The Gym Series

My father used to take a perverse pride in stating that no person had ever witnessed him running. I certainly never did! He was the prototype for life in the future as depicted in science fiction; all brains and no body. Sports and gyms were not within his sphere. Books and magazines captured his imagination. Existing as a wired brain under glass might have worked for him. Although, he did love his Old Grand-Dad whiskey in the evenings. His youngest son, your fearless writer, devolved back into present day man. For although I hold a love of reading, I also enjoy a good physical challenge. That said, it wasn't until two years ago that I considered joining a gym. Lifting weights and running on treadmills didn't hold much attraction. But then I reached my sixties and nature began phoning me from the lobby with some unpleasent wake-up calls. Twitching feelings in my lower back and pains in my shoulders upon waking in the mornings prompted me to take action. I think it's a clue when you can't sleep without hurting yourself. So, I joined a gym and gathered together the following observations...

In The Beginning

Was I the only one who could feel the irony as I pulled into the gym's parking lot and witnessed cars circling for a space closer to the front door? I mentioned this to Tina at the front desk. She responded, "Oh, you should've seen the fuss members made when we moved the exercise equipment upstairs!"

Willing myself to the second floor, I met Keith, who would be my workout coach for the day. Keith was a really handsome guy in his mid twenties with a perfect body. Keith wanted to know, "What do you hope to accomplish?" I said, "My immediate goal is to stop hurting myself in my sleep." I don't think Keith saw that response coming. Keith advised starting with a short aerobic exercise to warm up. I gave the elliptical a shot. Then he explained the use of each weight machine and how it would develop various muscle groups. Five machines for the upper body and five for the lower. After eyeing me up and down, "Mister Handsome" suggested starting with the lowest possible weight settings so as not to injure myself. That was just the ego boost I was hoping for. So every machine I used I had to lower the plug that decides how many pounds you'll be pushing, lifting or pulling. This was psychologically discouraging, so after a few days I started moving that plug to an insanely difficult weight setting for the next guy or gal. I also noticed I wasn't sweating like everyone else. Probably because Keith suggested I do my aerobics for only ten minutes to start. But I wanted my "perspiration badge of courage" like everyone else in the room. The water fountain provided me the "sweat equity" I was in search of. A splash here a splash there and I was literally dripping as I departed for the locker-room.

Losing Weight

One of the benefits in joining a gym is weight loss. My wife Nettie, informs me the best time to weigh oneself is first thing in the morning. This is when you weigh the least.

In the morning, stark-naked.
In the morning, stark-naked, after using the bathroom.
In the morning, stark-naked, after using the bathroom and having your hair cut.
In the morning, stark-naked, after using the bathroom, having your hair cut and surviving a colonoscopy.
In the morning, stark-naked, after using the bathroom, having your hair cut, surviving a colonoscopy and donating a kidney.

Remove your 2oz. eyeglasses, thus enabling you to envision an "8" as a "3." Instant five pound weight loss!!!

Trim your nails, shave your legs, remove your retainer and vomit mightily.

Okay, now step on the scale extremely lightly, levitation is recommended.

"Oh my God, I've gained a pound!"

The Stairmaster

I've been coming to the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for awhile now. I've progressed from just training on the elliptical to trying out other machines. My conditioning has improved and I'm rather proud of myself. Wanting to increase my stamina, I was told the Stairmaster was the route to go. There are two Stairmasters placed next to each other at the gym. As I entered the club I noticed one of the Stairmasters was occupied by a rather petit young woman. She was climbing her stairs at a moderate pace. I climbed aboard my machine and set the controls for a moderate speed as well. After fifteen minutes I was exhausted. The machine revealed I'd climbed fifty floors. That's like half way up the Empire State Building! The woman next to me continued upward. I took a break and then spent twenty minutes on an elliptical. Periodically, I'd glance over to see how "miss petit" was doing. When I climbed off the elliptical I couldn't believe my eyes. Not only was this Stepford Wife still climbing, but she had pulled out a newspaper and was catching up on current events. Are you kidding me!!! I limped off to the showers, only to have insult added to injury when I couldn't muster the strength to turn the shower handle with one hand. Come on!!!

The Newbie

As a newbie I made all the rookie mistakes. For example, I noticed all the women were wearing black or grey. I assumed they thought it made them look thinner. Ignoring the conventional wisdom, I wore shorts and shirts of all different colors. It took awhile, but eventually I realized wearing black pants with a yellow top morphed me into a skinny wingless bumblebee. Worse yet, wearing red pants with a blue top brought out my inner Man of Steel. Well, more like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, but you get the idea. My only super power was the speed with which I started wearing neutral colors!

