Rules For the Gym
I've belonged to our local Y since 1993, when I was a married single parent and their nursery was the only thing standing between me and stretch pants. Over the fifteen years or so of my membership, the facility has been renovated, oh...I'd guess...about fifteen times, during which they shut down chunks of it, so that everyone is crammed into, say, the circuit training area while the free weights are out of commission, or we're forced to ride the stationary bikes in tandem. This will go on for a couple of months until there's a new playscape where the basketball courts used to be and everyone is doing Zumba instead of kickboxing.
Now, they've configured the cardio area so that the circuit actually circuits it, which means I'm subjected to all the politics that occur when someone circles in the wrong direction or refuses to let another "work in" between sets. And the free weights are against the back (mirrored) wall, so I have to witness the macho strutting and preening that happens between the bench press and the squat machine, as well as a beastly amount of back hair and butt sweat.
My simple routine is designed to spare me as much of this bother as possible, meaning I beeline into the Big Room, ignoring the pesky posters reminding me to stretch or encouraging me to spend more time with my children; brace myself for the chicken-soup-and-pickles smell that belies the spa-esque color palette; find myself a functional elliptical machine with a working TV; do my time; and dash back out to the parking lot before any of the folks trying to figure out where they recognize me from remember I'm the person who chastised them for bringing their kids to Publix during the holidays or for paying with cash during the gas crisis. Anything else I need to do, toning for instance, can be accomplished at home with dumb bells, while Lola and I watch Beach Patrol.
But no matter how I streamline the experience or pep-talk myself into a kinder, gentler attitude, I still leave that necessary evil--more often than not--as annoyed as if I'd stood in line for an hour at the DMV, behind an ogling nose-picker with a hacking cough.
So yesterday, while ellipticaling and crying over Something's Gotta Give, I compiled a few simple rules, suggestions if you will, to improve everyone's experience:
1. First, if you know you're going to the gym, forgo the beans and cabbage. Do not make your own special contribution to the already moist and fetid air.
2. Brush your teeth before you go. (See above)
3. Make sure your work-out clothes fit properly and cover your lady- or man-parts. I do not need a shot of your moneymaker while you're on the hip abductor machine.
4. Turn your cell phone off. Unless you've got a surefire stock tip or a way to erase Sarah Palin from our memory, no one wants to hear your conversation.
5. When choosing a treadmill, stairmaster, etc., leave as much space as you can between you and the next person. In other words, if there are a dozen machines in the row and I am the only one working out, do not take the machine right beside me. Seriously.
6. If, however, it is so crowded that you must occupy a machine next to another person, do not turn your TV to Bill O'Reilly. It is impossible to avoid looking over at his smug face when his lips are flapping so fast.
7. Do not let your children play on the machines. The Y already has rules against this, but many parents are under the impression that their own children are the exception. They're the same parents who let their kids wheel the grocery cart into your heels at Publix and let them peer at you under the restroom stall at Target.
8. Do not repeatedly flex and pose in the mirrors. You look exactly the same as you did before you benched those fifty pounds.
9. Do NOT wipe the machines down when you're finished using them. You're not paying over $600 a year to do custodial work. If we all refuse to comply, they'll make one of those teenagers writing poetry at the front desk do it.
10. And, finally, if you are exceptionally fit and beautiful, do the rest of us a favor and work out early in the morning--before class, or in the early-afternoon off hours, before your shift at Hooters.