So, any of you that know me, are aware that words like “athletic”, “sporty”, “even remotely interested in exercise” are not good descriptors for me. Well guess who joined the Downtown Y? Yes. Me. I know, I am scared and confused too, but we’ll sort this out together.
First things first, you are probably wondering why. Why would any sane person pay to go into a smelly building full of sweaty people and do repetitive, sweat-inducing, exhausting things? The answer is so simple it may shock you. I’m not in my twenties anymore. I know, I didn’t believe it either. Apparently when you enter your thirties, your metabolism evaporates, you sprout three chin hairs and everything starts hurting and falling apart. Being fond of not falling apart and having invested a good chunk of change in fabulous outfits that require me to have a waist and a shoe collection that involves balance and mobility, I decided to take some restorative and preemptive measures and joined a gym.
Immediately after joining said gym, I became aware that I did not own tennis shoes or any footwear that could possibly be worn while working out. Also, despite my “healthy” sized wardrobe, I had nothing in the way of sportswear. Luckily, my best friend is the Sporty Spice to my, eh, un-Sporty Spice, I guess. I’m not sure which Spice Girl I would be. Anyway, we went shoe shopping and solved the dilemma. Upon reaching the Nike Outlet at the Tanger Outlet Mall in Branson, Laura looked at me and paraphrasing Kill Bill Vol. 2 said, “You know, five years ago, if I had to make a list of impossible things that would never happen, going with you to a Nike outlet would be up at the top of the list.” You know the quote. So, we go in and Laura, also needing tennis shoes because she had worn hers out, strolled around knowingly comparing different sorts of shoes for support and comfort. I noticed that the shelves had different labeled sections like “running”, “training”, “walking” and, I shit you not, “gym workout”. So I tried on the shoes designated for gym workouts and bought the purple ones.
Now that I was properly attired, it was time to actually go to the gym. When you join the Y, they have this thing called ActivTrax. You meet with one of their trainers and she shows you all the equipment and makes sure you are using things correctly and not being an idiot or hurting yourself. The trainer I met with is named Zanne. If you are going to be a personal trainer you must have either a “z” or an “x” in your name and if your name isn’t monosyllabic (it probably is), it must end in an “i”. She tests you and establishes your tension weight and your max weight on each machine. She asks very silly questions like, “does that feel good?” and “what kind of exercise do you enjoy?” “No and none. Wait, is sex exercise?”
After Zanne entered all of my weight machine information into her computer, she had me answer more questions about goals and past training experience and if I had any clue what the fuck I was doing. Once all this is entered into the computer, you log in every time you go to the gym and it designates a workout for you. Which is great because it means I don’t have to make decisions or think.
I have come to the realization that to make this work I am going to have to workout in the mornings. Two known facts about me, I am absolutely not a morning person and I hate working out, so, you know, let’s combine those for maximum misery!
I download T. Swift, Beyonce, Vampire Weekend and Alabama Shakes from Apple Music into my phone because surely these friends will guide me through. I fill my new water bottle. It’s one of those glass ones with pink, hole-y rubber around it so if you drop it it won’t shatter. I don’t like drinking out of plastic, so this seemed like the least terrible water bottle option. I put on a sports bra, which, I have discovered is an annoying thing to buy if you are busty. If you get the wrong design your tits will literally fall out of the bottom of the stupid thing as soon as you do anything resembling bouncing. I practice opening and closing my combination lock to make sure I don’t look like a total idiot once in the locker room and finally I head to the gym.
Headphones are fabulous because they deter most people from trying to talk to you. Of course, when I see someone I know (which is frequently at the Y, all my friends seem to be very keen on this exercise thing) I want to say hi and wave, but talking to people, especially strangers is definitely not a thing I want to engage in at the Y. I also find never, ever making eye contact to be a very helpful tool.
I print my prescribed workout from the kiosk, do five minutes of cardio to “warm up my muscles” which is something Zanne advised. I kind of feel like walking up the stairs is warm up enough, but I know nothing as has been previously established. While walking up the stairs I imagine a Seinfeldian scenario in which someone (who is not injured or a custodian with a big cart thing) uses the elevator to get up to the cardio area on the third floor.
I sort of stretch. I just do stretches that I vaguely remember from gym class as a child while facing the wall so I don’t accidentally engage other stretchers. I am most likely doing all of these “stretches” wrong, but I’ve yet to hurt myself, so it’s fine. On the third day of working out there is a lady doing some kind of fighting workout with a trainer guy in the stretching area, so I skip stretching altogether. Seems safer.
I do my five minute warm up on one of the elliptical machines. There is a particular one that I (for no real reason at all) like better than the twenty others that are basically identical to it. When it is occupied I get slightly grouchier than normal. It’s 7:30 in the morning and my olfactory sensors are full of other people’s sweat so I’m not thrilled about anything anyway.
I go downstairs and do the prescribed weight workout. The first day I avoid the lat pull down because it is over where all the muscle-y people who do “real” weight-lifting (the free weights rather than the machines) are. I adamantly told Zanne I did not want to do any of these bars or free weights because I would surely kill or maim myself in the process, but the dumb kiosk keeps telling me to go do the lat pulldown thing and eventually (day 3) I do it.
