Archive for February, 2010

Gym-Dandy 1 of 3

Friday, February 26th, 2010

I’m about to go off on a riff about fitness centers in the next three blogs. In order to set the stage I thought it might be helpful for you to experience the gym I belong to.

Just so you know: what you are about to read is actually pieced together from several visits. Everything that I write about here actually occurred. Just not all in one trip.

Imagine you’ve just driven into the parking lot:

You’ve got to be kidding me. I feel as alien going into this place as I did starting high school. I can’t help but notice all the Audi’s, Saabs, and Escalade’s in the parking lot. All of them much newer and a tiny bit spendier that my Toyota Camry.

I hit the front door and the smell of eucalyptus and something citrus-y wafts from inside. A gym that smell like an upscale Bath & Body Works?

Mentally I add another $10 to what the monthly dues must be.

The biggest horseshoe desk I’ve ever seen – it easily would house eight people behind, covered in black marble – is staffed with perky blonde 20-somethings. Three of them at the moment. They could be sisters.

“Hi!” one of them says. “Can I help you?”

“I – I had an appointment with a membership advisor at 2pm.” I glance at a wall clock which shows that I’m 10 minutes late. “Traffic,”I say, noticing her gaze. “I didn’t allow enough – ”

She cuts off my lame excuse, “No problem, ma’am. Do you remember who you were meeting?”

“You have more than one membership person?” I ask baldly. Another ten bucks.

“Yes,” she says. “Trina, Brad and Zachary.”

“Brad, I think.” I’m trying to take in this reception area. It is huge. The ceiling is so high that I’d crane my neck if I decided to check out the stunning Phantom-of-the-Opera-esque chandelier.

“If you’d like to take a seat, I’ll get Brad for you, Miss – ?”

“Jones. Lara Jones,” I say, sinking into the softest leather seat I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting in. Not on. In. Another $10.

“Can I get you water while you’re waiting, Ms. Jones?”

Water is good. Every health guru on the planet preaches ‘drink more water.’ I nod, still overawed at the scope of this place.

“Spring or sparkling,” she asks, coming around from behind the desk.

Add another 10 spot. “Spring,” I say.

She is back in no time. From where I sit I can see a restaurant which is where “Mandy” (per her name tag) procured the water. “Brad will be right with you.”

I smile and take the glass from her. A restaurant in a gym, I ponder. That seems wrong somehow. A conflict of interest maybe?

I watch the patrons come in, handing over a card which one of the Barbie sisters swipe and then hand back with a smiling, “Have a great workout.”

These gym members are decked out to work out. I watch as tennis skirts and Izod golf shirt wearing women carrying leather encased rackets file in. They gab as they wait in line, the Mandy-Barbie’s fingers whizzing as she welcomes them all by name, “Have a great workout Mrs. O’Connor.” “Have a great workout Mrs. Henderson.” “Have a great workout Mrs. Jacobson.” “Have a great workout Dr. Adams.”

I’m so busy checking out their muscular legs and wondering if the honey colored flesh is ‘fake and baked’ or sprayed on that I’m startled when a deep voice says, “Ms. Jones?”

I look up and into the face of a beautiful black man who should have considered a career in modeling instead of membership sales. He is dressed in an olive suite with a thin cream sweater beneath his suit jacket.

“Hi, I’m Brad.”

“Hello,” I say a little breathlessly as I shuffle to my feet, balancing the water as I struggle out of the plush chair. “I’m sorry I was late,” I begin.

“It’s no problem. It allowed me to finish up some other things I had outstanding.”

Beautiful and gracious too. Wow. I really like this place. And obviously they hire with an eye for well, eye candy.

“We’ll start with a tour of the facility,” he says.

I nod dumbly and trail along.

“On this floor we have our reception area, as you can see. Here on the right is our ‘Work out Cantina’. We specialize in all natural food – no antibiotics in our meat, for example. Everything we prepare in house is made with organic food. We also sell some of the healthier prepackaged bars if you need a quick pick me up after your work out.”

As we pause I notice a group of tweens and teens noshing on pizza. The smell is divine and my stomach growls.

“As you can see,” he points to the back wall of the cantina, “it overlooks the climbing wall, which we’ll tour downstairs.”

He pivots and points toward glass offices on the opposite wall, “Our membership team and our department heads have their offices right here as a convenience to our members. That way if you have a question or a concern, you can catch us on your way in or out of the gym.”

I smile and say nothing. We head down stairs, even though I can see the rows and rows of cardio equipment and strength-training machines are on this floor.

Downstairs I can hear the plop, plop of tennis balls zinging back and forth. We tour the cardio studios where Brad picks up a schedule and a key explaining what all 25 different cardio group fitness classes are about. I see everything from kickboxing to something called Nia.

“You can see that we have plenty of variety for whatever type of group experience you’d like.”

“I’m not much of a joiner,” I say, mumbling under my breath.
“Well that is okay too. We’ll tour the cardio and strength training areas upstairs.”

He points out the yoga and cycling studios without spending too much time, given my declarative “I’m a loner,” statement I’m guessing.

