Posts Tagged ‘Gym Arc’

Hush Little Baby, Don’t You Cry….Gym Arc 3 of 3

Monday, March 15th, 2010

I walked into the locker room of Unbridled Nakedness (see previous posts if you need further explanation) and stopped short when I piled into a gaggle of young girls stacked seven deep in a line. They had stopped suddenly as a woman who was in at least in her 60s, walked in front of them. The woman they were waiting on to pass had nothing on (that I could see) except a towel around her WAIST.

I’ve already owned up to being a prude so not only did I run smack into girls, I also resembled the girls insofar as I was standing there my mouth dropped open, looking like a guppy.

Without getting too graphic let me just say this woman (in her 60s, did I say that already? Well it bears repeating.) had the largest set of ‘er, well, breasts, I’ve ever seen with the naked eye. The visage of a (clothed) Dolly Parton popped into my head, actually. And while gravity hadn’t been too kind to the naked sexagenarian, I quickly felt down to my size B- cups to make sure my saggy, baggy boobs (I lied about not getting too graphic) were strapped up inside my sports bra: a place where they cannot go anywhere regardless of how much I might need to take a deep breath and decided that age had been kinder to her, in myriad of ways apparently, than it had ever been to me.

After the spectacle, the girls moved along and I escaped to a locker where I divested myself of my coat and car keys. As I was locking up, trying to get the image of that woman’s breasts out of my mind, I found myself wondering what was up with the group of girls. There are rarely more than 1-2 girls in the locker room at any given time. Heading out of the locker room (and trying to keep my eyes on the floor) I once again stopped short.

There were the girls. Now, however, I noticed they all had on t-shirts that said, “I Came to Play” sprawled across their backs. They were standing, still in a line, with a perky 20-something gym employee-cum-camp-counselor with them. The ‘camp counselor’ was – you guessed it – blonde. They are always blonde. They are always perky.

The chipper 20-something was weighing each girl on the scale kept in the locker room. This is not your normal bathroom scale. It is a stainless steel box that when you get on it, your weight is displayed on the wall in a nice red digital format, rather large font. I glanced at the line of girls and wondered what on earth would possess anyone to weigh young girls in a public setting where they each get to see each others’ weight.

Aren’t our young girls already too focused on their weight and have body image issues? Why start them at eight or nine or ten?

Then I caught myself and thought, “Lara – not everyone has weight whack-a-do-ness like you do.”

I quickly scanned the line of girls. They were all about the same weight, probably around 60 pounds. All of the girls were laughing and looking on curiously as the girl in front of them was weighed. They didn’t seem stressed out.

Then I saw the girl at the back of the line. She was not joining in the friendly chatter; she was not smiling. She was heavier than the rest of the girls. And when she looked up and I saw the unhappiness in her eyes I wanted to scream at the 20-something: “Stop it! Right now! Do you have any idea what you’re about to do to this child?”

In the next few minutes, if it hasn’t happened before, that young, heavy set little girl is going to be stigmatized and it might take her 30+ years to get over it.

I know of which I speak.

Suddenly I was transported back to my first grade classroom: Classes for first and second graders were taken in what used to be called, “Pre-Fabs.” The buildings were wooden, and the floors noisy when young children ran across them. I can still smell the chalk, and hear the loud excited voices as we all line up, grateful for any chance to get out of our desks.

Mrs. Walls, in her infinite wisdom, had decided to draw a long line on the chalk board where we would learn about numbers plotted on a number line. As part of the lesson she was going to weigh us and then we would plot our weight along the line. She had already told us that she would be point farthest away.

Like the little girl in the gym locker room, as we all filed down to the side of the classroom to form a straight line, I too, hung toward the end of the line.

Why wouldn’t I? I was the fat kid.

I watched as each child ahead of me was weighed and then successfully plotted their respective weights on the number line.

When it came my turn, red hot shame suffused my face and I refused to get on the scale.

There was nothing Mrs. Walls could have done would have coerced me onto that hateful piece of metal. “But, dear,” she said, her voice kind, not to mention clueless. “If you don’t want to be weighed can you tell me how much you weigh?”

Having no idea how much I actually weighed but almost in tears I blurted out the biggest number I knew, “125!”

Even Mrs. Walls gasped.

My humiliation was complete when I walked to the black chalkboard and with trembling hands plotted the hateful number in front of my abruptly silent classmates.

