I’ve always had a precarious relationship with the gym. Since I can remember, it has been a dreadful experience for me. I love to work out. Seriously, I do. I love physical activities and the endorphins they give me; love the flush on my face and the rush of sweat through my hair. I LOVE the cold feeling on my stomach after I’ve had a hard workout. I love reaching goals and accomplishing physical feats and competing with myself and others.
Yet, despite loving to work out and years of playing competitive sports training with top coaches, I’ve never felt comfortable in a gym.
I constantly feel like everyone is looking at me (no, but I swear sometimes they are!), which gives me anxiety. The large, windowless rooms, hideous color schemes and foggy mirrors depress me. And I have some kind of bizarre undiscovered pheromone that attracts aggressive gym trainers to practically beg me to sign up as a client. All I want in a gym is to be able to get in, get out and go relatively unnoticed. Yet for some reason, I always seem to attract a lot of attention, random stares and comments, and I can never figure out why.
Maybe the gym is more social for other people. Maybe they’re just trying to be friendly. Maybe (ok, most likely) they don’t give a shit about me, and it’s all in my head.
So, I’ve been on the search for the perfect gym. One would think, living at the Jersey Shore, this would be easy. Yes, I agree, one would think.
But finding 4 walls filled with workout equipment where I want to spend time has been anything but easy.
I first tried Workout World. It’s a New Jersey megagym chain with 12 locations and a whopping 148 complaints on pissedconsumer.com. Apparently, in order to cancel, you essentially have to prove that you have a rare blood disorder that prevents you from ever being able to work out again. And in order to prove said disorder exists, you must let the CEO of WoW sit in on your lifesaving surgery.
Naturally, on sign up day, the Jewish lawyer inside of me came out hard. I rolled up to the front counter with a wad of cash, and explained to the dumbfounded desk girl, in no uncertain terms, that she would not be handling my credit information.
“I’ve never dealt with cash before,” she said, exasperated. I could sense some admiration there, too; an inherent understanding that I might be the savviest potential gymgoer she’d ever dealt with.
I’m not messing around, homegirl. I read all 148 of those complaints, and I refuse to have the ratty terrycloth towel pulled over my eyes.
Well, as predicted by the complaints and subpar reviews, the gym was terrible. Actually, I shouldn’t say that the gym itself was terrible. By all accounts, it was in pretty good shape — lots of machines, relatively clean equipment, and decent classes. But the clientele? NOPE.
I get it, I moved to the Jersey shore. I did that. That was my choice. But that doesn’t mean I want to post up at the gym next to Mike “The Situation” Whatever-his-last-name-is. You know what the situation is, Mike? EVERYONE IN NEW JERSEY HAS THE SAME ABS AS YOU. You might have noticed them hanging around the squat rack for 45-minutes at a time, doing nothing much but scrolling their iPhones. Your abs are not a situation. Your red Ferrari in the parking lot is a situation, I’ll admit, but your abs need to get in line with all these other juiceheads. Christ.
(Side note: on some serious, how do these people get so large and muscular while seemingly doing nothing but standing around and scrolling their phones at the gym?! Do they live there? Is there a secret community of gym moles that sleep on the benches in the locker room and subsist on Monster energy drinks and protein powder scavenged from the front desk juice bar?! I have my suspicions.)
Anyway, obviously WoW was not the gym for me.
A few weeks later, Dave and I decided to try a little local gym who has marketed themselves as the anti-WoW. “We got a couple WoW refugees,” they joked to each other, snark all out on display, as they struggled to process our free 1-week passes… or, y’know, just use the front desk computer in general.
One highlight of this 24-hour gym: the fingerprint scanner which allows access to the gym while there is no staff on duty. Aside from my general liability concerns (ok, I didn’t totally leave the Jewish lawyer inside me behind at WoW), I was actually pretty amped on the 24-hour situation. Not because I planned to start working out at 3 AM, but because I loved the idea of having no staff whatsoever to deal with if I timed my visits right.
The very sweet albeit extremely incompetent trainer at the front desk attempted to process my information and allow me access to the gym. He pressed my pointer finger into the fingerprint scanner 10 or so times to add me to the system.
We shuffled back and forth between the lobby and outdoor fingerprint scanners, trying to make fetch happen, but my status as a rare fingerprintless human was becoming apparent. Also apparent was the trainer’s fatigue with my signup. 25 minutes had passed with no progress, and the poor guy hadn’t even started on Dave’s registration. To compound matters, my phone number could not be entered into the system, because my last 4 digits were shared with another member, which apparently the gym’s “state-of-the-art” technology COULD. NOT. COMPUTE. Databases — HOW DO THEY WORK?!
“Do you even exist?!” he asked me, trying to sound amused. Almost like he wasn’t tempted to just give me a free lifetime membership in exchange for never ever speaking of this again.
“I’m person X.” I joked. A hint of suspicion crossed his face. I had the brief realization that if this had happened 150 years ago, I’d probably be tried for witchcraft. I reminded myself to be thankful that imperfect technology was my biggest problem at this moment in time.
After much back-and-forth, and little to show for it, Dave and I had a quick workout. With all of the strange disfunction, we were ready to get the hell out of there and never look back.
But not without an aggressive pitch from a trainer, of course.
We were back at the front desk and Dave was going through the finger print rigamarole, when a a large man who looked like a cross between Nicolas Cage and Arnold Schwarzenegger approached me: “You ever been trained before?” he asked, as though we were on a third date and he was testing the waters for some bizarre sexual activity.
“Yes. I’ve had trainers before.”
“Hopefully not at WoW,” he retorted haughtily, chortling. And for the first time, I actually found myself longing for WoW, with its apathetic trainers, who are clearly not making commission (I know this because none have ever bothered to recruit me, which is simply impossible).
“No, not at WoW.” I responded uncomfortably, searching across the room for Dave’s eyes, begging him to come save me.
The man slipped me a torn-off piece of paper, with his name and number HAND WRITTEN, with the words “for training, call.”
I wanted to tell this jerk that I’ve trained with some of the best basketball and rugby coaches that the Eastern seaboard has to offer. I wanted to tell him that I realize I look out of shape, but I’m no neophyte — just a girl who’s uncomfortable with the amount of testosterone being thrown around in such a small space, and whose ideal gym experience involves absolutely no interaction with another human being. I wanted to tell him that free business cards are a thing and he should look into it. But I couldn’t handle the prospect of being trainsplained, so I said nothing.
I really don’t know how to reconcile my hatred for the gym with my love for fitness. And I don’t know if I’ll ever find the perfect gym for my (relatively simple) needs.
Ah well, onward — the search continues!