Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Tale of Two Gyms

Dear friends,

I just survived one of my most humiliating experiences in recent memory, and I tell you this with pride, because I got through it, and also with a great deal of embarrassment, because I am still mortified.

You see, I've joined two gyms so far this year.  I took a three month membership at a community centre gym (sort of) near the company I temped at while I was looking for my permanent job.  I found my current gig, took a long break from working out after my membership expired, and then I joined a gym again last week, because I was at the point where I just couldn't stand my fat ass anymore (i.e. I wanted to buy clothes and literally nothing was fitting).

I must state that fat asses are a common female problem (at least, many of us think we have them even if we do not) and so they are not actually that remarkable.  Except, if you remember, I have ass envy because my ass is naturally flat as a runway.  So when my ass is fat, it means that the rest of me is ENORMOUS.

So!  I bought a new membership, this time at a gym close to both my house and my work place - and it was very affordable.  Plus the key demographic of this gym seemed to be way younger than at the community centre - great! 

If you've ever joined a gym, you'll know that gym memberships come with complimentary fitness assessments.  I foolishly thought that the assessment at my new gym would be pretty similar to the one at my old one.  I was, very unfortunately, wrong.

See, at gym #1, I was assessed by this kindly trainer who actually sort of reminded me of an older version of one of my high school drama teachers.  They even had the same first name!  (Rob.)  He was this friendly, gentle-voiced bear of a man, who was muscular in a naturally stocky way.  I did a grip test, a push up test, a sit up test, a flexibility test, a blood pressure test, a body fat measurement, and a cardio test.  He asked if I wanted to be weighed and I told him that I'd rather keep that information to myself, so he told me which scale in the facilities was the most accurate.  Then, he showed me around the gym, gave me exercises to do, and I just did my thing from then on.  Easy peas.

At gym #2, I was greeted at the entrance by this huge dude the size of a small house.  Not exactly like, NFL/NHL player huge, but he was quite, quite large.  Mike, who turned out to be 27, had a baby face on top of a hulking, stereotypical gym trainer, almost bodybuilder-like physique.  Not gonna lie - I don't normally like them quite so meaty, but he was kind of cute.

It became clear right away why he was late for our appointment - he was a talker.  He was friendly and rather charming, in a take-10-minutes-to-answer-every-individual-question-you-have kind of way.  He gave me all kinds of fitness and nutrition tips, told me about his Chinese ex-girlfriend and her family (he's Italian) in a minimally yellow-fever-creepy way, asked me about Japanese family attitudes towards women dating non-Japanese men (I'm guessing he's after a Japanese girl next), asked me about my health issues and concerns and fitness goals.

Then he took out the measuring tape.

What?! A measuring tape?  This didn't happen last time!  Did he really have to measure me?

"Well, yes, of course!  How else are we going to be able to see if you've improved later on?" Mike said cheerfully.  "And then after this, we will weigh you."

WHAT THE WHAT???  If I were the swooning type, I would have swooned.  I could feel bile shoot up my throat.  I could feel my cortisol levels skyrocketing and I started gazing at the exit and windows longingly.

Past childhood, I've never had anyone take my weight and measurements.  Any measuring of my person has always been done independently, in the most secluded, secret location possible, with the results written in code so that no one could ever decipher them.  Likewise, I follow a whole procedure whenever I manage to get the courage to weigh myself.  It must happen first thing in the morning, right after I wake up.  I must not have consumed any food or liquids that day.  I must not be wearing any clothing.  I must not have had a big and/or salty meal the night before.  And (sorry for TMI) if I have a bowel movement, I weigh myself again and take the smaller number.

But here I was, after a long day at work, after having eaten a whole day's worth of food, and I was, of course fully-clothed - and I had to get weighed by a semi-attractive stranger!  The horror!

I have to add that I have never given anyone my real weight before, let alone my measurements.  Not a single person.  Not to my closest girlfriends, not to my doctor, and not even to ski lodge equipment adjusters who needed to know my weight for safety reasons.  Dying from a ski accident because I gave the wrong weight to the staff and got fitted for inappropriate skis?  That I could deal with.  Telling people my actual weight?  NO. F*CKING. WAY.

But I had nowhere to go and nowhere to hide this time.  Mike was as insistent as he was upbeat, much to my chagrin.  The only way I could get out of it was if I were to run out of the gym, never return, and forfeit my 14 month membership.  I can't afford to flush $273 down the toilet at this point in my life, so I had no choice but to submit myself to the indignity of getting measured.

Mike didn't do anything wrong.  He was a total professional, had an iron poker face (no raised eyebrows, to my relief), didn't do anything to make me feel uncomfortable - except read my measurements back to me.  When the scale read 1234567890 pounds, he even kindly told me that I don't look like I weigh 1234567890 pounds at all, that I carry it well.

After all this trauma, he checked my blood pressure.  It wasn't perfect, but it was okay.  "But what I really don't like," Mike explained to me, "is your heart rate.  It's pretty high.  Are you feeling nervous right now?"

Um, I just let a male stranger take my measurements, body fat percentage, and weight, and everything was way, way out of the attractive, healthy person range.  I think it's understandable that my heart rate's a little high.

"Give me your wrist and let me check," he said, cupping one of my hands in both of his huge ones and laying his thumb over my pulse to physically count every beat for a minute. "Yeah, that's probably about right," he concluded with a slight furrow to his brow.

But, ugh, having all my stats - my worse yet - read to me by a stranger was a cold, cruel reality check.  I'd also like to add that I probably would've felt much better getting measured by a woman.  The sisterhood of womanity is comforting and besides, there are things about me that I think men should never know because it's none of their business.

I felt (and still feel) like a behemoth, and that fitness assessment is probably the most effective thing that will ensure that I will keep returning to the gym regularly and eating properly.  I found myself hanging on to Mike's every word, mentally cataloguing every tip he had to offer.  I had the impulse to do anything he said to get those dreaded numbers to improve - hell, if he told me that taking arsenic in small doses is good for you, I might do it.  I am even seriously considering getting the two discounted personal training sessions he offered me, even if it means I'll have to sweat in front of him one-on-one - and before you cynics jump all over that, he emphasized that he earns no commission from selling personal training sessions.

The odd thing is that I didn't have to do any kind of physical test like I did for my first gym - no pushups or situps, no grip tests or cardio tests.  But I suppose it's a moot point, because when I go in to work out later, it'll be abundantly clear just how little it takes to hand my runway ass to me!

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