Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Workout

I have become something of a nutrition junkie, though you wouldn’t know it to look at me. I’m not in the best physical shape, I drink more coffee in a day than any one woman should (and not decaf), and I have an uncontrollable weakness for doughnuts. However, over the past several years, I’ve become fascinated by how the physical body works, have turned to a vegetarian diet and limit my indulgences to as few as possible—my weight is on the way down. I’ve become an avid exerciser in the early morning hours as well.
When I first moved to California, I found the joy of 24 Hour Fitness. I love it solely because it is open 24 hours. I like to get up before the birds are chirping and college students are still out partying. I generally stroll into they gym around 4:30, do an hour on the elliptical and they a half-hour to an hour of resistance training. It’s done wonders for my well-being. Not only am I getting in a great workout, but I’m up so early that I get lots of other stuff done as well.
The branch I’d been going to was literally a five-minute walk from my apartment. Convenience made up for the inconsistency in several of the same model of stationary bike burning different amounts of calories at the same resistance. They showers weren’t exactly private (there was only one with a shower curtain—the rest were fogged doors. Some privacy, but not as much as I’d like), and the nude fest that took place in the women’s locker room every morning was enough to make a porn star blush. I’m exaggerating, but my point is made. I’ve seen more naked women that I care to, and most of them are not quite “there” with their bodies yet (myself included, which is why I try to stay covered up).
I was happy to continue going to this gym, but my husband and I decided to move about thirty miles south of the gym. There was a branch more conveniently located to our apartment, but even more so, there was one close to my office. How nice it would be to work out and go straight to the office, or take a long lunch hour and get in a few miles on the treadmill. What a great idea!
I called the toll free number on the back of my membership card to find out just how one goes about switching locations.
“Thank you for calling 24 Hour Fitness, this is Carlos, how may I help you?”
“Carlos, I have a one-club membership. I’ve recently moved and I’d like to switch clubs.”
“Would you like to upgrade to the all club? It’s only $5 more a month.”
“No, I don’t think so. I really only use one club. I’d just like to change that club.”
“What you have to do is call the club you’d like to switch to. They can do it for you over the phone.”
Fine, no problem. I called the club near my office.
“It’s a great day to get in shape at 24 Hour Fitness. This is Shelly, how can I help you?”
“Hi Shelly. I have a one club membership and I’ve just moved into your area. I’d like to switch clubs.”
“Would you like to upgrade to the all club? It’s only $5 more per month.”
“No thanks. I just want to change clubs.”
“Oh. Uh, what you need to do is call back, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 9am and 5pm.”
I looked at my watch. It was Friday afternoon around 1:30. Hmmm. I decided to let Shelly know this.
“Ok. Today is Friday and it’s 1:35 in the afternoon.”
“Right. But not today.”
“Why not today? You just said to call back Monday through Friday between nine and five. This very moment fits that criteria.”
“Right.” She sounded flustered. “But all the managers are in Orange County today for a kick-off meeting.”
“Ok. So Monday should be fine.”
“Right. Or you can call the club you want to transfer from. They can do it there.”
“Oh, so I can just call them?”
“Right, but not today.”
“Ok.” Shelly didn’t sound very bright. All right, fine. I’d go in on Monday.

