On Joining The Gym

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I recently joined a gym. Anyone who knows what it’s like to battle their weight can probably guess that it wasn’t my first time joining a gym; but this time, like any chronic yoyo dieter will say, is different.

In the past, the gym would charge my credit card monthly even though I only really ended up mastering one of their machines: the vending machine. This time I was determined to master at least one of the actual exercise machines, too.

The weird part is that I joined the gym that’s closest to my house — the Planet Fitness that overtook the old Farm Fresh on 10 Mile and Coolidge. One thing that makes me smile is that I remember how, years ago, the first “F” fell off the Farm Fresh sign and my family and I were making ‘Arm Fresh’ jokes for weeks — too funny that now it’s a hot spot for joggers with T-shirts sticking to their backs and the most un-fresh armpits in the city.

Maybe I’m too new to the exercising world to understand all its inner secrets and foibles, but why is it that people who jog for an hour on an artificial sidewalk park as close as possible to the entrance? I want to tell these people, calories get burned on the good old pavement, too.

That is not as odd as the fact that so many of the televisions strung up to the ceiling are set to the food channel. So, there you are, running as fast as you can, stinking up the old Arm Fresh and thinking, “Yes! I’m losing weight! I’m doing great! I’m on a roll, baby!” Then you’re gazing at the TV (because it’s that or watching the ripped guy in front of you kiss himself in the mirror) and you find yourself thinking, “Boy, that looks good. Yeah, when I get home, I’m in the mood for full-fat macaroni and cheese …” And then, on the way out, you grab something from the least complicated machine in the place (the vending machine) or, better yet, from the free candy jar they have on the counter. (I am not making this up.) And you’re back to square one. You spent an hour running at the gym and you gained two pounds.

Gyms are funny places. These days, people come with phones or music, which they listen to with their own ear buds; and it just seems so odd sometimes. If someone arrived via time machine from 100 years ago to see how we’re living in the future, I imagine she’d be stymied by the sight of folks running in place, literally each in her own world. The 100-year-old Yiddish speakers would be flabbergasted most of all and would probably urge us to go home so they can cook us hearty meals that we should eat in good health. “What’s the matter with a little schmaltz?” they might ask, confused.

The truth is that real health goals should refer to overall health and not just physical, which means we need to make time to exercise the funny bone, too. I mean, sure, if you’re feeling flabby, then you might want to tone your thighs … but remember, laughter is the best medicine. And that’s why it’s so great there are so many things to laugh about when you’re going to the gym.

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