An Ode To The Gym: You Are Gross

I once fell off the treadmill while running at the gym. Yep. That girl was me. Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about that appalling possibility any and every time you’ve stepped near one of those evil devices! It still runs through my head every time I bite the bullet and hop back on. Just one of the many things that makes my gym experience oh-so-special.

I’m no die-hard when it comes to working out. I’ve never been an athlete—general hand-eye coordination somewhat escapes me—but I love being outside, and realized that learning to run a few miles in the great outdoors was a hellavuh lot easier than learning to swing a golf club. So over the years I’ve tried my hand at a variety of exercise methods: kick boxing, spin class, hot-as-balls Bikram Yoga. But none beats the endorphin release I get from a good ol’ 5 mile jog on a sunny day…preferably around a lake, surrounded by trees, at the height of fall. And when that isn’t available?

Da Da Dummmm (menacing music sounds), THE GYM.

Describing the gym, any gym on the planet, is like that SNL skit where “Stefan” talks all about the new clubs opening in New York. The name is always something like “Two-Tone Swirl Factory” and it has glitter bombs and naked acrobats and midgets carrying boom boxes. That’s pretty close to most of the fitness factories I’ve attended. So many random things can be seen and wondered about when visiting the gym. Here’s just a few of my own observations…

Attire:
It was only a few years ago that I stopped wearing old boxer shorts to the gym. This was spurred on by a combination of things.
1. My older sister’s guilt-inducing distaste of my workout apparel.
2. Moving to TX and its unendurable 110 degree heat, which required better, moisture wicking (my mom says “wikkan”, like witch voodoo, technology) athletic wear.
I always figured, who  cares?  I’m gonna get gross, sweaty and breathlessly unattractive over the next 45 minutes-1 hour, why should I care what kind of outfit I have on? And this is coming from someone who really loves fashion! A slave to pretty clothes and the experimental art of crafting the perfect look. But, for one reason or another, workout gear has always been off the radar. Hook me up with some greyed-out leggings, an oversized t-shirt from my dad’s old bowling league and I’m ready to run.

TV shows always seem to depict gyms as a place to meet potential mates. Somehow urging the innocent viewer to believe that, in addition to their goal of burning 500 calories on some sort of mechanical torture machine, they should make sure to look hot while while working up a sweat. But, you guys?!! It’s hard enough convincing one’s self that hitting the gym during their lunch break will be SO much more satisfying than a visit to Wing Stop. Add in the pressure of potential flirting across the gleaming collection of dumbbells and things start hitting terror level orange. I don’t want to spend any additional time making sure my ponytail looks properly mussed-yet-perky, and I certainly don’t need the stress of worrying if my socks don’t match. (Those suckers are all small, and white and the biggest pain in my ass when folding laundry. You’re getting matched up with the closest cotton ball I can find, you hear?!). So if…let’s just say when, you see me stretching in a pair of american flag boxer shorts that I got as a camp counselor back in 2000, please understand—it’s not that I don’t appreciate those pretty, ass-raising lululemon shorts, or that lovely, built-in sports bra tank top that perfectly hides your underboob sweat. I’m just too lazy.

On the flip side, I recently encountered an unexpected outfit choice while attending the gym at my local Jewish Community Center. This guy, who I first spotted on the elliptical machine, was wearing a white collared shirt, dress pants…and suspenders! At first I thought, perhaps he’s just squeezing in a leisurely 10 minutes before changing for his racquetball game. But no! He went from the elliptical to the stairmaster to the weights before fitting in a good stretch. This was a full-fledged workout, done in pretty upper class attire. Hat’s off to you sir. I admire your ability to keep that ol’ ticker in A+ shape while dressed to impress.

Camouflage:
The last thing I want when working out is to attract any sort of attention. I want to blend seamlessly into the scene, so that my huffing, dripping personage is no more noticeable than the next heaving, galloping human. I’m not saying you can’t look around while you’re there…I love judging, I mean, observing the locals while maintaining an elevated heart rate, but it must be done covertly.

For awhile, I was working out at my office gym over lunch. This makes the don’t-look-don’t-talk-don’t-ask policy a little harder as co-workers are awkwardly hovering everywhere. But there was this one girl, let’s call her Tiffany, who apparently had no qualms about brash treadmill behavior that drew the attention of anyone within a 20 ft. radius. She would literally crank up the speed on her Precor 5000 and do ACROBATICS for a good 30 minutes! I’m talking full-fledged splits, hops, skips, jumps and leaps as she spun side to side in some sort of frenzied, Richard Simmons rockin’ to the oldies routine. Pity to the poor soul who ended up on the machine beside her. You could actually feel the floor vibrating, and no matter how much you just tried to ignore it and focus on running until the end of your Justin Beiber song, her flailing body in your peripheral was seizure inducing. 

Another key element to fading into the background? Don’t fall off the treadmill. That’s right, don’t get on a machine in the first row, where the entire gym can see you. Don’t crank the speed up to 8.0 in an attempt to run off the chili cheese burrito you just scarfed. And whatever you do, don’t get so caught up in a sports play on tv that you forget to run straight and end up hitting the plastic side rail with one of your feet, forcing your other leg to crumple uncomfortably before you hit the deck. And please, please, don’t try to quickly get back up. That thing is still moving, and no matter how much you paw at the rolling track, you’ll just end up looking like a cat thrown in a bathtub, squealing and trying to get out. Rest your limbs and allow yourself to slump to the floor in the pathetic heap of sweat embarrassment that you now are.

Look Away, Just Look Away:
In case you didn’t know, there is a lot of nakedness in locker rooms. It’s pretty unavoidable, and most of the time, unnoticeable if you’re just focused on getting in and out of there as quickly as possible. But unfortunately, there are always a collection of loitering exhibitionists that want to make everyone uncomfortable. I have found that these women fall into two categories.
1. Chicks with breast implants. Always looking to share with the world their new lift, size, shape and relative lack of self-esteem.
2. Old women who take an inordinately long time locating, and then putting on their granny panties.

But really, the worst of what I have seen in the locker room has happened on accident, and can truly scar a girl for life. And thus, I feel the need to share these things with you so that we can indulge in a group round of cringing and I won’t feel so alone.

I’ve caught women blow-drying their nether regions
I’ve heard the most horrific labor and delivery stories on the planet
I’ve accidentally dropped my panties in front of my boss
I’ve realized that the girl who sits next to me in my cube doesn’t wear panties with her skirts
I’ve noticed that a large number of sweaty women don’t shower before heading back to work
I’ve seen the most gnarled, bare, ogre feet enter in and out of bathroom stalls uncovered
I’ve had sweaty, smelly towels hit the side of my neck on their way to the hamper
I’ve discovered stray piles of dandruff sitting idly by the hair tools
I’ve heard my spin teacher putting a pad in her underwear a foot away from me

These things shouldn’t happen in real life. But I guess the gym is like an alternate universe, where a variety of death defying, guilt inducing, brain bleaching moments are sprung at you with only a second’s notice. You have to be prepared, because you never know what might be coming at ya on your next visit.

I suppose it could be considered a little entertainment to keep you going during that 45 minute workout. The reality is that I’m saving up to buy a treadmill that I can put in my basement…so that I can huff, puff, undress and dismount (however ungracefully) in private.

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