I hope to someday be one of the annoying people. #goals
After doing all the weight things, I go upstairs again and do more cardio and more stretching. I conclude by entering the workout into the the kiosk thing, until the third day when Kelly shows me that I can just enter the things as I do them via the website on my phone.
I made it through the first week. There are more things that could be written. I am not sure if this is interesting at all, but I am going to keep adding to it.
Working out is dumb.
I was going to go to the gym yesterday, Monday, I was. But I had a 9am Sculpture Walk meeting and then I came home and made lunch (broccoli, turkey bacon and cheese which I decided counted as a salad). After lunch I had an Executive Committee Meeting for the Springfield Regional Arts Council Board of Directors and then was persuaded to stick around the Creamery after that for the Development Committee meeting because I have been helping with the planning of a couple of fundraisers. By the time I was done with that it was getting close to six. Kelly texted me saying his parents wanted us to eat dinner with them and I hadn’t done anything with them in a while, so I decided to blow off my last meeting of the day (First Friday Art Walk Strategic Planning), which I feel incredibly bad about skipping, but food and family sounded good after a day of meetings and not going to the gym. So no gym yesterday.
Today, I tried a new thing for my five minute pre-weights, cardio warm-up: the rowing machine. I have to change up my cardio between walking and the elliptical thing because after more the fifteen minutes on the elliptical my left hip starts popping and hurting and feeling like maybe it’s backwards or something else bad. Last week, I did the five minute warm-up on the elliptical, did all the weight stuff and then did fifteen minutes on the elliptical and fifteen minutes walking. One day I tried the swishy thing that is kinda like an elliptical but more swishy. The rowing machine was interesting. I felt like I was maybe doing it wrong but I could not see how else one would use it. It just felt very silly. I am going to give it a spot in the cardio rotation and see if I can get to where it feels less stupid.
I didn’t really feel like any of these muscles were stimulated.
After rowing and stretching (see? it even sounds stupid) I went downstairs to do the weight regiment that is apparently just what I do every time because the ActivTrax program is still telling me to do the same things. Some gigantic 6’10” Amazonian had used all the weight machines before me. I did not see this person, but every machine was adjusted to its maximum spread-out-extended-ness. This means I had to figure out how to adjust all the components of all the machines, which sucked. Also, this giant was doing 190lb leg curls. That just seems like too much to me. Don’t your tendons snap at some point? Are you doing reps of 190 lb curls? Surely not. Maybe? And if you are a giant muscle person, why aren’t you over in the scary free weight area with the other muscle people? The adjuster knob was screwed down so tight, I had to kick it a couple times to start it turning so I could adjust it to my average-heighted frame.
I made a discovery, the arm rest pad things on the tricep extension move! You don’t have to feel like a mentally unsound eagle when you use it. I am sure this is a known thing to everyone, but I was pretty damn excited.
I did the lat pull down without hesitation even though there were big muscle dudes on the three other sides of it doing much more impression things than me and my twenty pound front facing lat pull downs. One of them was also growling a lot, but I think he was probably just really into whichever T. Swift track he was listening to. I have decided everyone at the gym listens to 1989 on a loop. Growling during “Bad Blood” is perfectly reasonable, muscle dude, no worries. I feel ya.
“Bandaids don’t fix bullet HOLES!”
Entering the workout on my phone turned out to be annoying today. I lost internet connection while entering cardio so it only entered my warmup rowing and then wouldn’t enter the other cardio. I may use the slow kiosk from now on. I want credit for all the cardio. All of it.
A note about protein shakes.
Protein shakes taste like cardboard and have the texture and “mouth feel” of cold, wet sand. These are just known facts, however, I have found a combination that is less awful. Cadia Chocolate Whey Protein (one scoop) plus twelve ounces of flax seed milk plus Tru-Nut powdered peanut butter is actually kinda good for drinking.
Combining these makes the least gross, most drinkable protein shake I have discovered thus far.
Characters at the Gym.
On my second day at the gym, I am charmed by an ancient and adorable couple. He wears a weight belt, faded t-shirt and cargo shorts while noisily clanking the weights on the machines together as he exercises with a ferocity that seems impossible at his advanced age. She sits in a nearby chair crocheting and watching him. She smiles in his direction occasionally. They are in such contrast, her quiet crafting, shy smiles and teal polyester slacks, his weight crashing, man noises and intensity, I am totally curious about their story. I have so many questions. How did you meet? Does she drive you because you don’t drive for some reason or is she just here for moral support? Where does one acquire teal, polyester, leisure suit-esque slacks?
The cute girl with a pixie cut who monitors the climbing wall always looks so bored and forlorn. Can she have a book or something? She sits there alone day after day, gazing into the nothingness of the crash matts, shoulders slightly slumped forward, boredom permeating her features. She doesn’t even have music. Is this Y policy? No books or headphones even if your job is to monitor the climbing wall that no one ever uses so your literal job is to stare at a wall all day. I’m going to start hiding cryptic notes around the wall so she has a mystery to solve.
She looks kinda like this but sadder.
Laura has told me about a woman who wears a Myrtle the Turtle t-shirt and very leisurely sashays around the track for hours, but I have yet to encounter this woman myself. Someday I shall spot this gym unicorn in her natural habitat, for I too enjoy a leisurely sashay around the track.