“Do you have children?” he asks.

“Good heavens no!” I say, perhaps too emphatically, because he laughs.

“Well – we have a great child care facility that I won’t bore you with then. Do you play tennis?”

“No.”

“Well we also offer tennis courts and a basketball court where people like to form quick pick up games.”

“How nice,” I say.

“Let me show you where the locker rooms are,” he says, obviously picking up on my lack of interest in basketball as well.

“Obviously I can’t go in with you but I’ll give you a moment to poke your head in. We have a sauna, a steam room, an indoor Jacuzzi and access to the indoor pool from here. On your group fitness schedule you’ll see that we offer a variety of aqua-aerobic classes. For amenities in the locker rooms themselves, we have stations with hair dryers, lockers which you can either rent monthly with a combination lock or lockers just for day use: accessed with your membership card.”

“That is nice,” I say, thinking I’d rather die than change clothes in a locker room. I’d been scarred for life in high school locker rooms. No need to repeat that trauma.

“We also provide shampoo and soap in the showers, hair spray, deodorant, Q-tips, mouth wash and tissues.”

Mouth wash? Deodorant and shampoo? Are people sleeping here too? Good grief.

Sensing I’m supposed to go in, I wander down a long winding corridor – presumably to ensure that men can’t peep in from the hall.

The first thing that catches my eye is the luxury: sand colored marble tiles on the floor and half way up the wall. Even the lockers are veneered in wood, the mirrored stations with hair drying accoutrements look to be of professional grade, complete with marble tops that match the marble at the front desk.

Wow. Add another $10.

And it seems to go on forever. I walk through, peeking into the redwood sauna, past the steam room I see the Jacuzzi, quickly averting my eyes when I realize the women sitting inside are naked.

However, as I turn, I catch sight of several members au natural. There stands a woman completely naked, inspecting herself front to back while rubbing lotion all over her body, contorting her arms in ways I’ve never seen.

What the hell is she looking for, staring at the mirror that way – running her hands all over her body? A carcinoma? I’d think she’d be able to feel it as much touching as she is doing. No need to watch so intently in the mirror.

I don’t think I’m a prude but good heavens. Okay. Maybe I’m a prude. Changing discretely in a locker room is one thing: getting off in front of a mirror is quite another.

I turn away, knowing I’ll never change my clothes in here. There is no way I’d be able to let my flabby thighs, overhanging gut and back porch bootie shine for complete strangers to see.

I get caught in a swarm of topless 20 year olds, obviously they’d begun strip down on their way inside the locker room. It is very apparent that the front desk staff isn’t the only thing “perky” in this gym.

Something on my face must have triggered a comment from Brad when I come barreling out of the locker room. “I forgot to mention that there are actual private changing rooms for people who would prefer. They are on the back wall of the locker room.”

“Good to know,” I say, raising my eyebrow back at him, not wishing to discuss it further.

“We also have a full service salon and spa here in the club. It is between the locker rooms, here.” He points toward a frosted glass door.

“Ready to go check out the cardio floor?”

Once upstairs, Brad points out that the left half of the large area has banks of TVs. “You can tune in on your personal audio device,” he says, pointing toward discreet cards that give a frequency. “Otherwise they are all set to CC captioning if you’d like to read them. We also have our own in-house station that shows music videos. That is the music you’re hearing.”

I cock my head sideways, listening. Sure enough music plays over the PA, but not loud enough to interfere with the patrons who would prefer to work out to their mp3 players, complete with tiny earbuds, as it appears most people do. It plays a steady backdrop to the whir of the treadmills, the steady Plonk, plonk of footfall as people jog.

“We have all of the latest cardio equipment,” he says.

The rows of treadmills give way to elliptical machines and strange looking hybrids that I’ve never seen before. I do recognize stair climbers and stationary bikes but they too seem to come in various configurations. The choices are intimidating.

“Your membership comes with a complimentary 50 minute personal training session where one of our certified trainers goes over how all the cardio equipment works,” Brad says.

Well thank God for that, I think. Otherwise I was wondering if I’d need an advanced degree in physical fitness in order to operate the machinery.

“Our trainers also talk to you about adding strength training to your workouts.” Brad gestures over to the other side of the floor.

There I see contraptions that whisper of Elizabethan torture chambers and promises of pain.

As I debate asking Brad about the training staff and, of course, what that costs, I hear the occasional clanging of weights as people let them down too fast.

We’ve stopped in front of a smaller version of the marble horseshoe from the front lobby. “Here is where our trainers are stationed. Feel free to ask anyone if you have a question or need assistance with a machine. They are here to help.”

Two young women, attractive of course, are there. They both smile at us and greet us before we move towards the strength training area.

The deeper we walk into the weight machines the tangier with fresh sweat the air becomes. The ventilation isn’t as good as it is around the cardio machines.

On one side is an open wall overlooking the basketball courts. The sweat is more overbearing, verging on sour: the squeak of rubber soles stopping abruptly, men’s voices mostly muffled – occasionally rise in a shout of “open” drifts up, as does the clapping hands when someone scores.

