Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Gym Dilemma

I just got back from the gym. I went there, saw people exercising, decided it wasn't for me and came home.

I should exercise. I know this. I understand the only way I can remain healthy is by exercising regularly. That's why I went to the gym.

It's just...the gym can be an intimidating environment for someone such as myself. I have very little experience with exercise equipment, outside of the stationary bicycle my parents owned when I was young. I rode it for 15 minutes once as an 11-year-old, then realized it was kind of a silly activity because I had another, non-stationary bicycle that could actually take me places. So I hopped on my real bicycle and rode it to the nearby convenience store, where I bought two foot-long hot dogs and three ice cream sandwiches. This was my exercise regimen as a kid.

I was simply overwhelmed by my surroundings at the gym. Aside from the treadmills and the stationary bicycles, I didn't have the slightest clue how to operate the equipment. The machines are so complex; they have handles and wheels and screens and buttons. Where was the button that gets me into shape? Couldn't find that button.

The machines were so sophisticated and technologically advanced that if one of them had suddenly transformed into a robot and attacked me, it wouldn't have surprised me in the least. So, I stared at all of the machines for about five minutes, became increasingly anxious, got cold feet, and discreetly made my escape. Incidentally, this is also what happens whenever I see a pretty girl I'd like to speak with.

It's not just the equipment that scares me. It's the commitment. The gym comes on too strong. Two or three times per week, their employees hand me flyers on the sidewalk, imploring me to sign up for a membership. Their offers are enticing: cheap rates, free guest passes, and so on. The gym is literally giving away free exercise. What an indictment on my physical appearance. The gym was basically saying, "Boy, you look like you could use an exercise handout. Here, lift some weights, on us." Regardless, I need more convincing before I can agree to a membership. I can't shake off my doubts.

There are only three businesses that I stay away from out of fear. The gym is one of them. The second: Abercrombie & Fitch and its sister stores. You know how there are certain places where you just know you don't belong? Well, I know I don't belong in an Abercrombie & Fitch store. Between the dark lighting, the pop remixes and the shirtless models, it represents everything I'm not. Their marketing strategy isn't meant for someone in their early 30s. Perhaps I'd feel differently if JCPenney had its middle-aged male employees stand outside its entrance, half-naked.

The third business I'm scared of: Starbucks. I've detailed the reason why before, but to recap: I don't understand 75 percent of its menu. Starbucks speaks its own language. It's as if each Starbucks location is its own little country inside a normal town or city, like Vatican City inside Rome. Its coffee comes in sizes like "Grande," "Venti" and "Trenta." Sound like the title of a new Hives album. I'm holding out hope that Rosetta Stone will one day develop software to teach me Starbucks lingo so I can finally enjoy a cup of coffee like everyone else in this country.

With the gym, I'm fearing the unknown. I'm unfamiliar with the equipment. I'm unfamiliar with the rules. And I'm unfamiliar with the people. Are they friendly? Would I be able to get along with them? They wouldn't pick me last in a game of dodgeball, would they?

No, I'm serious. I haven't spent much time at a gym (you've probably figured that out by now), but I've always assumed the routine would be similar to that of my high school gym class. I'd have to change my clothes, participate in warm-up exercises I have no interest in, play sports I'd never play outside of gym (dodgeball, kickball, wrestling, track) with people who'd take it way more seriously than I would, then feel exhausted and sweaty the rest of the day. I can't believe I'm a sports fan, given how gym class nearly turned me off of athletic activities, much like home economics nearly turned me off of sewing.

I will say that I wouldn't mind running the treadmill at the gym, because you can watch TV while using it. That makes the exercising experience infinitely more palatable. (And less aggravating than running on the street and dealing with pushy joggers.) Now, if there was a way to run the treadmill while watching TV and eating a carton of ice cream, then I'd really be motivated to exercise.
Actually, forget the treadmill. Forget the gym, too. I'll just ride my bike to the local convenience store and pick up some ice cream sandwiches.