I’ve never been much of a “gym” person. Tight clothes designed to squeeze everything in paired with a bra that wouldn’t support a sandwich baggie of grapes isn’t really my style. Especially when all the equipment is arranged to make you walk by every other person trying to buff it up. The malarkey that people aren’t paying attention to you is just that, malarkey. Thought shoot off like pimples on a roided up jock when I see another woman in a skin tight workout suit. They’re not malicious comments or sexually devious thoughts, but I expect her to run like she killed a man. When I pass by the men with sleeveless shirts and thigh-tight shorts, I anticipate him cracking out the 200lb weights and putting on a show.

Aside from interacting with health conscious people, the other dreadful part of the gym is the cost combined with a vague contract. Thankfully after 20 something years of being called every synonym for far by my grandmother, the cost of my gym membership is free, for me at least; not so much for the generous old woman though. No, for her, it’s $21.34 a month plus a yearly fee of $48. Not that she cares though, as long as her morbidly obese granddaughter is attempting to lose weight, she’s happy to lose some money. For my own sanity I would like to clarify that for a few years I ranged from overweight to obese (quite possibly morbidly so), but toward the end of high school I lost weight making me just overweight. Fortunately for me, my Grammie has always seen me as a fat person from ages five to twenty-five. What I don’t think she’s realized yet is that the only two ways my gym membership can be terminated are by my death, or my permanent inability to work out due to a physical condition, lack of motivation and a dislike for people doesn’t count. There is a small exit window around your anniversary day/month. The gym will automatically renew you; if by some bizarre reason you wanted to escape the façade of a healthy lifestyle or call it quits on your New Year’s resolution, there is hope. You will have to go to the front desk (well actually you’ll have to know your anniversary is coming up and/or check your credit card bills) and ask for a form that will terminate your contract after you pay for the next two months. Then you are free from the gym. Assuming I’m not dead or disfigured, and if I can remember that I joined the gym in January, I should be able to bail next year.

For now, in preparation for going to the gym, I plan my outfits to look like as much of a bum as possible as to avoid setting people’s expectations too high. I do have sneakers designed for walking; running sneakers are bright and imply that I’m going to run far, fast, and for fun. I rotate a few old t-shirts that would’ve been put in the pile to use while repainting the house save the fact that they’re still in great, unworn condition. Assuming I ever workout enough to destroy them, I’ll add them to the painting pile. Since my thighs are thunderous and strangers, they would never survive the friction from meeting while walking, so I stick to long pants and capris. Shorts are not an option, so I opt for capri sweatpants complete with a cheesy number in gold that I’ve had since 8th grade and have maybe worn twice. The only other pair of “athletic” bottoms I have a pair of gray leggings that make me look about 20lbs heavier which means I can’t wear them out in public so why not wear them to the gym? People will see a chubby girl ill-equipped for the gym attempting to slim down, and the bar is as low as it can go for my “beginners” workout. Beginner might not be the most accurate term to describe me, since I used to spend an hour every day in the summer walking up and down the biggest hills in town. At one point I was in phenomenal shape, but somewhere between moving and a fourth concussion I fell out of shape.

The only reason I joined this particular gym, aside from the lower cost, was for the movie theater room. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a fairly large room, with one row of ellipticals (and two Stairmasters), a row of treadmills, and a row of stationary bikes all facing toward a giant movie screen, and each day they play a different unannounced movie and run it continually. The movie choices range from spectacular (ex: The Longest Yard… I alone laughed, and laughed audibly) to questionable (ex: American Psycho… where I was the only one to cover my eyes when the dog got curbed stomped). Sometime last week when I actually made it to the gym in some “this girl is hopeless, but trying” ensemble, I went to the counter, checked in, and headed downstairs passing all the serious gym goers lifting weights and checking out their assorted muscles to the women’s locker room. Like every other one of my guest appearances I’ve made at the gym, I threw my coat and my keys into locker 57, crossed my arms and made my way back upstairs to the movie theater room. I was happy to see there were only one other member in the room, and he was on a stationary bike which meant I had the treadmills all to myself. The movie was an action packed, end of the world movie, I remember because I was so involved in the storyline I would look away anytime I thought someone was going to get crushed or die. During one of these moments I was looking away I noticed a very short, skinny, tiny younger man walk in and hope on a treadmill three to my right. I had just tuned back into the movie screen when the bright white twiggy man started stretching like an awkward kid in a high school gym class.

After suppressing a giggle or two at my own comparisons I rejoined the main character and his attempt to save all of humanity. At this point, the main character is trying to save the whole ship while risking sacrificing himself. I’m now emotionally invested in his life after walking at a speed of 3.8 (which actually means nothing to me) for the past 35-40 minutes, and as it seems that the main man is closer and closer to death, I’m walking faster and faster, trying not to be the girl that cries at the gym. As I’m wiping the sweat from my eyes, really I wasn’t crying because I thought the leading man really did die or anything, I hear this heavy breathing, almost gasping noise, coming from my right. I look over to see the twig man wearing what can only be described as the result of a ski mask and a gas mask having a baby together, running faster than I’ve ever seen anyone run in my entire life. Deciding that he is training to be a fire man or psycho killer, I refocus on the movie, where we have confirmation that the main character died. The main character never dies, and he did. He did. I’m starting to really sweat from my eyes now – it’s not a waterfall situation, but I’m consistently sweating from my eyes.

As I’m trying to control my tears, and the twig man’s pounding steps are getting louder and harder, the main character’s head pops up like a piece of toast should jump out of a toaster. I giggle, I’m so relieved to know that he survived I giggle while the masked twig man stops running almost as abruptly as the head that just popped out. He jumps on the sides of the treadmill and lets the machine keep chugging on, while he peels off his gas/face mask. At this point I’m in emotional distress from the movie and having America’s next wanted serial killer running to my right; I barely noticed when my machine beeps for the cool down. Somehow between the movie and the fear for my life, I managed to walk a full 60 minutes and tackle almost a full 4 miles at varying speeds. If only my grandmother could see me now, smiling with tears in my eyes, wearing a non-matching, dumpy outfit sweating like a pig in a butcher’s backyard next to a man holding a gas mask… some people have to pay a lot more than twenty a month for that action. For me, it’s just another reason why I will never be a “gym” person. 

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