Friday, July 17, 2009


Recently, my husband and I joined a new gym and a personal trainer there tried to kill us.

The gym, which I'll call "Bulge" because that's really what it should be called instead of its actual name, was running a too good to be true special - membership for ten dollars a month. We had to sign up for that.

Husband and I felt we had indulged a bit too much lately. To put it delicately, we had not been meeting our fitness goals and we felt that the obligation of gym membership would get us in gear, especially when we only had to shell out ten dollars a month.

There are fancy gyms in town. In South Florida there are fancy gyms everywhere and they are full of bulimic trophy wives, keyed up lawyers, white collar criminals, former reality TV participants and seventy year old men who drive Lamborghinis and take injections of Human Growth Hormone. These gyms have valet parking, eighty dollar a session Pilates classes, hot yoga, cucumber water, spray tanning and hell, they practically lift the weights for you. They don't allow fat people in gyms like this. Everyone who goes to these gyms was definitely picked first for teams in middle school gym class. There are also a lot of mirrors so that you can admire how ripped and cut and defined you are as you lift your wheat grass shot to your collagen bloated lips. Everyone is white, even the Hispanic people. I have phobias of places like this.

Bulge is about six steps below the fancy gyms, but you can tell it really wishes it were a fancy gym. Bulge is where the wannabes work out: the strippers who aspire to one day become trophy wives, the drug dealers who want to look like rappers, the people who weren't classy enough for reality shows, a bunch of Guidos from New Jersey who want nothing more than to make some money in white collar crime, but just don't have the smarts. They all look like they head over straight from some boiler room telemarketing operation. Most of the guys at Bulge are so roided out that they look like their skin is about to split open.

The people watching at Bulge is unrivaled. I love it. In addition to the usual gym rat types, the low membership rate (ten dollars a month, can you believe it?) attracts a lot of really weird characters. I'd like to be the first to tell you all that David Carradine is still alive. And he's working out at Bulge wearing cut-offs, a silky tank top and flip flops. His work out consists of standing under a pull up bar. Sometimes he holds onto it and looks at the ceiling, but mostly he just stands there.

Bulge is huge. I swear the place must have been a former Sam's Club or something, so it can be a little overwhelming. They have it decorated in neon colors and pump techno music at club level decibels. Most of it sounds to me like the climax scene of a sci-fi action film and when I'm running on the treadmill it makes me feel as if both Alien and Predator are coming for me and I'm trying to get away. When I'm done I always feel mildly traumatized, but maybe that's from the big screen TVs, all of which are permanently set to VH-1. I try desperately not to look, but I can't help it. My eyes are drawn to the sets, especially now that Ricki Lake is doing Charm School.

One thing I've noticed about the gym is that people just hang out there. I'm not sure exactly what they're thinking, but it appears that Bulge is the ghetto version of Starbucks and instead of macchiatos everyone drinks cookies and creme flavored Muscle Milk. I'm not kidding you. The place is always crowded and a good half of the people there aren't working out. I have literally seen people walk in wearing gym clothes, with a towel tossed over their shoulder to stand around and talk to other people for an hour, watching strangers sweating their asses off on the eliptical. Then they drink an energy drink (they have this new one that comes in a can that looks exactly like motor oil) and leave without ever having burned a calorie.

My sister, who spends far more time in the gym than I ever will, has also witnessed this phenomenon. She reports that there is a group of voluptuous women who arrive at the gym nearly every morning, all suited up and looking like they're ready to go. When they get to the gym they sit on the weight benches and exercise bikes and eat candy. They don't even eat Luna bars and try to look healthy. These women sit on the gym equipment eating straight up 7-11 candy. I'm talking Now & Laters, boxes of Nerds, Circus Peanuts and movie theater sized cartons of Whoppers. I'm honestly shocked that they don't go whole hog and bring in the 64 ounce Big Gulp of Mountain Dew to wash it down. They sit and gossip about who got who pregnant, while shooting my sister dirty looks, like her skinny ass is in their way. My sister and I have had numerous conversations trying to understand what exactly it is these women think they're doing and we finally figured it out. The women are going to the gym. That's it. Going. They are AT the gym. When they're done they can tell everyone that they went to the gym. In fact, they GO to the gym every day. It's not a lie. They really do.

So Husband and I, we just love Bulge. We love going, although at first we didn't know what to do. Luckily Bulge has a circuit. It's like "Curves" where you go around a big circle of different weight machines. There's a timer and every minute you switch stations. In between each machine you stand on a block and perform some sort of extremely awkward movement where you feel incredibly stupid and not sure if you're doing it right for another minute, before, to your absolute relief, the minute is over and you can move on to another machine. The whole ordeal takes about forty minutes, after which we then move on to the treadmills and try to do as much cardio as we can before we begin wheezing and having chest pains. This is our workout regimen. It makes us feel better about ourselves for having done it.

