November 9, 2010

The Gym and I

Statistic show that the average American will spend 67% of her lifetime income on fees related to exercising; 71% of her waking hours planning to go to the gym; 3% going to the gym; and roughly 52% of her free evening hours justifying not being at the gym*. I am an Average American and hope to address these statistics in a calm and  organized manner, perhaps shedding light on these astounding numbers through the finely focused lens of my own opinion.

(yes, food stain on skirt)
I’ll tell you right now why I don’t like going to the gym. Closed captioning. That’s the reason. When I’m on the treadmill or the stationary bike or the Stairmaster, I, like many of my exercising comrades, like to have that “at home on the couch watching television” experience. But at the gym I am forced to watch tv without the benefit of sound, and am expected to read the closed captioning. However, I am near-sighted. I am so nearsighted that this feat of literacy is not possible. Blur blur blur [music notes]. Blur blur blur [laughter]. This is no way to watch Ellen or CNN, and certainly not an effective way to soak up sports highlights. That is the reason I don’t like going to the gym. Closed captioning.

Also the clothes. The reason I don’t like going to the gym is the clothes. Apparently, according to experts, the appropriate fashions for a workout are stretchy, tight fitting and revealing.  I have read that the benefits include ease of movement and ability to monitor proper body alignment. This runs counter to my motivations for going to the gym in the first place – an unyielding desire to hide my body from sight under baggy, loose-fitting clothing. So, the reason I don’t like going to the gym is closed captioning and the clothing.

Then of course there are the snacks. When I participate in sweat-inducing, rolled-up-sleeves work, I like to think there is a slab of ribs, some cold beer in cans, and a selection of dips and crackers waiting for me somewhere nearby. These are the carrots I have been mentally dangling in front of my mule brain to keep me going. Have you seen the snacks at the gym? Carrots! Water with electrolytes and hi-protein bars. This is not going to keep me pumping, squatting or spinning. If I paint your house or move your couch and you offered me water with electrolytes and a hi-protein bar, I might un-paint a wall or somehow find the energy from that energy bar to un-move your couch from the premises. So, to recap, the reason I don’t like going to the gym is closed captioning, the clothes, and the snacks.

Oh, and have you heard the music? I don’t consider myself an expert on music, but I do know what I like. I am an expert on what I like. My expert opinion of the music at the gym is that don’t like it. I will go out on a limb and guess that the thumping bass lines and driving club beats are intended to subconsciously become the rhythm of my workout, make my inner warrior feel, “Hell yeah! I can do this!” However, what the music at the gym makes me feel is “Who likes this? Is it 1989? Is this the inspiration behind Steve Jobs’ introduction of the iPod? To escape other people's music? Genius!” Now, again, the reason I don’t like going to the gym: closed captioning, the clothes, the snacks, and the music.

Music reminds of lighting. I don’t like going to the gym because of the lighting. The lighting in gyms is generally of the fluorescent variety. Unlike everyone else on earth, I look terrible under fluorescent lighting. (That was a joke. Nobody looks good under fluorescent lighting.) Even thin muscular people look drawn and pale. I tend to look red and blotchy, with defined edges. That’s not really what I am going for. Perhaps the gym is giving us a dose of reality to keep us going, or perhaps keeping things well lit so we don’t trip over all of those water bottles. Now, the reason I don’t like going to the gym is closed captioning, the clothes, the snacks, the music, and the lighting.

(possible food stain on jeans)
Let’s not forget perspective. I don’t like going to the gym because of perspective. I don’t mean perspective like, “Working out is so insignificant when there are people starving right here in our own inner cities.” No, I mean perspective like when you place a quarter next to an object in a photo to illustrate actual size. Once, when I was in Florida, the biggest spider on the planet was resting in my hotel bathtub so I placed a quarter next to it and snapped a picture. Sometimes at the gym I am the spider, and very rarely I am the quarter. When I am the spider I feel vulnerable and defensive and awful. When I am the quarter I feel superior and cocky and awful. So, now, again, the reason I don’t like going to the gym is closed captioning, the clothes, the snacks, the music, the lighting, and perspective.

