is where all of our classes are held. We offer three different types of yoga, cardio kick-boxing, Pilates, and Spin. Outside this room we have some of our treadmills and stair climbers. What type of a workout are you used to doing?”
Oh god.
I frantically looked around the room, trying to remember what she had just told me, “Uh… I mostly like to work out on the treadmills and stair climbers. Mostly. Oh, and I really like the ellipses machines.”
“You mean the elliptical trainers?”
“Oh… yeah. Elliptical. Those are good.”
I thought I saw Maya glance down at my thighs, but her eyes were very shifty, so I couldn’t be sure. “Mmkay, well I should tell you that we’re getting another six new treadmills over here, and as you can see, all of our machines are equipped with flat screen TV’s. You just plug your headphones in, and you’re ready to go.”
My ears perked up at this, “Flat screen TV’s? On all the machines? That’s so great!”
“Yeah, people really like that. So any questions about the equipment down here?”
“No, I think you’ve answered every-… well, actually one question. Can we eat chicken on the treadmills while we’re watching TV if we’re really careful?”
She stared at me in silence for a few seconds longer than I appreciated, then replied, “No. No chicken in the meditation room, no chicken on the treadmills. No chicken anywhere in the gym, really.”
“Except where you sell it over there.”
“Follow me upstairs.”
Maya led me past at least thirty machines I was certain I would never use because they involved steel cables and an elaborate system of levers and pulleys. All I could see was the image of my hair getting tangled up in the wires, and having to scream for help while my head was pinned against the seat of a rowing machine. It’s hard to recover after such a faux-pas.
We circled the second floor and ended up in front of the windows I had looked up at so many times over the past few years. And now, there I was, standing up high and looking down at all the out-of-shape schlubs walking down the street. So this is what it feels like to be healthy, I thought. It feels… superior.
We ended our tour right where we started, bathed in the salty scent of grilled meat. The man behind the deli counter tipped his fingers to his hat, as if to welcome me into his secret society.
“Well then, if you don’t have any more questions… about the equipment… you can just have a seat here at our internet café and fill out the application form.”
Internet café?
I looked around me and saw six flat screen monitors, each with high speed internet, just waiting to be surfed. As I handed Maya my credit card, I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply, and felt healed. I just feel so silly now for being so intimidated by gyms all these years. If I had known that working out involved WiFi, flat screen TV’s, and golden crisped rotisserie chicken, I would have joined years ago.

25 Responses to “Let’s Get Physical”

  1. nina Says:

    Lifetime membership? Really? I paid in full for two years and moved before 6 months were up. And they wont do a refund.
    Here’s what I did, btw: I watched the food channel while on those machines. It was sort of like a virtual run-through a roasted chicken.

  2. Pants Says:

    I think the secret to rotisserie chicken is that it is injected with heroin.

  3. jaymarie Says:

    that thing with the hair getting all tangled up, hey – that really happens.
    no, for reals.

  4. kris dresen Says:

    What? A deli? I mean, I knew there was a smoothie bar in that gym, but a deli? When does the ice cream parlor next to the koi pond open?

  5. Jessica Says:

    Few words are funnier than “gaggle” – hee!
    I think I mentioned that I was a certified personal trainer for nearly 5 years…I’ve seen a lot of gyms and it sounds like you have a very, very nice one. Good luck, Jen!!

  6. Jessica Says:

    Wait…I’m sorry…few words are funnier than “Pants” – I LOVE IT!

  7. peefer Says:

    Few words are funnier than:
    Can we eat chicken on the treadmills while we’re watching TV if we’re really careful?
    I saw it coming a mile away, but it was still terribly amusing. Nice job.

  8. trisha Says:

    You are so stinking funny…it really isn’t fair.

  9. The Scarlett Says:

    I could smell the chicken roasting and imagine the succulent goodness of knoshing on chicken by the koi pond or on the treadmill but I can tell you that there is no way you’d be carefull enough. Oh, you’d try. But either you’d drip chicken juice or drool or something and you can’t have that co-mingling with sweat.
    The funniest post I’ve read in ages. You are a genius. No wonder Hef comes to your orgies to hand out in the grotto.

