In general I am suspicious of gyms and health clubs. Many of us have joined a gym at some time, and almost as many of us have paid expensive cancellation fees when it didn't work out.
In general, the "gym story" goes like this:
It is January 5th. In keeping with a New Year's Resolution you made, you join a gym.
The gym's corporate colours, blue and orange, are clean and energizing, and they make you want to go, "Rah! I can do it!"
People are already pounding away on treadmills, cycles, rowing machines and other gadgets. None of them look particularly distressed. The thought occurs to you, "If they can do it, I can." There are a whole row of televisions blathering away so you will be able to choose what you are going to watch while you are exercizing. There is even a place to put your Ipod, if you have one.
The doof-doof-doof of hyped-up music is emanating from the aerobics rooms. Every so often you hear the orgasmic cries of the Aerobics Instructor as she builds her class to greater and greater heights of ecstasy (sorry, fitness). It's a little intimidating, but perhaps its something to 'work towards', you think.
For when you are finished, there is a bathroom to rival that of a 5-star hotel. It has a sauna and a shower room, with complimentary fluffy white towels. No reason in the world why you wouldn't want to exercise here!
You sign on the dotted line, and money starts being deducted from your account at a rate of knots.
It is all downhill from there. By March 31st, you are finding it too much effort to drive 10 min to the gym. But you paid for the whole year! You flagellate yourself a little over the fact that $51.98 is going out of your account every two weeks. Surely you could get up the energy to drive to the gym just so your money isn't going to waste?
Eventually you try to cancel your gym membership, in an ego-deflating admission of defeat. But, no! Apparently you signed a contract, and you cannot cancel your membership until January of THE FOLLOWING YEAR!!!
Here is a little nugget ot truth:
"The fitness industry is an industry, and it generates profit, not fitness."It's the same for any sport- or fitness-related business. The one I especially get a giggle out of is the fashion industry.
Want to be a golfer/skier/skater/surfer? We have got the exact pants/jacket/goggles/helmet/shoes that you need.
You can't possibly golf/ski/skate/surf properly without the exact right pants/jacket/goggles/helmet/shoes, now COULD YOU? Nobody would take you seriously, if you didn't have the right gear.
I giggle even harder at people who decide to take up a sport, and the FIRST thing they do is rush out and get all the gear.
"I can't possibly do my sport without the right gear!" they say.
But between you and me, it's not really about doing the sport. It's about looking as if you do the sport. Sport gear retailers know this. When they sell you the ridiculously overpriced gear, they are selling you a dream. A new identity, if you like.
You may not be very good at golf/skiing/skating/surfing. But what does it matter? You look like you are...
Bearing all of this in mind, my sister and I fronted up to the gym.
"We'd like to join for a month, on a trial basis," we said.
The gym salesman, an enthusiastic Asian dude called Frank, was a little surprised.
"Let me tell you about the Premium Saver deal," he said. We sat patiently while he did the sell job on the 'deals' the gym had to offer. All of them involved committing to more time and more payments than we wanted. Surprise, surprise!
"We want to join for a month, in case it doesn't work out," we repeated. Then, we deployed our secret negotiating weapon: my sister's baby (tricky mom! tricky aunty!). "We can't exercise unless the baby goes in the creche. We need a month to find out if she's going to settle into it," we explained.
Frank said he might be able to do a special deal for us, but he needed to go talk to his Manager. While Frank was away, my sister and I tried to outdo each other with wisecracks about what he might actually be doing.
"Having a cigarette?"
"Calling his girlfriend."
"Calling his cat!"
Frank returned, and we got the deal we wanted. And now, to make it work, we have to actually do the exercise. Which is why, several mornings a week, I can now be found slogging my heart out on the ridiculous machines of the Extreme Fitness Gym*.
My shoes are the old sneakers that my teenage son grew out of.
My shorts came from a Bargain Basement sale, and they unfortunately reveal my varicose veins. But I think I am past caring.
My shirt is the one my husband got for me on his last Band Tour.
I am working on improving my fitness. For the first 5km of the treadmill or bike, I hate every step. When I look around me at the other people on those machines, I think, "I know your pain." Every minute that ticks past, I moan, "Surely it's time to stop now, I really want to stop. I am so going home. This sux major ass."
My secret weapon is definitely not my gear and it is not my expensive gym membership, either. It's my sister, of course. She is exercising on the machine right next to me. If it wasn't for her, I'd hop down and go have a chai latte with skim. But I can't stop, because she is still working hard, and if I get down, I will look like a pussy.
Afterwards we have a little moan about how hard it was, and we say "Good job!" to each other.
I will let you know how it works out...
P.S. *Not its real name, of course!
P.P.S. If you are working on your fitness, then let me know and I will be rooting for you!