Did you know that 43.4 million Americans have a gym membership? That’s 43.4 million people in this country who prefer to pay money to work out in a gym, rather than exercise outside for free. I think about this point often because: I have a gym membership. And periodically feel the weight of having to justify it to my a-little-on-the-thrifty-side self.
I tell myself that due to weather considerations, you can’t always go for that brisk walk/jog/run outside, which means no exercise at all. And that would be a bad thing. But then, I live in California. Near the coast. Not exactly known for long stretches of blizzard-like conditions. Frankly, I don’t even remember the last time the weather was so bad around my house that I couldn’t go outside and take a walk at least three times a week. Hmm.
Of course, if you don’t count the dog, the walks are pretty solitary. On the other hand—the gym is rife with all kinds of constant entertainment. It starts with the “groupings”. Most of us “gym rats” can be put into three groups:
- The older crowd. This is my group. We go to the gym—not so much to fit into that skimpy bikini come the summer (although it’s always a secret dream), but because we need to get some cardiac exercise (not cardio—that’s very chic, but we do cardiac, as in to help prevent a stroke and heart attack.) Or to get some impact exercise for our bones, and weight training for our muscles—can’t ignore the constant threat of osteoporosis or the dreadful droop of atrophying muscles. We tend to get there early in the morning—between 6 am and 8am—even on the weekends. It’s all the same to us. And we wear whatever is handy and comfortable—not to mention loose fitting. We say “hi” to each other, and when we start up a conversation, we actually look at the other person and have a conversation. Mostly about kids, grandkids, house projects, travel.. and if we are still working, maybe throw in a comment or two about that—but not very often. Actually, we’re happy to talk about pretty much anything (besides our jobs). We tend to notice the members in the other groups, but rarely approach or talk to them. Probably because one group is too stressed out, and the other– well, we aren’t sure they are actually speaking in a known language.. at least we don’t recognize it.
- The up and coming 30-55 year old crowd. They are usually in a hurry—stopping by in the very early hours before they go to work, or rushing in after work for a quick turn at a class or machine before heading home. Usually they don’t have time to chat, but when they do the subjects tend to be around work, children, and husbands/wives—and usually in that order. With very little variation. They tend to wear workout outfits that fit well and are reasonably color-coordinated, and sport newer tennis shoes. Due to time constraints, they don’t usually notice the rest of us. They’re on a tight schedule.
- The under 30’s.. despite the communication barrier, this is the entertaining group! I’m not sure how much “working out” they actually do. They are mostly on patrol, constantly circling in and out of the various exercise areas – always on the lookout for, well, basically each other. If they do happen to hop onto the treadmill—they don’t walk, they run. If they use weight machines, they are set on the highest number. But mostly, they patrol. And when they need a break from patrolling, they sit on the weight machines and chat with each other, or have their phones out doing instant messaging. They wear the absolutely latest style in tennis shoe, and a lot of spandex—but face it.. at their age they would look good in a wheat sack, so the spandex is just an additional attraction for whatever or whomever it is they are on patrol for. It can be a lot of fun, and helps pass the time for those of us who actually need to be on that treadmill (see group #1 above!) to keep track of the number of times they pass by while performing this ritual. They take notice of group #2 in a “pitying” sort of way. Group #1– we’re basically invisible to them.
But I have to admit—the real entertainment is in the parking lot! There are days that I feel I should just bring some popcorn and sit out in the parking lot and watch all the activity. Out in the parking lot, there is no group division. Everyone pretty much acts the same when it comes to deciding on where to park their car.
There are always parking spaces out in the back which is about a 60 second walk to the front door, but it doesn’t make any difference. At the peak hours , the gym rats in every group will circle and circle and circle, looking for the closest spot. They will even invent parking spots next to short curbs and in other strange, hard- to –maneuver- into places, just to park closer to the door.. at the gym.. where you have come to exercise. Apparently—walking in from the parking lot doesn’t count as exercise.
Watching the parade, short tempers, blocked traffic—somehow always makes me laugh. Here are very smart people, who most likely hold responsible jobs or get good grades in shcool (depending on that group they are in), and they will not walk 1 minute in order to get into a building to exercise! It’s really something to ponder on- as I am walking out to my car—in the back of the gym. I need the extra exercise!Share