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Why I Don’t Go to the Gym

My exercise regimen during this pre-midlife crisis get-in-shape extravaganza that I’ve embarked on has been limited solely to bike riding.  Well, I guess not solely.  I went out and played soccer one day (and by “playing” soccer, I mean I kicked a ball around for awhile and also chased some balls that I kicked over the fence).  I’ve taken several leisurely kayaking trips on my dad’s lake.  Oh, and I did some ab exercises from this app I downloaded to my iPad.  One of those ones where a woman in the best shape of anyone you’ve ever seen demonstrates how to do the exercises, then you try to do them and end up in the same position a dog assumes when you rub its belly.

I’ve got some concerns about how I’ll maintain my exercise regimen once the weather starts getting colder.  I do have clothing that allows me to bike in colder temperatures, but for whatever reason, that always works better in theory than in practice.  So I’m sure you’re thinking, “Hey Dave–why don’t you just go to the gym?”  Well, as the title of this entry hints towards, gyms and I do not work well together.

I’ve belonged to two gyms in my adult life.  I’ve gone to them a combined four times (including the days when I signed up) and spent over $1,000 in various dues and fees.  I believe that I’ve learned my lesson, although I’m starting to think that the gym next to my work is really, really convenient, but that’s another story for another day.

Back in 2009, the group I was working for spun off from the parent company and moved from the bland office complexes of Horsham to a high-rise snazzy tower in Center City.  Among the many amenities the building offered (well, seeing Mr. Fafara on a regular basis was the only other amenity) was a fitness club in the basement.  It was a high-end chain and it came with a high-end price tag.  But I figured that since I was a hot and happening guy working in the world of high finance, having a high-end gym membership was all part of the package.  Besides, it was right in the building, so I could go at lunch every day–how perfect!

As it turns out, Center City also has a lot of excellent places to get lunch.  I could go to the gym at lunch and then get some salad or grilled chicken or other such healthy nonsense, or I could go to Good Dog (home of the ejaculating cheeseburger) or the food court at the Comcast Center or a thousand other delicious places.  Not much of a choice there.

The second issue was that I assumed I’d have to shower before returning to work if I really spent my lunch hour at the gym.  I never saw what the shower area looked like, and I don’t really have much of an issue showering in that situation.  (Having gone to an all boys’ high school where they vigilantly enforced showers after gym class, I had some experience in communal showering.)  However, some of my workmates were members at the club, and I have a  long held rule of never seeing a workmate naked.  While this has probably cost me some sweet sweet lovin from female workmates over the years, I can also proudly say I’ve never inadvertently seen a workmate’s dong either.

So I’ve now decided that I’m going to go after work.  And the train station was right next to the gym entrance–how convenient!  Pop in for a power workout, catch a later train…I’ll be ripped in no time.

I then realize that I have no idea how to use any of the machines.  Also, as I’d become somewhat doughy by that time, I really felt like I needed someone to put me on some sort of regimen.  This wasn’t a toning exercise, this was a complete do-over.  So as I’m signing up, I add on a three-session personal training package.  Now the guy who’s signing me up asks me what style trainer I’d like, or what type of motivation I respond to.  So I’m pretty honest and tell him, “Look, I don’t want some guy who’s yelling at me to get through some predetermined number of sets or reps.  If I’m doing situps and my stomach starts to feel slightly uncomfortable after six, I’m stopping.”  He tells me he’s got the perfect guy in mind.

I show up later in the week for my first session with “Jason”.  (That might actually be his name.)  He’s all fit with a shaved bald head and a goatee.  He tells me to warm up on a bike, then we’ll go through an evaluation so he can craft a plan for me.  I get on the bike, and there’s like nine thousand buttons and modes on it.  I don’t even bother hitting any of them, so I’m pedaling furiously with zero resistance.  Off to a good start.  Jason then takes me through a series of drills or exercises or poses in order to figure out what I need to work on.  But he’s telling me things like, “Your outer thighs are stronger than your inner thighs”.  And I’m thinking, “I’m so going to quit this gym”.  This was ten minutes into my evaluation, mind you.

The evaluation ended up being all of fifteen minutes and I’m still unclear as to whether this constituted one of my three training sessions.  My second training session was scheduled for a day when I was in NYC on business during the day.  While in NY, we learned that our company was in trouble.  Obviously, by the time I got back to Philly, I was in a bad mood, then Jason no-showed our scheduled session.  This was not going well.

Finally, the day arrived for my actual training session.  Once again, I warm up on the bike (which I managed to get into a single mode that was entirely too difficult).  Then Jason arrives and let’s me know he means business by saying, “Are you ready to get serious?  LET’S GET SERIOUS!”

We’re no more than twenty feet from the bikes when he points out another of his trainees.  He tells me how this guy came to him six months ago after not exercising in twenty years and now he’s competing in competitive bodybuilding competitions.  And he lets me know that he could have me competing in three months.  I politely let him know that wasn’t really my goal.  We end up at the pull-up bar.  Wonderful.  I let him know ahead of time that even when I was young and in shape, I couldn’t do pull-ups.  But he insists I try.  Honest to God, I do like two and part of a third, and I’m literally close to throwing up.  Astutely noticing that I could use some help, he gets out this giant rubber band-like thing and attached it to the bar.  I then step into it, so it provides assistance as I pull up.

This is the single most humiliating athletic moment of my life, including my entire year of high school football.  First of all, there are tons, tons of hot girls at this gym.  Any chance I ever had of even making the slightest amount of small talk with any of them had now been compromised as I assumed they all thought I was training for the Special Olympics.  Secondly, the first band he used had way too much support; as a result, on my first pull up, it basically folded my legs up so that I looked like a gymnast on the bars.  Only because the tension was so high, I was more or less stuck in a folded up position, three feet off the ground, until he manually pulled my legs down.

We then went through a series of other excruciating exercises, all of which I could only do half as many as he insisted I do.  And he was being all mean about it and really making me do the mandatory number.  Exactly the opposite of what I wanted in a trainer.

I finish the final exercise and he tells me I have to do “lunges” the entire length of the gym back to the office.  I immediately use the best skills I have (i.e. math / geometry) and calculate the fastest route to the office.  I’m doing these lunges and my legs are so banged up, that I’m on the verge of falling over.  Now Jason has stopped along the way and is talking to three girls.  Just insanely hot girls.  He motions for me to stop.  At this point, I look like Saddam Hussein when they pulled him out of that hole–completely disheveled, sweaty, my clothes are all askew.  He says to one of the girls, “Hey, what’s up Stems?”  The girls kind of flirtily inquires as to what he means and  he actually says, “Stems.  I call you Stems ’cause you got great legs.”  My nausea quickly returned.

I was done with that club following my second training session.  Simply never went again.  I tried a number of things to get out of the remainder of my agreement (putting a hold on my membership, transferring it to a cheaper club, etc.).  Nonetheless, I was out over $900 by the time all this was done.

Months later, I signed up for a new, no-frills club that opened near my house.  $10/month.  I don’t have nearly the story of that place, because I simply never went.  Not even once.  I mean, I went to sign up and get my free t-shirt.  But they didn’t give me a tour of the facility, which really turned me off.  Then, I actually got my gear and drove there two more times with every intention of going.  The first time, as I pulled up, I saw a guy going in who looked like a big weirdo, so I naturally assumed that everyone in there was a weirdo and I literally pulled into the driveway, never broke pace, and pulled out of the driveway.  The second time it started raining on the way, and I figured it would be too humid in the building.  By the time I cancelled five months later, I was out over $120 even though it was only $10/month.  Stupid gym.

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