Monday afternoon, I walked into the 24 Hour Fitness in University Town Center, just a few miles from my office.
“Hey! How’s it goin’?” Chip, the young man at the counter seemed a little too energetic for a Monday.
“Fine. I have a one club membership and I need to talk to someone about changing my club.”
“Ok GREAT! Do you want to upgrade to the All Club? It’s only $5 more a month.
“No thanks, Chip. I just want to switch clubs.”
“Ok. Why don’t you talk to Eric, right over there?”
Eric was sitting in a large room filled with desks and computers—presumably the sales office. Eric could easily have been my son and he was about as up beat as Chip.
“Hey! How’s it goin’?”
Did they all say this?
“Fine. I have a one-club membership and I’ve just moved. I’d like to switch clubs.”
“Ok. Do you want to upgrade to the All Club? It’s only $5 more a month.”
“No, Eric, I just want to switch.”
“Well, if you get the all club, you can go to any club—all over the country.”
“I understand that. I really only use one club.”
“Well, clearly, you don’t, if you want access to this one now.”
I sighed.
“No. I just moved. That’s why I need to switch clubs.”
“But if you switch to the all-club—“
“I don’t want to switch to the all-club. I want to keep my one-club. I just want to switch clubs. I’ve been going to that club, but now I’ve moved and I want to go to this club.”
“Well, ok, but you can only switch clubs once.”
“Once in my entire life?”
“Yes. What if you move again?”
“Why don’t you let me worry about that? If I move again, I’ll buy the all-club. OK?”
“Ok. Well, I can’t do it. A manager has to do it, so as soon as she gets back, she can do it.”
“Fine.” There were a few moments of silence.
“So, seen any good movies lately?”
I frowned. “No.” I looked at my watch. I’d been there almost 20 minutes.
“You on your lunch?”
“Sort of.” I was salaried and didn’t really have a traditional lunch hour. Sometimes I ate; sometimes I didn’t.
“Where do you work?”
“The Burnham Institute—just down the street.”
“Oh, touché.”
What? Did he just say touché?
“So, do you have any friends that you’d like to refer?”
Oh, right—like I wanted to sic my friends on this guy.
“No, Eric, believe it or not, everyone I know goes here. My husband, his parents, my boss—everyone.”
“Oh, you’re married?”
“Yes.”
“Oh, touché.”
‘Do you even know what touché means?’ I wondered.
“Well, your husband isn’t on your membership.”
“No—we weren’t married when I joined.”
“Oh, touché.”
This was getting ridiculous.
“Well, why didn’t you just join under his membership?”
“Because I joined before him.”
“Oh, touché.”
Where was that manager? I had to get away from this guy.
Finally, the manager, Melissa, shows herself.
“Hey Melissa, can you do a club change for me?” Eric asked.
“Yeah, sure. Do they want to upgrade to the all-club? It’s only $5 more a month.”
They looked at me. “No.” I was trying not to scowl.
“Ok. I just need your membership number and the club you’re transferring from.”
That’s it? I had to come in for that? Touché boy couldn’t have just written that down for me half an hour ago? Heaving a sigh, I gave him my membership number to copy down and headed back to work. The only refreshing though I had was that now a member, I didn’t have to worry about those annoying sales people anymore. If there was one thing about 24 Hour Fitness that I could trust, it was their lack of interest in me once they had my money.

The next afternoon, I had my gym bag packed into my car, ready for my noon workout. I was energetic and ready to go! I headed to the locker room to unload my gear. I had everything I needed to transform my sweaty post-workout self, back into my pristine, post-shower self. However, upon surveying this new territory, I was taken aback. This gym was much smaller than my previous gym. There were plenty of lockers, but no place to organize myself while I changed clothes. There was nowhere to change clothes, for that matter, either. I’m not really down with that whole, “let’s get naked together, girls!” attitude. I preferred to keep myself to myself. I took my shorts and sporty bra into the toilet stall and did my best not to step in the bowl.
Donning the proper gear, I headed out to the floor. I found an empty elliptical trainer and got to work. As I huffed and puffed, I noticed that both the weight area and the cardio area were very small. In fact, I was practically staring the man next to me in the face. His elliptical was right next to mine, but facing the opposite direction. Rather than having our backsides face each other, we were nearly nose-to-nose.
I could only handle this for about 20 minutes. The weight floor was equally crowded, so I decided to skip it. I was most likely to work out in the early morning hours anyway, so this would not likely be a problem in the future. I headed back to the locker room for a shower.
I’d had plenty of opportunity to perfect my shower routine at the old gym. I would change into my flip-flops, take off my t-shirt, wrap myself in a towel, and carefully shimmy out of my shorts and panties. I took clean under garments into the shower with me, carrying them in a plastic bag or hanging them along with my towel over the shower curtain. Once in side the shower, I’d take off my sporty bra and shower in private. Post shower, I’d put on my bra and panties, and walk safely covered in my towel back to my locker. I could easily step into pants or a skirt while still in my towel. At this gym, however, such a routine was impossible. I had managed to get shower ready with no problem, but when I walked into the shower room, I starred in horror at the stalls—they had NO shower curtains or doors—just wide open doors. Many a bare buttock was displayed. Group showers were not for me. I elected to stay sweaty, changed back into my work gear and headed back to the office where I promptly called the corporate office and cancelled my membership.

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