I’m no stranger to sweat and exercise, it’s just that we haven’t been on good terms lately. There wasn’t one thing I can point to that made us drift apart, but lots of days we just didn’t feel like spending together. Sweat and exercise is a pain in the butt and I’d much rather be in the company of things that make me feel good. Like beer and pizza, or wine and cheese… basically any alcohol and dairy combo. (Except vodka and milk, that’s not as yummy as you would think, but when you’re out of OJ or lemonade you do what you have to do.) Oh sure, sweat and exercise and I had our good days. There was that time I “Jazzercised” with my mom when I was 12 and the time I passed PE 100 in college by running a 9 minute mile for 3 miles. More recently, I “ran” a half-marathon. Those were definitely good times. Until now I was satisfied with the memories and didn’t think about sweat and exercise too much.
And then my very sweet husband took some pictures of me at my niece’s birthday party and there I was. Well, my ass specifically. See, he’s a butt man and you can time-line our relationship all in pictures of my rear end. If he has a camera, my posterior will be on the digital SD card. When I was 115 pounds, that was funny. After my niece’s birthday party, it was a wake up call. It’s not that it’s huge, or flabby, it just didn’t fill out the pants in the exact shape I thought when I left the house that morning. God bless him, he still is crazy about it and I guess that’s why I hadn’t paid too much attention to how the alcohol and dairy were gathering back there. But when faced with the evidence, even in the 3 inch display screen on our camera, it was hard to deny. I needed to get re-acquainted with sweat and exercise.
The very next day I convinced him to go with me to a local health club that was having an open house and running a special with no enrollment fee. Half of our friends are members there and we’ve heard for years about how awesome it is. We’ve also heard about the expense of it. That day I didn’t care. All I saw as I looked around the gym during the tour was my body becoming more fit. The tour guide/membership salesman, Ritchie, called it the “Walk of Life”. I called it the “Walk of Killer Abs and Glutes.” I was sold. Ritchie gave us the run down on the club- price, amenities, rules and regs. When Ritchie asked us if we were on board, Arnie said, “Ritchie, I think it was a foregone conclusion when we walked in the door. Where do we sign?”. It was disgusting how excited I was.
But honestly, you would be too. Let me describe the health club to you, starting at the front door. You walk in to a sweepingly open, airy, sunlight filled lobby. There’s a cathedral like feeling to it and as you look up at the puzzle of skylights three stories up, it’s almost amusing to see that on the second floor, overlooking the lobby are rows of exercise bikes. People already lustily having relations with sweat and exercise peer down at you as you enter. You feel voyeuristic but then again, they’re watching you too – it’s how it’s set up. So, I guess in this scenario the designers of the club are the real creepers. That’s on one side. On the other side are the stair climbers so a row of (mostly) nice, marching back sides greet you from the second floor on the right. Hmmm… maybe THAT’S what Arnie meant when he said joining was a foregone conclusion. Maybe he had his mind made up that any club that would put his favorite body part on such display is a place he needed to be. Those smart, smart, health club designers. Have I mentioned the employees? They’re always smiling, friendly and willing to help. One or two of them are available to take your card and check you in. They almost make you glad you came.
Off the lobby is the “spa”. You can get a hair cut and color, manicure, pedicure, massage, facial, all manner of waxings, and any other spa service you wish here. It’s very tranquil and relaxing in there, right underneath all the people quite literally working their butts off. Also off the lobby is the cafe. All sorts of healthy fare is served there and every menu item includes the nutrition information right on the board so you can make an informed choice. What would be more helpful is an approximation of how long it would take to throw up your healthful dish once you make your way upstairs and hop on the treadmill. I find it funny that both of these things are options for you to choose before you even step foot on the equipment floor. I could spend all day there and never once exercise anything but my fingers as they get polished or my elbow as I eat lunch. I guess that’s what the peep show to the second floor is all about- reminding you that you have a date with sweat and exercise.
On your way to the locker room you pass by the sales offices (give a shout out to your salesman- “HEY, Ritch-IE!!!”) and the “gym” part of the health club. There you can play basketball and racquetball, and hone your rock climbing skills. Yeah, that last one is only going to be used by the kids in our family. It’s an impressive area with many walls of varying degrees of difficulty. But I, for one, won’t be strapping that “guaranteed wedgie” harness around my waist and hoisting myself from hold to hold until I’m so high I’m gripping the wall like it’s my mommy and I’m trying to hide from a stranger. No, I’ll leave that to my children. They’ve already done it and probably had more fun coming down from the heights they reached with the automatic belay than actually climbing. Honestly, I don’t think Mary’s a fan of the wedgie maker either.
