J. Awkward Prufrock Goes to the Gym

I’ve never really been one for New Year’s resolutions. At least, not intentionally. If anything, I have more so utilized them for end-of-year procrastination purposes (I am GOING to DO THIS…next year).

But I’ve decided that 2016 is going to be different. In 2016, I am going to do things.

Many of my friends have made incredibly admirable New Year’s resolutions for themselves. They have a five-year plan, and they have outlined the necessary steps it will take for them to get there. As I mentioned in my last post, I like systems, and I think they have laid out their plans very intelligently.

My resolution is not this kind of resolution.

I do not have a five-year plan. I do not have a five-minute plan. When I say I am going to do things, I don’t mean that I am going to climb a mountain or visit Spain or break the world record for most M&Ms eaten in one sitting (though that last one’s tempting).  I mean I am going to actually leave my room and do the things that are easy for normal people to do, like join a gym.

It is not the gym part that scares me. I actually like to exercise. It’s great for managing anxiety and stress. And I like the gym. It’s an amazing place to go unnoticed. People are busy looking at themselves and being body-conscious, so if I trip getting on the elliptical or decide to kill two birds with one stone and practice my air-guitar, chances are nobody is going to see me.

It was the joining part that was holding me back. It was the idea that I had to go to a place and talk to a person.

I was starting to feel pretty crappy in my own body. I love to run, but it was getting too cold out, which induces my asthma. And I have a lot of nervous energy, which was starting to build up in my butt. To put it politely, one might say I am in the shape of perhaps a pear. To put it impolitely, when I gain weight, one might say I begin to look like a toothpick stuck in an apple or an upside-down lollipop. So, based on my new thing-doing philosophy, it was time to join a gym.

The first thing I came to learn is that New Yorkers take the gym very seriously. I used to belong to Planet Fitness back at home, and I love their basic, no-frills business model. There is technically a Planet Fitness in my neighborhood, but it is roughly 1.5 miles from my apartment, and I know myself well enough to know I would never go there after working 9 hours. There are three gyms within ½ mile of my place, so I looked into all of them.

These are the facts about New York gyms:

  • They are expensive. But this is actually good for me because I’m a frugal Franny and I milk my money’s worth out of everything. If I’m paying $46,000 a month for a gym membership, you can bet I’m going at least four days/week.
  • They want your soul. Sign up for life or face the dire consequences!
  • They want to know about your fitness goals…so they can get you to sign up for more things for life and take more of your money.

I picked the cheapest gym, because I’m a 25-year-old and a Seamless prime customer, and I see no reason to change everything about my lifestyle.

I walked boldly into my chosen place of exercisement, raised my chin with queenly authority, and told them I would like to join. I filled out some forms and a very unfriendly woman gave me a tour, which helped make the whole ordeal virtually painless. I love fundamentally unfriendly people because they could not care less if you stay inside of your awkward cocoon. I handed her my credit card, promised them my life, and my future spouse’s life, and my future children’s lives, and I was very proud of myself and all seemed well…

Until she told me that all members get a free personal training session and could I come back on Thursday at 8.

…What now?

I just sort of nodded in response as my insides started twisting with fear. I had done what I had come to do. I had done a thing. And now I had to do another thing? One-on-one, with a stranger, for an hour, in which I would be demonstrating precisely how uncoordinated I am. I highly doubted the personal trainer would allow me to ride the bike at low resistance the whole time and call it a day.

For 48 hours, I was dreading this. I had to keep telling myself, “It’s just an hour of your life,” over and over again. I was still telling myself this when I walked into the gym yesterday. The first thing that happened was that I was grossly early. Which is usually the case for me, especially when I’ve been preoccupied by the very event for two days. Naturally, I hid in the locker room.

At first, I felt weird about hiding in the locker room. I had nothing to do in there but sit on the bench and play with my hair and look at things. Then I realized that many women actually go to the gym and do just this. They sit in the locker room for 15 minutes re-doing their pony tails and checking themselves out in the mirror and lightly stretching and sending gym selfies. I actually didn’t feel out of place at all. Then, the time arrived for me to check in.