The problem is that people don't respect the circuit and just use the machines all haphazardly and out of order and they don't switch when the minute is over. This has to be because they can't read because I swear there are at the very least, thirty large, bright signs pasted all over the circuit area that say if you aren't doing the circuit to stay off of these machines and that the same exact machines are located in the other part of the gym. The signs are regularly ignored. No one does the circuit except us and we are very rigid people who like order and structure, so this disturbs our whole world. It's very upsetting. It drives me absolutely insane, but I'm scared to mention the rules because every person who breaks the rules could easily and swiftly kick my ass.

We began to think that maybe we were the ones doing something wrong.

"We get a free session with a trainer for signing up," Husband said, "Maybe we should use it and the trainer can show us how to use the machine and do everything right."

I agreed.

The next Tuesday night we arrived at the personal trainer's office five minutes early, all ready to go. What we thought was going to be a friendly tour of the facility with some demonstrations, was in fact something far more sinister. You see, Bulge's ten dollar membership is a ploy to lure you in. Once they've hooked you with that, they stop at nothing and I mean nothing, to get you to buy expensive, non-refundable packages of personal training sessions. The tactics are similar in persistence to time share sales. The "free session with a personal trainer" isn't really. It's a two hour long sales pitch/ guilt trip/ ego destroyer designed to break you down, to make you cry and to make you beg them to let you give them your money if only they will turn your blubbery, cellulite pocked, muffin topped pathetic self into one of the almost beautiful people; almost hot enough to pass for the kind of person who could afford to go to the fancy gym with the valet parking.

The trainer looked like a college freshman, a sophomore at the oldest. He was like one of my students and was wearing a tight Ed Hardy knock off tee shirt. Ed Hardy is bad on its own, but Ed Hardy knock off is about as low as you can get. The trainer's name was Rich and he handed us two long forms to fill out asking us all sorts of personal questions about our fitness habits, ideals and our body image.

Rich clapped. He was one of those people who claps and rubs their hands together a lot when they talk and punctuate most of their sentences with "OK!!" and "YEAH!!"

"OK!! So what are your fitness goals?"

"We just want to come to the gym," I said.

"You have a big reunion? Wedding? Vacation?"




"OK!! You need something to motivate you. Come up with something."

"I just want to exercise a few times a week because it's healthy."

"OK!! How much weight are you looking to lose?"


Rich stared at me blankly. For a second the techno stopped pumping through the walls and I heard crickets.

"Excuse me," he said.

"None, I don't want to lose any weight. I just want to be healthy. If I lose weight in the being healthy process then fine. My goal is not weight loss. I just want to be in good shape."

"OK!! You don't want to look hot for your husband?"

I nudged Husband to defend me.

"You know," Husband said, "It's not about that. We already find one another attractive. We just want to be healthy."

Rich became flabbergasted. He had to turn to his script, where he started telling us how a personal trainer could help our sex life. In a couple months we'd start seeing abs and muscles and looking hot.

"All right, so whatever, that's fine," I said.

Clearly, we weren't falling in line. Rich had to take his approach up a notch. He had to make us feel really badly about ourselves if this was ever going to work. We just had too much confidence and self assurance. So far we had been in his office for ten minutes and he hadn't even come close to actually taking us out to the equipment and showing us how it might actually be used in order to obtain these defined abs and toned arms that were supposed to improve our sex life, which had to be bad now being that we didn't have toned abs and defined whatevers, because you know, people who aren't hot apparently can't have good sex. You knew that right?

Rich then switched into Super Hard Sell mode.

To be continued...


Lush said...

Ohmygod he really said that?! I've had some strange and ego-destroying experiences in those places but haven't yet met one quite that...err, crazy?

Anyways, love your rundown of the wonderfully weird world of gyms. The bit about the women eating candy = hysterical and oh, SO true.

Sadi said...

I love, love, love your writing. Thanks for the much needed smile this morning.

I can't wait for the next segment.

A Margarita said...

This sounds like Bally's! I was a member for about a year. One of the few positives was the price of membership and the people-watching. The staff was always nice, although I never used my free personal training session.

Wide Lawns said...

It's not though. This place isn't one of the big chains.

Jean_Phx said...

Thank you.

That's all I have to say, thank you.

Chiada said...

OMG this is so hilarious. This is one of the funniest posts I've read in a long time, probably because I can identify with parts of it. I laughed out loud at the David Carradine paragraph; still giggling about it. And the Curves circuit and feeling like an idiot for your 60 seconds on the "jog in place" board? Oh god. I HATE that thing. Thanks for the laughs.

