Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Confronting your gym equipment.

I've been getting a lot of writing ideas at the gym lately. Which is weird for several reasons. One, because it's 7:30 in the morning and I'm at the gym, and two, because I'm at the gym at all. The gym is where people go to sell their brain cells for dopamine and ab muscles. No wonder jocks aren't generally known as very smart and/or creative. Working out is both physically and mentally exhausting. Oh well, that's a story for another post. Anyway, the gym isn't the best place to get writing ideas because you don't really have the opportunity to write them down. At the end of a workout, I furiously scribble down my ideas on scraps of paper and/or ticket stubs which I promptly lose.

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah:

Confronting your gym equipment.
The gym is a scary place to be. Not only because the idea of lifting something over and over again with no apparent progress except the pain in your biceps reminds me of Sisyphus (the character in Greek mythology who was condemned to an eternity of rolling a boulder uphill then watching it roll back down again), but because some of the equipment looks like it has the capacity to destroy you, if it were inclined to do so. Take a hint from me: do not anger gym equipment. If you berate it, kick it, or in any way injure its ego, it will turn on you like that. Take, for instance:


The stair climber:
I'm not talking about one of the new-age machines with two pedals you climb on. I'm talking about one of the actual StairMasters that are about eight feet tall and look like they could swallow you whole. The kind where the bottom step immediately depresses as they steps rotate, so that if you're not careful it looks like you might just fall off the damn thing. Those things are terrifying! I've used them before - their enormous size gives you the distinct advantage of letting you see over the entire gym, and subsequently to feel instantly more powerful and important than every other poor schlub there. The downside is that if you ever tripped on one of these your ego won't be the only thing being crushed.

The retro treadmill:

Of course all treadmills look like conveyor belts used in grocery stores, because they operate on the same principle: they are trying to throw you off. But the early models that look like they were introduced around the same time as canned soup first hit the shelves are particularly frightening. Whenever I'm on these things I think I'm going to somehow run off it. I know it's not really possible, but I feel like I have just one square foot that I must keep my feet inside at all times or I will meet the rapidly spinning rubber belt with my face. And then of course I will be sucked up by the engine. What makes this personally relevant is that I actually have fallen off one of these. So we have a personal history.

The Clientele:
Although not technically gym equipment, you may find you have to confront the other gym members at some point. The cardio people are okay, it's the steroids with legs at the weight section that kill me. They're very beefy and make a lot of noise. They seem to take a lot of long breaks in between sets of bicep curls to stare at themselves in the mirror. They also encourage each other to lift more and more by yelling at each other, which makes me feel like I've joined the army, so I can only stand this section for about 10 minutes.

Weight machines:
I have nothing against weight machines, except for the fact that it seems like anti-progress. In reality, you are lifting 20 lbs of solid steel that really doesn't need to be going anywhere. I'd probably feel better if you were lifting a large bag of groceries or a case of beer with one of these machines.

Ab cruncher:
I don't have a picture of this and I don't actually know what it's called. However, this is the one that bends you in half like a folding chair so that your thighs are pressed snugly against your face. I'm not really sure what muscles you are working, but it looks like a really good way to pull your back out.

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