The gym is not my friend. I mean, I subscribed to a gym a long time ago, and like about a zillion other people, I hardly ever went. I’m not even sure why I subscribed. Maybe it was that gruff guy who came to my job and convinced me I was a slob who carried around extra weight, and couldn’t I do better? So I spent half a paycheck to sign up — “What a deal!” — and they hooked me up with a personal trainer, a woman named Jennifer who was built like a tank. I was afraid. I was very afraid.
First off, it took me about a month to eventually end up at the gym. Part of the time away was my first look at Jennifer on the day I signed up, but the other part was hidden deep down in my psyche, in depths I wasn’t willing to plumb at the time. It had been easier to just go home after work and play video games instead, a sedentary lifestyle indeed, but one that I enjoyed. Until one morning I took off my shirt to get into the shower and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror above the sink. Uh oh. Those love handles were staring back at me.
So, I finally got my ass to the gym.
The atmosphere in the gym was electric, like I had suddenly stuck a nail into an outlet and shocked myself. What struck me the most was all the buff bodies there. Perhaps I had stumbled into a “maintenance” gym instead of a “rehabilitation” gym, one where the beautiful people came to see and be seen, and coincidentally also to maintain their lovely physiques, instead of one where the average Joe showed up to get fit or die trying.
Jennifer was a slave-driver too. Her top five phrases were:
5. Stop slacking off!
4. Five more pounds to go!
3. You’re worthless!
2. Keep moving, slacker!
1. I’m done with you!
And after one of our sessions, I honestly wished she was truly done with me. I didn’t mind the slacker talk, or even being called worthless. Just let me quit the gym, woman! But that wasn’t what happened. I felt like if I lost those five pounds she would find some other way to make me feel worthless, and I felt like if I kept moving she would figure out a way to make me move faster. Then she kept lying to me when I would quit one machine or another, telling me she was done, and I would be thinking, “Hallelujah!” but she wouldn’t be done. She would come back at me harder and more insistently. And I would keep telling myself
“I WANT TO QUIT THE GYM!”
But that didn’t happen, even though I tried my best to make it a reality. Three months later I actually went back, even though I had told myself it was over, that it was okay to forfeit the money I had already paid to the gym for the year. It was worth it to avoid Jennifer, and to avoid those last five pounds. Yet I found myself three months later heading back in those doors to face the music.
Don’t get me wrong. I was still afraid, but every month my bank statement came back and I saw how much I was paying them when I wasn’t even getting anything out of it the anger just built up inside of me. Especially when I knew I was still just vegging out in front of the TV, playing Mario Bros. and Pac-Man, and when that five pounds grew into ten. Damn. So, I went back to the gym, and back to Jennifer, and I cursed myself the whole time.
When I went back through those doors, though, I didn’t see all the beautiful people I saw three months earlier. It was like the gym had been taken over by people just like me, the ones going through rehab, and I knew I had made the right decision. Those were my people working hard to lose weight and tone their flab, just like me. I was home.
But then Jennifer showed up from the back room, told me I was worthless, and I realized I could probably do most of my exercises at home. I turned and ran, wishing my rehab brethren good luck on the way out the door. And I haven’t been back since.