The Door

All the exercise equipment is located on the second floor of the Kingsbury Club. After changing in the locker room, members head upstairs. At the top of the stairs is a landing. Straight ahead lies a large grey metal door, which is usually open. To the right is a blank maroon wall about ten feet across. One day as I bounded up the stairs I noticed the door was closed, and to the right was a young woman doing stretching exercises. Her hands were raised above her head and pressed flat against the wall. Her legs were back away from the wall. Her head was down and she was straining mightily. Just as I reached for the metal doorknob, I turned to her and quipped, "There's a door right here." As I passed through the doorway there was a moment of silence. Just as the door closed shut behind me there was a burst of laughter from the other side. Smiling, I entered the exercise room triumphant!

The Steam Room

With glasses and clothes secured in locker #68, a white towel semi secured around the waist, I strolled into the steam room at the health club. Upon entering I was surprised to find another Kingsbury Club member seated within. With all the steam you just can't tell if anyone is occupying the room until you enter. As steam rooms go this was not a large one, perhaps ten feet square with an eight foot ceiling. Enveloped in a sea of hot mist I sat down on the opposing green tiled bench. The overhead recessed light appeared to be floating as the ceiling was obscured by steam. A very pleasant conversation ensued, as my steam buddy and I discussed the many benefits of exercise and the treat of having "a steam" after a hard workout. Every few minutes hot steam would blow, with a loud whooshing sound, from the lower vents into the room. My new friend was carrying something metallic in his hands. Possibly a locker key. It slipped from his wet hands a few times and he would reach down and retrieve it from the floor. Fifteen minutes in we were both sweltering and decided to make our escape. I extended my hand saying, "My name is George." He replied, "My name is Bob, nice meeting you." "Same here, I'm sure we'll meet again," I stated. Exiting the room we headed off in different directions. Then it occurred to me, without my glasses, I never actually saw Bob's face through the thick haze of steam. All I know for sure is he was white, medium build with dark wet hair. We may never speak again because I'm not comfortable with the idea of asking random club members, "Are you the Bob who kept bending over with me in the steam room?"

The Tread Mill

Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings are my workout times at the gym. Monday is treadmill day. The objective is to burn off 500-600 calories with each visit. Given that there are 3,500 calories in a pound, and two years have passed since I started my routine, I should have lost fifty-three pounds by now. Just a heads up... I expect to completely disappear by the year 2019.

Twenty-five minutes after programming the treadmill for a 5K run, I was cruising to a record setting finish. Just then, my towel slid off the treadmill and landed in a heap on the gym floor. That towel is critical near the race's end because I'm dripping like a Ford Pinto's gas tank. My first thought was to use my cell to call the front desk, but how weird would that be? Noticing a woman nearby, I decided to ask her for help. It occurred to me she might think I'm using the old "dropped towel" pickup line. Overcoming my self-induced nonsense, I requested assistance. After recording a personal best time, I stepped off the machine cautiously. Why cautiously? Because of the following...

Have you ever tried standing in an open doorway with your arms at your sides and then pushing your hands out against the frame. After pushing hard with the backs of your hands for around sixty seconds, turn sideways and watch as your arms involuntarily float upward. Who says you don't learn anything significant in college? Well anyway, a similar effect is created after running on a treadmill for thirty minutes. Two years ago, after my first lengthy run on a treadmill, I leaped off the machine. Pointing myself towards a nearby water fountain I involuntarily crashed into the wall!

The Gym as Porn

There's kind of an unspoken rule at the gym. The men don't stare at the women and the women don't stare at the men. But everyone is glancing! In fact, there's one woman who spends so much time looking around I'm sure she was the inspiration for ABBA's classic pop song "Glancing Queen." Although the men and women never actually touch one another at the gym, closing your eyes could make you believe otherwise. First, everyone is sweating through their skimpy clothing. Lululemon, you're the best! Second, the men are grunting and groaning over in the free weights section. "Argh!," "Urgh!," "Unhh!" Simultaneously, groups of women are being cheered on by their trainers with, "Yes!, Yes!, Don't Stop. Keep it going! Faster faster!"

So you end up hearing: ARGH... DON'T STOP, FASTER, URGH... FASTER! UNHH... YES! YES!

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