Mrs. Walls duly weighed herself and recorded her weight as 128.

Snapping myself back to the Locker Room of Unbridled Nakedness and to the young girl at the back of the line who was fidgeting nervously as she grew closer and closer to the scale, I longed to take her into my arms and tell her it would be okay: that her weight isn’t an indicative of her value as a person. Unfortunately I had to turn 40 before I realized that….and occasionally it is still a struggle.

I wish I could tell her that she would not be judged by her size or her looks, but that would be a lie unless something drastic changes in our society.

I wish I could tell her that this moment in time doesn’t matter but chances are she will remember that day in the locker room as one of the worst days of her young life.

Standing in one spot long enough that I was beginning to draw looks from the girls, I weighed my options. What could I do? What could I say either to the little girl or to the 20-something camp counselor? Any interference on my part would only draw attention to the little girl and I’m fairly sure that is the last thing she’d have wanted.

I swallowed hard and forced myself to leave the locker room and head toward my car. I felt like a failure. I felt as if I’d watched a train wreck and then turned my back, walking away from the victims.

It has been two weeks since I ran into the group of girls in the locker room and still I am haunted by the face of the little girl at the end of the line as well as haunted by my own painful past in similar shoes.

This was the story I set out to tell when I started my gym arc of these three posts. I hope you enjoyed them all. It was fun to write to a theme….and fortunately for me, there is a lot of fodder at my gym!

A question to you now: what could I have done differently? What words of wisdom might you have offered to that little girl or even this old-little girl? What own torturous stories of childhood do you have to share with me? We all know misery loves company! I hope to hear from you here or on FB or via email.

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Someone: Send Chocolate, 2 of 3

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

I must have cabin fever. It is, after all, the beginning of March and I still have roof high snow drifts around my house, and did I mention the roof is leaking? Therefore, I am irritable. This is the kind of irritability that normally strikes me in the dead of December when the world is at its darkest, in a solar sort of way.

Yes I suffer from SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. But we are 60+ days past the Winter Solstice and the days are growing longer. You’d think I’d be joyous.

You’d be wrong.

There is no pill I can pop or a light box I can sit beside to cure cabin fever. What is needed is a two week (hopefully paid for by someone else) vacation in the Caribbean. But is that going to happen? No.

In fact the only place I seem to be going these days is to the gym. You remember my gym, right? If you haven’t read my previous blog, go do so now. Then come back and listen to me rant. Please.

The other day I’m walking out of the Locker Room of Unbridled Nakedness (yours truly excepted, of course) when I overhear a personal trainer say in a consoling voice to a woman I suspect is one of her clients, “No, don’t worry about it. Muscle weighs more than fat.”

My legs lock and I feel a muscle around my eye begin to twitch.

“Muscle weighs more than fat.”

Oh does it now?

That statement is one of my favorite pet peeves. It is right up there with “Can I ask you a question?”

How can muscle weigh more than fat?

One pound of muscle weighs exactly one pound. One pound of fat weighs exactly one pound.

See where I’m going with this?

Having been on the receiving end of this stupid statement (which in all truthfulness didn’t strike me as stupid at the time because I was so miserable about a weight gain) what I believe people are trying to do is console someone who has experienced a weight gain when in fact they were expecting a weight loss.

So the question remains: what are they really trying to say? Obviously they aren’t going for a literal statement here. Or if they are then it says a lot about the sorry state of our math education in the school system because: 1 pound = 1 pound. Fat, muscle, chocolate or china. One pound = one pound = one pound.

I used to think the intent of this statement, “muscle weighs more than fat,” was to say, “You look smaller so obviously you’ve gained ‘muscle’ which is causing you to weigh more.”

Was that supposed to make me feel better? I should be pleased with a weight gain because I am gaining muscle?

Well genius, I hate to break it to you but no one wants to weigh “more” when they are trying to lose weight. So you might as well save your breath. And if you insist on trying to cheer your tubby friend up, please don’t regale them with the “muscle weighs more than fat” axiom.

It was all I could do to not go over and pimp-slap the perky blonde trainer and toss a Milky Way bar to her chagrined chubby client while I explained very basic math concepts with a bright red crayon on the sand colored marble floors.

Deep breath, I told myself. After all, isn’t the reason I work out to reduce my stress??

The twitching muscle around my eye beat a staccato tattoo all the way home and as I bit down into creamy milk chocolate I was glad I hadn’t given my Milky Way bar away.

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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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