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The Gym

by Peary Perry
Peary Perry

Each year millions upon millions of us, like lemmings, venture into today’s version of the torture chamber, more commonly referred to as “The gym”. Or for the more genteel, the spa, the club, the health club or in some cases..…’my workout place.’

No matter how you name these places, they are anything but houses of pain and suffering. I’ve noticed that people entering the building, generally have a smile (although it’s mostly forced in anticipation of what is ahead of them) but never, ever do you see anyone leaving with a happy look or as though they’ve just had a pleasant experience.

Now, I always wait until about this time of the year to get really geared up about exercise. I know we should do so all of the time, but as usual I keep putting this off until one day I look at myself in the mirror and wonder…”Who is that?” Then I know in my heart that the time has come for the annual sweat season.

One interesting fact…I read the other day that there are 14,000 places to exercise in this country. This means places like I mentioned above, not your garage or places where you work in the yard. It also does not include any place you are sweating and having fun.

Forced exercise is not fun. There are approximately 22 million Americans who are active (meaning they are alive) members of these 14,000 health establishments. Now simple math tells me that by dividing 22 million members into 14,000 places means that each place has the potential to have over 1500 folks in there at any one time or another. Now the place I work out in can hold about 200, so if those other 1300 show up to get their turn on the Stairmaster or turbo jungle gym, someone’s going to be plenty hacked. It’s going to be tighter than Dick’s hat band.

However tight that is. Something would have to give since there isn’t any way all of us can fit into those buildings at once. This, I believe is the purpose in the first place. The owners of the health spas make the workouts so hard on us that we just don’t want to come back and the majority of us never do.

Now, I base this on the fact that 25 years ago, pumping iron wasn’t nearly as hard on me as it is now. I believe that I’m still the same svelte Bronze Adonis that I was at that time, but with less hair. So, what’s happened here?

Well, for one thing the machines have been changed. Instead of real heavy weights that you could see. They have all of these machines which are hooked up to electrical outlets and computers. In the old days, you could look at a weight and tell if it was 50 pounds or not. Now, you get onto some kind of a contraption, dial in your expected weight and some printed circuit board makes the adjustments.

My question is, how do I know if I’m getting 50 pounds of resistance here? It seems like 200 to me. This is like computerized slot machines….no way Jose, Tell me they don’t have those things fixed where you can’t win as much as the old ones where the wheels turned. I trust things that I can see. Faith is fine in God, but I need to actually see those weights to believe them.

This is all part of a grand scheme to get you in, pay your money and get you discouraged enough not to come back again.

Another thing that I find very particular is the fact that once I’m there and really getting into the swing of things…some 25 year old female in one of those exercise suits comes in and grabs the machine that I’m going to get onto next. Now, picture this, here I am 56 years old, working out behind a former Playboy of the Month Bunny type. What she looks like isn’t the point. It’s the fact that when I get on the machine she just got off, I can see that she has cranked the weights up to something that would make Mr. Universe yell calf rope over.

Now, most of us muscular build older guys just hit the re-start button and try to work our way though this same routine with out screaming for the cardiac unit to standby. We, of course succeed in nearly killing ourselves and are too sore to come back for another month.

Which I think was the purpose of the ‘shill’ getting in the workout line to begin with.

What seems odd to me is that after this Workout Goddess does 2-3 machines, she conveniently disappears and you don’t see her again.

I’m wondering if they have those mirrors in the ceiling like the casinos so they can watch to see if you are showing up too regularly. I can see it all now…”Look Boss, there’s old Peary back at it again. This is his 3rd time this week. What do you want to do about it?”

Bruno thinks for a moment and says “Send Lola down and have her crank up the weights on the toe lift machine to 500 pounds, that usually stops him dead in his tracks and keeps him from walking for about 3 weeks.”

I’m going to checkout the ceiling next time I’m back in there.

© Peary Perry
Letters From North America

August 29, 2007 column
Syndicated weekly in 80 newspapers

Comments go to pperry@austin.rr.com

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