Friday, October 26, 2007

Here’s To The New Gym. Same As The Old Gym

Ask Mr. Long IslandBy Michael Watt

When I joined yet another gym earlier this month, the thought occurred to me that I have more former gym memberships (seven) than I do former girlfriends (six – give or take a second date or two).

Make of that what you will, but I hope this gym relationship lasts a good, long time – because joining a gym can be even more awkward and uncomfortable than dating.

Take that first day at the gym, for instance. Just like a first date, you don’t really know what to expect. Will you be welcomed? How long will it take you to feel comfortable? This assumes, of course, that at some point you get to feel comfortable. This is not always the case, as gym veterans know. In the early 1980s, for instance, I joined a gym in Massapequa with my friend John. It was inhabited mostly by muscleheads and the like. John was about an inch shorter than me but a lot stronger and so he fit right in. The bulk of my exercise, on the other hand, was moving that little spike way up on the stack of weights to significantly reduce the burden I had to pull up, press down or push away. I swear I could hear the whole place silently snicker as I did so.

Did not belong to that place for long.

A couple of years later I noticed there was a ring around my waist that had never been there before. Apparently the kid who could wash down a pizza with a Fribble and experience no discernible weight gain was now the adult who did not ride his bicycle everywhere he went as he did in high school or traverse the hills posing as streets in Scranton as he did in college. I decided to explore the possibility of joining a gym again and paid a visit to the place that is across the street from the Sunrise Mall. My plan was to “check things out.” Silly me. Once I walked through that front door I might as well have had a sign on my forehead that read, “Gullible and Vulnerable – take your pick.” They assigned me to a gym bunny “to help with any questions I might have about the facilities.” During our “conversation” she took out a caliper to measure the aforementioned “ring” around my waist. She said if she could “clip” more than an inch then I had better get involved in an exercise program Post Haste. So what happens? She grabbed at least an inch of waist with the caliper – who didn’t see that coming? I was so mortified I would have signed up for a tour of duty in Iraq if doing so meant I would never again have to experience an attractive young lady measuring my fat content.

Lasted there about a year.

Soon after I left I joined a gym in Wantagh with my friend Jack, mostly to play racquetball. Well, to be more precise, mostly to lose to Jack in racquetball. Great workout, though.

Then I got married. Like most new grooms I saw little reason to exercise on a regular basis once I tied the knot. Before I knew it I was several years removed from the gym scene while knocking off a pint of Ben & Jerry’s before bedtime on a regular basis. Not good.

In the early 1990s I was living in Farmingdale and working in Valley Stream so I joined a gym in Rockville Centre. A lot had changed in the gym world in my absence, however. They had these new things called spin classes and aerobics. I found it all so intimidating I opted instead to go jogging through the streets of Rockville Centre. After a while I realized that I could just as easily run through the streets of Farmingdale without having to part with that monthly gym stipend.

I like to jog because a) I get a lot of fresh air that way and b) it does not cost anything. This plan worked through 1998. I even participated in two NYC Marathons. Then I had to have knee surgery – minor enough that I did not miss any work but major enough that I have not run since. With my 20-year college reunion coming up in 2001, however, I decided to re-visit the gym world, just in case any of my former classmates came to the reunion armed with calipers.

I am on my third gym since then. I suppose I am still searching for a gym with a comfort level, although I am not sure what that would entail. I hope this gym works out, though (wow – that pun just spilled out). Just as I don’t need any more former girlfriends, I don’t need any former gym memberships, either.

Thank you for reading this column.