They are, however, BIG fans of the indoor pool. It’s a zero entry pool and at the 0 foot mark there are little fountains of water that Drew likes to sit on. I wonder why. There’s also a giant mushroom in the middle of the pool that drops water in a big sheet all around it. I love that. The kids constantly want me to ride them piggy back style through the waterfall. They squeal when I stop directly under the water and then fall off my back. That gives me an opportunity to walk back out through the wall of water and I like to imagine that I’m Brooke Shields in The Blue Lagoon, running my hands through my wet hair. Thank God no cameras are allowed because I don’t want a picture of what I REALLY look like. The pool also has two water slides. They look like great fun but I’ll never get on it. I’ve seen adults come down it and you could be the skinniest 37 year old in the world but you’re still 37 and shooting out of a water filled tube ass first and screaming is an activity best reserved for the 15 and under set. I really wanted to tell that to the older man I saw the other day in a Speedo but I was too late. And too close to the slide as I watched my kids. Down he came and all I saw was hair and genitals. I’m pretty sure “Balls-in-your-face fun” is not a phrase the club will be putting in their next promotional pamphlet.
So, getting down to the actual purpose of the gym, the equipment floor is well-appointed. There are towel stations strategically placed, as well as towel depositories after you’re done with them. Wipes are conveniently located and I’ve noticed with pleasure that almost everybody wipes down their machines after they’ve sweated all over them. Nice gym etiquette people! There are tons of treadmills, bike machines, ellipticals, stair climbers, and various other machines that are too complicated for me to attempt. Even when it’s been incredibly busy we’ve been able to find an available piece of equipment. There of course are weight machines and they’re all grouped by body part it helps. I’ll be concentrating my efforts in the “my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard” section. There are also two studios for group classes and another one dedicated to cycling. Oh yeah, cycling.
I decided on our second day as members that I would do an “Intro to Cycling” class. I’ve heard about “spinning” and thought it sounded interesting but had never done it before. I wanted to get an idea about what it was before I jumped in with both pedals so I thought this class would be perfect. The instructor very kindly helped the newbies get their bikes set up. I had no idea it was this involved. I figured you would hop on an exercise bike and go. Not so. There were at least four dials to adjust and a “cage” for your feet. I should have walked out right then. If I had known it was an hour-long class I would have. I pedaled, and pedaled, and pedaled for a whole damn hour. My Facebook status that day was “Cycling is just another word for ‘numb crotch'”. I’m not even joking. I thought the rock climbing wall was the wedgie’s best friend. I was mistaken.
Last but not least there are the locker rooms. They are, of course, beautiful and spacious. There are plenty of towels, lockers, and… nudity. Now I remember what I hated about college PE classes. At least here there are doors to the showers. But I have yet to find the right combo of showering, drying and dressing with as little skin showing as possible. Not that anybody is checking me out, but I’m not going to go prancing about either. I reserve that for my own personal time at home. Apparently the guys locker room is a different story. My husband said that he’s never seen so many swinging um… “appendages” in all his life. I guess the gym guys are real proud of their endowments. My question was, doesn’t building muscles elsewhere make other things look smaller? “Not in this universe.” said Arnie. He was particularly disturbed by one guy who stood next to his locker, Statue of David-like, not doing anything in particular, just standing there like a peacock letting all eyes that cared to, take him in. Arnie has since made it a habit to keep his eyes forward and down as to avoid all “two eyes to one eye” contact.
Joining the gym overall has been a good experience. It’s allowed us to see how long it takes to walk off one beer so that when we go home and have two, only one counts. Seriously, I’m glad we’re both doing something for our health. We met with a personal trainer who tested our overall fitness and were surprised at the results. He told us to come ready to focus on the negative. (Like I don’t do that every day when I step out of the shower.) But shockingly our overall fitness was in the “average” category. The group they are comparing us to obviously has a problem. The training software also estimated my fitness age as 41 years old. Being 37 I wasn’t completely disheartened by that. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t THAT bad. Our trainer said if sweat and exercise and I “go steady” again, that I could be 31 or better fitness wise. I’ll take that. My ass looked awesome at 31! I know that for a fact. I have plenty of pictures of it.