  10. jenny Says:

    N: let me clarify – by “permanent” member, I meant as opposed to the transient kind I have been in the past (i.e. buy a 10-pass, use 3 of them, give remaining 7 to healthier friend).
    P: Mmmm… rotisserie heroin!
    J: I believe you – because I’d be the one to do it!
    K: I know! If only they served liquor, I’d move in!
    J2: Cool – maybe you can give me pointers on my form: “No, keep your wrists straight while lifting the drumstick… that’s it!”
    P2: Ahh, there’s nothing like obvious humor, is there? Like a good pie in the face.
    T: Ha! Just wait ’til I actually work out at this gym – I’ll be even stinkier!
    TS: Yeah, you’re probably right. Then someone would slip on chicken grease and I’d be to blame. Sure, blame the flabby girl, like they always do.

  11. Kevin Says:

    Now remember, even though this gym has all kinds of cool stuff like the webcafe, flatscreen TVs, and rotisserie chicken, you do still have to work out. That’s part of the trade off. Or so they tell me. We don’t have all that cool stuff at my gym.
    But we do have one thing in common, when I sign people up (yeah, I work there parttime as well), I do tell them that they two places on the contract they have to sign effectively means that they agree to our rules no matter how heavyhanded and they will not sue us should their arms be ripped out of their sockets. That lightens the mood most of the time. The rest of the time, they stare at me in complete shock.

  12. DesertJade Says:

    Going to the gym and feeling comfortable going is kind of like traveling. Just don’t act like a tourist, and you blend right into the locals!

  13. DesertJade Says:

    Oh yeah, but if you are traveling to Asia… pass on the Chicken… :-P

  14. allison Says:

    How brilliant! I just joined a gym last week and went last night for my first official workout.
    (this comment took 2 1/2 hours to type because I am pecking at the keys with my nose, as my arms have been rendered muscularly useless.)

  15. number4of5 Says:

    Since you can’t have the chicken, I bet koi would go really well with the lemon water. Gym/deli/internet cafe/sushi bar.
    And catching them could be your workout.

  16. shari Says:

    Ha!! Why, why, why?? Why were YOU given all the funny genes, and all I got were the “cute puppy” ones?

  17. jenny Says:

    K: Wow. Way to rain on my parade, Kev. Yeah, I know… blah blah blah exercise blah blah.
    DJ: You’re so right. I need to get a cool workout outfit, and a personal waterbottle, and maybe an Adidas headband ASAP.
    A: Ooh, good to know. I should maybe invest in that voice-activated typing software before I work out for the first time.
    4of5: I don’t know – these fish had those really big, bulgy eyes. I’m not sure I could stomach eating them.
    S: Because you got all the “boy I love to workout all the time can’t get enough of that exercise look at my six pack abs” genes. Life ain’t fair, kid.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Jenny,
    Congratulations! I’m so proud of you for joining a gym! Honestly it will be just like watching TV but with your legs moving. And gyms have cable. You’ll be able to watch things like an America’s Next Top Model marathon while you pretend to train for one.
    But Jenny. I really need to talk to you about you and chicken. Please my dear, they are defenseless birds whose destiny should be to die of old age on a farm somewhere. Please?

  19. StationeryQueen Says:

    Clever people, those gym people. Keep them eating = keep them working out. Niiiiiiice.

  20. Robert Says:

    Yeah, it’s all great now, but what happens when the bird flue hits Chicago next month? Then what, rotisserie spam? I don’t think so. They’ll be slicing those koi.
    But congrats on the healthy and SUPERIOR Jenny coming your way.

  21. Fiorello La Guardia Says:

    Heh heh…too good. Drooling over chicken while forcing yourself to stay on that Health Rider for 20 minutes. (Really, stay off the Health Rider-it maims and kills)
    But, do remember that if you take those rotisserie chicken bones home, you can make a great chicken stock! Let me know if you need a recipe – ;)

  22. romy Says:

    congrats on joining the gym !
    and save some rotisserie chicken for me, eh?
    this was a great post. :)

  23. TCho Says:

    Ooooh. What gym is that? I belong to Equinox here in NY. And I’ve been to a couple of the Equinoxes in Chicago which are great. But yours sounds even nicer!

  24. Sarah Says:

    Is this Cheetah gym?
    Cripes. I love rotisserie chicken.
    Just another reason why we shouldn’t have moved.

  25. asia Says:

    I am coming over. Is the gym open 24 hours for night owls??