So I decided to return to the gym.
It wasn’t really my idea. Watching television one beautiful Saturday afternoon, three different infomercials suggested that, perhaps, my body wasn’t “beach ready.” I didn’t want to believe this, but there’s that old saying, when three or more infomercials say the same thing, it must be true. I think I read that on the Internet.
Thanks to my car’s GPS, I had no trouble finding my gym. I stood in line at the check-in counter to be “swiped in” and dutifully handed my membership card to the fitness-exuding Assistant to the Assistant Manager. She didn’t swipe it. Instead she stared at it, hard, like it was an artifact from a long-lost civilization. She called others over. Eventually a scrum of fitness-exuding Assistants to the Assistant Manager had gathered, each of them pointing at my card, looking at me and then murmuring to one another. “Is there a problem?” I asked. “No problem”, a member of the expansive management team assured me. “It’s just that none of us have seen a card this old.” She wished me a “super work out”.
I had purchased my gym membership when it opened years ago. I think I purchased the “Ultra Platinum” package. It entitled me to unlimited work outs both at this location and their soon to be opened franchises in Bhutan and Myanmar. If I recall correctly, my deal also included the right for my remains to be interred in the wall behind the squat machines. I really need to find that paperwork.
I tried to blend in. Taking a stroll around the place, I was unable to find machines I once knew how to use. Apparently they had all been replaced with devices designed by the late Steve Jobs. They were beautiful and sleek but seemed to require knowledge of computer programming to make them go. Given enough time and a calculator, I probably could have figured it out. But I came to work out, not solve for X.
So I wandered over to the free weights section. No buttons to push, no algorithms to write. Just me and the iron. Two problems kept me from an old-school workout. First, the weights were heavy. Unpleasantly heavy. Even the light ones. I swear they weren’t that heavy in the ‘90s. Second, the muscular people lifting, heaving and grunting all around me made me feel like I was, well, different. Not in a good way. They had the muscles and attitudes of rodeo bulls ready to throw off any rider. I had the muscle tone of a veal. They were beach-body ready. I was ready for the backyard sprinkler.
Just as I was ready to throw the proverbial towel in, a busload of seniors entered. Most of them appeared twenty years older than me. I watched them stride purposely to specific machines. With the push of only a few buttons, they actually made them go. Apparently you can make these machines go as slowly as you want. My fear of being trapped like George Jetson on a treadmill vanished. My embarrassment at looking like a magazine “before” picture rather than a gym member eased. And even though a disturbingly high percentage of my elders appeared in much better shape than me, I relaxed. I had found my workout people.
So, I will be going to go back to the gym – again. I now know who to hang out with and who to learn from. But I’m also going to find that membership paperwork about interment rights. Just in case.
D.C. Barry is a writer providing periodic dispatches from Suburbia.