My tour began in the locker room, where Sven easily pointed out the lockers and then, his confidence growing by the moment, correctly identified the showers.
I joined a health club about a month ago. This came about because I glanced in a downtown storefront window and spotted Rush Limbaugh walking by. The sight of the whalelike creature disgusted me.
Except it wasn’t Rush Limbaugh. It was me. This frightened me badly, causing me to drop the sack of fudge and the half a lamb I was carrying and set off running down the street, although I had to stop after about 15 feet because I felt like I was going to pass out.
The health club thing is nothing new to me. It is, honestly, the eighth one I’ve joined in the past 10 years or so. Some may call it a vicious cycle of exercise for six months and then comalike behavior for six months, but that’s so negative.
I prefer to call it starting something and then quitting.
This time, my goal was to get down to 175 pounds. Other goals include winning the lottery and being the next guy in the helicopter with Christie Brinkley when the engine konks out.
The most interesting part of joining a health club is the orientation, a tour of the weightlifting facilities and the design of a personal fitness program. This is also known as Being Given Ridiculous Objectives By A Guy Named Sven Who Has No Neck.
My tour began in the locker room, where Sven easily pointed out the lockers and then, his confidence growing by the moment, correctly identified the showers. A quick glance into the showers bolstered my confidence, too, because there were three guys in there whose idea of a sandwich seemed to be a dead cow and 40 acres of wheat.
One of them also was covered with body hair, giving the appearance of a large man wearing a wet raccoon coat.
We next headed downstairs and came to the door to the weight room. Sven confirmed some of my beliefs about the intellectual level of guys like this when he yanked open the door from the hinged side, giving an uneasy chuckle when he realized his error.
The next half hour was a confused blur of machines and muscles, of rowing devices and things called the anterior rhombus, I think it was. I learned that it’s the involuntary muscle in my arm that causes me to hang up the phone at the office, a muscle seemingly activated by the voice of a screeching lunatic.
We paused at the leg-weight machines and the big guy explained hamstrings and quadriceps and knee flexers. He demonstrated one machine designed to build huge calf muscles.
I made a mental note to avoid that one, because it seemed that if I overdid it on this device my calves would get so big that I’d be unable to pull my socks up to my knees the way I like them.
We made a quick slide over to the free weights, which include barbells and dumbbells. This latter term, as you know, has come to have a second meaning over the years, a reference not only to the bar itself but also to the people who use it too much.
I thought about pointing out this funny quirk in the English language to Sven, but decided against it when I looked at one of his arms and realized I’ve had apartments that weren’t that big.
Next on the Tour de Ben-Gay Ointment were the chest machines and back machines. I thought these could come in handy for a guy like me, because stronger and thicker chest and back muscles would make it less painful when people walk all over me.
We went to another machine and there was a brief discussion about “tightening the muscles of the buttocks.” I quickly calculated the cost of the club and the time needed to tighten my buttocks. I mused that I could use that same money for great social causes like feeding the hungry.
Call me shallow, but I opted for tight buttocks. Sven nodded his approval.
Soon we were back in the men’s locker room to see the steam room. Inside were a host of middle-aged men without any clothes on, sprawled on benches and sweating like, well, like big fat guys in indescribable heat.
This is the feature of health clubs purposely not mentioned in the brochure, a marketing masterstroke.
Because sitting with overweight, hairy, naked men in a tiny room with the thermostat cranked up to Guatemala-August, well, a thing like that just isn’t for everybody.
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