At the start of each year, roughly every man, woman, and child in the universe joins a gym vowing to get into shape. You can almost hear the groaning of human versus machine or free weights, the sweat hitting the floor, the pounds coming off in a collective roaring of willpower.
Then ten minutes later, crickets as gyms go silent, people shuffle back to their winter dens to pack on fat for the season and beyond, and vow to at least vow to do something about it next year. You can almost hear the groaning of spirits collapsing, fat rolls forming, and scales creaking under the concerted weight gain of lost willpower.
But not me – I’m different. I will stick to it, and I’m pretty sure I’m the first one to ever say that. Well, to mean it anyway. Okay, so far.
I joined and faithfully go to Planet Fitness (“We Got a YUGE Bargain on Purple Paint in Bulk!”) for a scant ten bucks a month because I’m cheap and don’t need much in the way of a gym.
Planet Fitness fits that bill to a Spartan T: there are weights and machines and not much else but loads of purple paint and other purple-themed things like a giant bowl of grape miniature Tootsie Rolls on the desk, where mostly surly and largely stationary purple-clad employees stare at their phones and look like they’d rather be doing anything else but swiping your key tag in front of a scanner, which, near as I can tell, is the only job description.
For the record, I hate working out for the sake of working out. I like doing things. Fun things. I play hockey, I ski, I smack a tennis ball around, I walk and look at scenery, I do things you don’t need a gym for. Structured exercise in a gym ain’t a fun thing and, for lack of a better word, sucks.
And running? Forget running. Ever see someone running down the street with a blissful look on their face? Me neither. They look like they’re in agony, their faces a mask of pain, it looks like someone threatened to dismember their dog if they didn’t put on sneakers and start pounding their leg joints into bone-on-bone dust.
That’s sorta the gym look, too. I’ve seen it on my own face in those god-awful floor-to-ceiling mirrors they insist on putting in gyms so you can watch yourself writhe in pain. Whenever possible I avoid the Planet Fitness mirrors and instead stare into the Planet Fitness plain purple walls as I count my reps and wonder who the hell picked the color scheme.
I also like to people-watch, and the gym a great place to do that. It starts in the parking lot. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched people driving around looking for a closer spot so they won’t have to walk that far to the gym. It’s a freaking gym people, where you’ll go inside to do stuff like walk on a treadmill. Start in the lot and warm up.
Another thing that cracks me up: I once saw a pair of women get out of a car (that they’d parked very close to the gym) and take hurried puffs of their cigarettes before tossing them down and going inside. Another time I saw a guy walking out of the gym with an unlit butt in his mouth. Whether it was a crutch to quit smoking or he was that eager to light up once he got outside, I have no idea, I just found it mildly amusing. Probably because I just recently quit and was basking in the self-righteous judgmental glow of being an ex-smoker.
The gym attire at a ten-bucks-a-month gym is mostly non-descript and functional, as most of Planet Fitness’s customer base seem to be like me – older and not really giving a crap how we dress when we go to the gym – so baggy sweats and t-shirts suffice, and that would be mostly men. But there are younger people who look nicer, sort of dressing for each other I guess, and that would be mostly women.
One interesting thing I saw as a younger guy with a respirator-looking mask I asked him about. He said it restricts breathing and can replicate what it would be like working out at up to a mile above sea level. I have enough trouble breathing down here.
If it’s possible to have a favorite part of being in pain at the gym, mine is the stair stepper machine, or what is often called the Stair Monster because it is truly is a bear, this huge hulking piece of machinery with rotating stairs you can speed up or slow down that absolutely kicks your ass.
The best way I’ve found to endure this beast is pop on earphones and listen to any kind of music and literally dance on the damn thing. I do this all the time, and even if it’s folk or easy listening (which I prefer), I adjust my tempo to the music, sashaying up and down the rotating staircase in time to the beat and imagining myself doing so as fluidly as Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire, or more likely like The Tin Man before he got oiled.
No matter, the sweat’s the thing when you go to the gym, and I’m all in on that. Plus, purple paint is starting to grow on me.