DiaryofWhy said...

Ha! I think this is probably why I don't do gyms.

Anonymous said...

Did you put up with the whole spiel just for blog fodder :-)

- lowwall

Albany Jane said...

Haha, I always hate the hard sell, but I've taken it when they do it at the beginning of a free week/month pass to the gym.

I do particularly love how they'll point out body flaws (and ones you weren't even noticing).

Anonymous said...

this entry made me laugh so hard i forgot where i was. oh, man, i love it!

KT said...

Hee hee hee :) I'm now torn between motivating myself to get my ass to the gym for the people watching, if nothing else, and staying far away from it because I don't need some 18-year-old ruining my self-esteem!

Missicat said...

Hysterical...."not classy enough for reality shows". May I steal that?
Thanks for making me laugh, it's been a rough week!

Living in Muddy Waters said...

Can you please come over to my house and we'll have margaritas? Then you can tell me how to raise my self-esteem! You have great sel-esteem. I am do jealous!

kerry said...

I love your description of the people! :)

Yeah, the hard-sell thing with the personal training is kind of annoying. What I want next time is to get a trainer to set up a routine that I can follow on my own. I don't want someone yelling at me when I work out. I love that you flummoxed him!!!

Ordinary Housewife said...

"In South Florida there are fancy gyms everywhere and they are full of bulimic trophy wives, keyed up lawyers, white collar criminals, former reality TV participants and seventy year old men who drive Lamborghinis and take injections of Human Growth Hormone."
This is by far the best description of Florida I've ever heard. Can I quote you? Often?

Plain(s)feminist said...

I had this exact same experience at Bally in 1990. At the end of it, the guy sighed and said, "obviously, you don't care very much about your health if you aren't willing to make a (paid) commitment." I was like, "can you just shut up and show me how to use the damned equipment, already?!"

EvylFashionista said...

I belong to that gym up here in Mass and I must admit, I love it. I also took advantage of the free personal training session and my experience was a complete 180 from yours. While I was also asked all the same silly questions, the trainer was completely cool about me signing up for training sessions. He presented his pricing options and that was pretty much it. No pressure, no hassles.

Of course this story would be boring as all hell if that happened to you. :-D

Decorina said...

"a bunch of Guidos from New Jersey who want nothing more than to make some money in white collar crime, but just don't have the smarts"

This is the best line I've ever read here. I dated one of these guys and just never knew how to describe him. You totally nailed it - er, them.

Anonymous said...

I love the crickets line !!!!! I hate the hard sell.

E said...

Thank you for reminding me why we bought our own workout equipment. During my brief membership at the "Y" I encountered so many characters that I'm glad I don't have to see (or smell) anymore. Teenaged girls who were worse than the little old ladies in the too generous application of fragrance, the old guy who smelled like he did nothing but drink liquor, smoke cigars, and eat raw garlic before coming to the gym to work out on the elliptical next to me. The post-menopausal body building female with no visible body fat whose farts could clear a room. I was beginning to consider including a gas mask with my workout gear.

Claire said...

Not candy on a weight machine, but I have places younger child in Club Kid Care and older child in a Kid Fitness class and gone in the locker room and read a book and drank diet green tea. I wanted to make a sign that said..."I have a really bad cold and don't want to work out but taking advantage of Kid Care and Kid Fit, tell me you have never done it".

Monda said...

I think I've figured it out. I'm paying $80 a month to be left the hell alone when I hit the gym.

Money well spent.

Erin B. said...

Girl, I feel you! I just joined Gold's Gym, and went in for my "free health assessment" and got told that I was chunky. Nice, eh?

Anonymous said...

hi Widelawns -
My husband has an art event in Miami in a couple weeks - you seem to like creative unusual things, so this might be right up your alley:

Diaspora Vibe Gallery and Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator, Inc

Thursday, July 30, 2009 at 7:00pm
to Wednesday, August 5, 2009 at 7:00pm

3938 N. Miami Avenue, Miami Design
Miami, FL .

He's requesting food in exchange for works of art - would you be so kind to visit him and bring him something healthy to eat?

Thanks for your blog! I love reading your stories.


Rich said...

My gym orders 20 pizzas on Monday nights, and it's funny to watch the heavies lift themselves out of the coin op massage chairs and rumble over to the free pizza. Last week, I watched in astonishment as one of them grabbed 5 slices and headed for the door. Nothing like getting in shape!

Green said...

I like this one a lot. I hope you two went home and had sex with each other, just to spite Rich.

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