The trainer’s previous appointment was running over, and I wasn’t sure how it would come across if I asked if I could hide in the locker room some more, so I stood at the front desk/smoothie counter and attempted to talk to the smoothie guy about my previous experience as a smoothie engineer and various fruit : juice ratios. While most of it was in jest, he was clearly perplexed, and this is why I don’t make small talk.

The trainer arrived and took me into a small, dingy room with nothing but a scale in it and I can’t help but think this is where nightmares are made.

“So, Jillian, why are you here?”

“Uhhhhh…” Something told me, “I was tricked,” was not an acceptable answer.

“I guess I’m looking to, uh, tone.”

He furrowed his brow at me and frowned.

“Well, that could mean a lot of things. Tone is a very general term. Can you be more specific?”

“I’m looking to tone my…upper body.”

I don’t know if that’s more the answer he was looking for or if he just knew he wasn’t getting anywhere. He then made me get on the scale to “see what we were starting with.” I haven’t weighed myself in years, so this was interesting. I won’t tell you the resulting number, but I will tell you that I blame the shoes.

He then handed me a machine that kind of looked like a Gameboy and a part of me started hoping this was a virtual reality thing and all of my training would be done in this room in video game form. It turns out the machine was for calculating body fat vs. muscle. Again, I won’t tell you the results, but I will tell you that his reaction was, “That’s weird.” And I’m pretty sure I heard it laugh at me.

We then headed out to “assess my cardiovascular strength” or something. I immediately felt completely vulnerable as I was surrounded by mirrors and muscly men who knew what they were doing. When he asked me to do a squat, it became very clear to me and everyone around me that I didn’t know what I was doing. Apparently, I’ve been squatting wrong for 25 years. He began to make adjustments that I guess were supposed to be helpful but just seemed like his objective was to make me as uncomfortable as possible. As I looked at my new position in the mirror, I half expected a baby to come out of me.

We moved on to lunges, which I’ve also been doing wrong for years. Evidently, the proper way to do them is excruciatingly painful. I will be going back to my old routine, thank you. Then, he made me step on and off a bench as fast as I could, which further proved my theory that I can’t do anything without falling. Then planks, which I actually don’t completely fail at. I will plank for days.

He asked me how hard everything was on a scale of 1-10. From a physical standpoint, the answer was 4. From an emotional standpoint, the answer was 12, but I don’t think he was interested in that. He made me repeat the circuit, this time adding weights, making it much more difficult. He made me do moving lunges all away across the mat, causing me to pass other gym-goers who I’m sure felt much better about their lunges after watching me struggle. Tight hips + crooked knees=one heck of a slapstick show. Jerry Lewis would be proud of me. He also made me lift 30 pounds of weight several times before planking.

And again, “How hard was that on a scale of 1-10?”

And in my frenzy of sweating profusely and my heart beating wildly, I once again said, “4,” because I am a masochist.

He laughed maniacally, as the devil would laugh, and accepted the challenge, giving me more weight, forcing me to increase my speed, screaming at me to be better, and I felt like I finally had met my conscience in the flesh. I fell nearly every time I did anything and collapsed onto the mat after my final plank. He leaned over me, blocking my eyes from staring directly into the unflattering fluorescent light. “We at 10 yet?”

I squinted at him, unable to speak, and held up a 4 with what was left of my finger strength. J. Awkward Prufrock can handle anything, bitch.

Anything that doesn’t involve a conversation, anyway.

He peeled me off the mat and took me back into the personal training room, roughly 35 minutes into my supposed hour of free training. He then proceeded to tell me that I clearly used to be very strong but now I’m an inactive hopeless case unless I find a way to increase mobility in my hips. I asked him if that means I should dance more. He stared at me blankly and then asked if I wanted to give him $4 zillion a month so I could do what we just did 3 days a week. Oh, you fool of a salesman. But I can’t say no to anyone, so I told him I would think about it, and have requested a copy of the schematics of the building so I can figure out how to avoid him at all costs.

He offered me a free “recovery” smoothie, for which I was grateful, as it is essentially a milkshake with chocolate health powder, and as I exited the gym, my quads throbbing, I patted myself on the back for not only making it through one thing, but two things. I think that makes me good for the rest of January.

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