Originally written in 2011
My former health insurance offered a $200 gym reimbursement to people who can prove 50 gym visits within a six-month period. This incentive didn’t make sense being my main motivation for dragging myself to the gym come hell or high water. $200 wasn’t even half of the total of six months of dues.
My twisted mind reasoned that I’m getting over on them because I’m getting “free” money. I don’t know who them is, but I go to the gym to reap the benefits of better health, weight control, regular bowel movements, great-looking skin and get free money. Who’s the sucker?
During my broke days aka my twenties, I worked out to Billy Blanks Tae-Bo DVDs in my living room. Before that, I exercised at the Y. When I managed to scrape up spare change after moving in with an aunt in Massachusetts, I joined the local gym. Most of my cousins, and even one of my aunts were members before I was. I felt like a left out loser as I sat quietly while they discussed how instructors really worked them out in Zumba, toning and kickboxing classes.
My jaw dropped when I learned that each machine had its own individual TV screen. TV shows and movies usually showed large muted televisions on various channels, usually news or sports on CNN and ESPN, hanging on the walls throughout the gym. There weren’t televisions that weren’t governed by the Invisible Channel Controller.
I had to be a part of this club where I could choose random shows to watch while working out.
When I moved to New York, joining a gym was on the top of my To Do list, but there was hardly any disposable income for frivolous things like a gym membership after state, federal and city taxes were taken from my Editorial Coordinator paycheck. Hello, old and faithful Tae-Bo DVDs. I earned much more at my next job, an Editorial Assistant position, so I scouted for a gym.
The one gym near my apartment was 1.68 miles away, according to Mapquest.com. Bus routes from my apartment to the gym went around the world before dropping me off blocks away from the gym. Walking to and from would be a workout in itself, and not at all fun during the winter. I was used to working out in the morning in my living room, but I’d have to wake up extra early to walk to Paerdegat Athletic Club, work out and walk back home in time to shower, get dressed and make it to work by 9 am.
My gym options near work were New York Sports Club and the YMCA. I preferred the Y, like old times in my teens. The facility, two doors down from my office, is gorgeous and there seemed to be miles of workout machines. I absolutely loved that there was a pool, even though I can’t swim. No time like the present to learn. On second thought, no time like the future. Swimming lessons were in addition to the $95 monthly fee.
I visited two NYSC locations. The first one was down the street and around the corner from my office. It was cute. There weren’t many machines, and the aerobics room could fit 10-15 people max. Chances were high that someone could get kicked in the head during kickboxing classes. I wasn’t pleased with the limited class options. I was adamant on taking spin class, but they didn’t have the space or equipment. The gym manager seemed pushy and wanted me to sign on the spot even though I made it clear I was only visiting.
That location got blown away by the next. It was a longer walk (five blocks), but much more appealing, partly because of the manager Joe, who gave me a tour. He wasn’t pushy and maybe it was just in my mind, but I thought he was flirting with me. I was surprised that I had butterflies for this white guy with gorgeous blue eyes. I prefer big, bald black men. This gym had a room devoted strictly to spin class. Jackpot! There was a separate room for aerobics classes. There was a full schedule of yoga, spin, stretching, ab work and kickboxing classes.
I signed up at the second location. I opted for the Passport membership, which allows me to work out at other locations. In my mind, I’d be so devoted and would get bored of going to the same gym five days a week because in my mind I would be going five days a week. The Passport membership allowed access to gyms in Washington, Boston and Pennsylvania. Not likely, but I liked having that option.
I wanted to make Joe proud of me. I wanted to be part of this gym because I could imagine myself saying to people, “Yesterday, in spin class…” So I told him I would be back at the end of the week, on payday to pay the first month and all those ridiculous fees.
After the novelty of killing an hour after work for the 7 pm spin class on Mondays and Tuesdays wore off, I started working out during lunch time at the gym closer to my office, but still went to spin on Tuesdays. I didn’t like getting home at nearly 10 pm because I’d shower at the gym, walk back to the office to drop off my bag with sneakers and toiletries, then head to Grand Central for the hour long ride home. I was exhausted and hungry and didn’t have much time to put a dent in the many hours of guilty pleasure DVR’d shows: Wendy, Oprah, Dr. Oz, Access Hollywood.
I started working out during the 1-2 pm lunchtime rush, but I saw too many co-workers. I switched to 2-3, then 3-4 so I could watch My Wife and Kids and Everybody Hates Chris on My9.
I started noticing one of the trainers, or rather he was noticing me. Tall, dark and handsome. And muscular, but not in a meathead type of way. I don’t know if he was being polite because employees have to be nice to patrons. He’d walk past other treadmill runners to talk to me on mine. When I was coming or going he would stop me to speak with me. He complimented my mid-back long locs when I wore a new style. He went through a phase of singing Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair” whenever he saw me. It cracked me up every time.
My flirting skills are nonexistent, so I figured that just by showing up magic could/would/should happen. He never asked me out. I never worked up the nerve to ask him out.
I eventually found out that Joe had a girlfriend. The other guy moved on to another gym before I found out his name. I like to think that Dr. Oz, who has regular workout segments on his show and preaches about the cancer fighting, diabetes and hypertension blocking, weight-control benefits of exercising, would be proud of me.