Turning back I catch sight of myself and Brad in floor to ceiling mirrors that surround the free weights. Wow. I look at the men who are already so very buff in their miniscule muscle shirts. They stare at themselves in the mirror. Narcissistic much?

It strikes me that so far I’ve yet to see anyone in this place that actually needs to work out. I mean: they are all so super fit. I glance back at the cardio side of the room, which seems to house more women, and then back around me in the strength training side: about 85/15 men. Regardless of the gender split I seem to be the only person that has a spare tire. Or two.

The women are decked out in sleeveless racer back Easter egg colored tops and either matching or black bike shorts. The men, as I’ve already appreciated, are in shorts and itty bitty muscle shirts.

“So what questions do you have Ms. Jones?”

I bite my tongue to keep from asking where they keep their fat members. “I guess we should discuss contracts and pricing,” I say sweetly, “I want to make sure I understand what I’m getting myself into.”

“Of course,” he says. “If you’ll follow me, we’ll go back to my office.”

Stay tuned: now that you have a taste of the gym, I have two more blogs about stupid and heartbreaking things that occurred there.

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Valentine’s Day Remembered

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

If you’re looking for some romantic babblings about how I spent Valentine’s Day with my husband even though we’re a Commuter Couple you’ve come to the wrong place. That kind of crap never works out that way in my life.

Bitter much?

During the winter months one of the hardest things about both of us living in the Snow Belt is trying to time our drives while dodging snowstorms.

As you might recall, Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday this year and on Monday the 15th I was flying out from my home state for business.

With a concern for my safety we had been meticulously tracking the weather at both ends for days. Sunday seemed like the perfect day to travel as there was no snow forecasted for V-Day.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up only to find that I could barely see out the patio because of the heavy snow!

Again, we checked the weather channels and websites at both ends, “Snow showers,” it said. “Road conditions clear.”

“That’s a snow shower??” I asked, incredulous. “I’d hate to see a blizzard!”

Luckily (or so it seemed at the time) the snow where hubby lives tapered off and by 1:30 or 2pm, things looked good on that end. We began packing the car.

It is always sad when we begin packing out. It is a solemn affair. It feels just as terrible as it did when I was packing up to go back to college, leaving my home, leaving my family. Now I’m leaving my heart.

The road north was not bad. For the first 45 minutes. After that it became a nightmare. While it wasn’t actively snowing (at this point) the road was snow packed and drivers who had any sense were forced to drive well below the allotted speed limit.

For the first time I was grateful I’d left the cats with Mr. J. I had not looked forward to having the house to “myself” for the next couple of weeks. It is lonely being the only living thing in the house. But with the delays in the drive time I’m glad I’d opted to leave them instead of having our fabulous cat sitter watch them.

As I reached the last 100 miles of the trip, and as the sun began to sink, the snow began to fall, harder, driving down so fast I could barely see in front of me.

By the time I got home I was almost shaking from the stress of the drive. A drive that took two and a half hours longer than normal.

I walked into the house, carrying as much as I could in that first haul and again found myself grateful I’d left the cats. (Look for silver linings whenever you can.) Without them here I could prop open the garage door as I hauled my booty in from the car.

Only as I sat down the freezer bag on the counter did I realize:
I. Was. Not. Alone.

When I had flipped on the lights in the kitchen I had frozen in place hundreds and hundreds of ants!

The kitchen was CRAWLING with them.

I literally screamed! Like a little girl! Oh yes! I’m not ashamed to say it: I hate bugs!

Once again I thanked God I had left the cats with Mr. J. With my own skin crawling, I reached into the area under the sink and grabbed out a can of Raid for ants.

How well prepared, you might be thinking. Well. The last time they turned up I had people over for Easter dinner and spilled a little pineapple juice on the floor. When Mr. J called me into the kitchen it was literally a swarm of those nasty little beasts. That spring we could never seem to get rid of them so in desperation I bought some Raid and locked the cats upstairs for a few days. But I digress.

Screaming (this time like a warrior going into battle), I am spraying everything in the kitchen knowing that I will have to completely clean out my cabinets and wash every piece of equipment in my kitchen before I use it. I trace the little beasties, looking for their trail…there is always a trail.

As I rounded the corner in my kitchen I slip on the bug spray, of course, and down I go.

Hard.

The good news? I killed a few of the marauders with my rather generous backside when I fell.

The bad news? My rather generous backside hurts and I have to board a plane in the morning for a business trip and now my skin is crawling even more!

That night, as I’m nursing a painful hip, I flip on the TV to find out what is up with this snow and will I be able to fly out. I hear the meteorologist say, “Well, this one caught us by surprise.”

Ya think??

I turned off the TV disgusted.

It’s been a week since that “lovely” Valentine’s Day. I’ve been asked several times if I miss having the cats in the house. The truth is: Yes. Thinking back to when was the last time I was in my own home without at least a furry friend I realize it was in college. And then I had roommates: though with most of them I was grateful when they didn’t come home.

It is odd to be the only living thing in the house.

At least I hope the ants are dead.

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