And ouch! The cost! The reason I don’t like going to the gym is the cost. There is no such thing as a gym where you pay as you go, because you wouldn’t pay and you wouldn’t go. Every gym in the civilized world can reach into your bank account with its sinewy, flexed arm and withdraw its monthly fee, whether you go to the gym or not. I have belonged to at least five gyms over my adult life, and in general have considered the monthly fee similar to an ongoing fine for misdeeds. Or much like some might consider alimony a fair price for freedom, I might consider gym dues a fair price for sloth. However, that said, the reason I don’t like going to the gym is closed captioning, the clothes, the snacks, the music, the lighting, perspective, and the cost.

Lastly, there’s prep time. I don’t like going to the gym because of prep time. If you read cooking magazines you’ll notice next to every recipe the editors provide a prep time, which is the amount of time estimated to prepare the delicious meal. This is fair warning that your Chicken Javier, while mouth-watering, will require two hours out of your life that you will never get back. Personal trainers, gym employees, health magazines and supportive friends offer gym prep times that have no basis in reality. When your trim, rock-hard friend claims she allots an hour for her daily trip to the gym, she is either lying, does not perspire, wears gym clothes all day long (see above regarding this topic) or is time-management-challenged. The finding, changing, driving, parking, working out, showering, re-changing, putting-on-a-face, self-congratulatory-post-workout-activity all take at least three hours. This is a scientific fact. (Note: see factual data disclaimer  below*.) I will be mouth-watering, but I will be more time-intensive than Chicken Javier.

So, finally, I don’t like going to the gym because of closed captioning, the clothes, the snacks, the music, the lighting, perspective, the cost, and prep time.

(not visible: food stain on swimsuit)
And yet, I am an Average American, so I do go to the gym. I bring my own book-on-tape, dress in a flattering palette of black on black, sip a beverage of choice from my own bottle, work out during the day so the sunlight battles the fluorescents, avoid pesky comparisons and assume others are as well, and simply whine and moan about the cost and time it takes to maintain my Average American physique. Whose broad stripes and bright stars are getting toned? Mine.

It recently dawned on me, during a brutally non-orgasmic dance exercise class, that I no longer enjoy going to dance clubs as much as in my slightly younger years, when a night flailing on the lighted floor was something I was passionate about. After much introspection, which felt a lot like heat exhaustion, I discovered many parallels that might ring true with others. So, feel free to re-read the above, replacing “gym” with “dance club.”  And note that since I am an Average American, I will undoubtedly return to a dance floor at some point in my future, although there will most likely be a piece of  someone else’s wedding cake waiting as my reward.
*Statistics entirely fabricated based on personal and anecdotal experience. Next time I go to the gym I’ll bring research material and a calculator.

(Kim Luke belongs to a local gym in Santa Cruz, CA and appreciates the staff’s pretense at recognizing her as a regular customer. It could happen. Also, Chicken Javier is the author's real recipe involving chicken, kale and beans. Send comments and motivation to


BellaTrixx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BellaTrixx said...

Dear Kim Luke,

You are both witty and fascinating. Keep on keeping on.

Shamrock N. Roller said...

Is it really fair to include cost in your list of reasons when we don't actually pay to go to the gym with the league? ;-)

Kim Luke said...

Shamrock - I'm speaking in the universal truth here, and over my adult lifetime I have paid thousands of dollars in gym fees. It's only been the last year that it's not out of my physical pocket. :)

Shamrock N. Roller said...

You're absolutely correct the gym fees are quite the racket.

Mojo said...

This is the truth!
I love how they won't let you pay any other way except to conveniently set up automatic payments from your bank account. That way they can suck you dry even when you've gotten to lazy to go.

Kim Luke said...

This is why all gyms have approximately 512,334 members and there's always a Stairmaster available.

Fitness Freak said...

A thoughtful post, Not many people Think and work as planned. Good Post Kim.

Ned "Thor" Opdyke said...

My very poor financial situation is the only reason I'm not currently visiting a gym on a regular basis. I accept your blog post with a grain of salt, but wanted to let you know that I truly miss the experience.

FYI - when I go to the gym, unlike a lot of people, I am there to work out, not to socialize or otherwise entertain or be entertained (except sometimes in the showers, haha).

Seriously... I am usually in my own world, and truly value the way I feel during and especially after, my work out.

BTW - I am very much enjoying your sense of humor, and am looking forward to reading more of your stuff. I hope you like my writing/ humor ;-)