One weekend this summer I was “Down the Shore” and wanted to work out. Normally, my weekend workouts consist of running up and down the Seaside Heights boardwalk sans shirt with some kind of mega-mix blasting in my iPod. This is by far the best way to combine working out and clubbing into one enjoyable experience and also the motivation to shave my entire torso every Thursday from mid-April to late-September. However, this weekend was a little different, it had been a hectic week up north and I couldn’t get all of my regular workouts in during the week, so the weekend was here and I wanted to lift. The Jersey shore will do this to you, I’m a pretty even-tempered guy, but after a few hours in Seaside all I want to do is lift weights, get tattoos and brutally beat homeless people (you kind of have to experience this yourself, but trust me, it’s powerful).
On previous trips home I would just take my father’s card to his gym and work out there while pretending to be him. Nobody really cared and as long as I could remember to answer to “Charlie” on the way in and out there were no problems. However, his gym hired some new manager that was less then accommodating the last time I tried this stunt (something to the effect of “Even if you really shaved your mustache and got green contacts since you got the membership, I just don’t believe you were born in 1953!”), so I had to go another route…going to a new health club and actually paying to work out.
I pulled up to the place and the parking lot was packed, I thought this was a bit odd since it was a Saturday morning and normally the only people in gyms during this time are meat-heads that work the night shift bouncing or otherwise securing something and women with eating disorders. As we all know, anyone that’s worth knowing is either still passed out or waking up groggy trying to piece the previous night together at this time. As I walk in the gym I realize the interior of the place is almost completely deserted, where the hell are all those people that drove the cars to the parking lot? Out back smoking? Making out with chicks in the woods? Playing fantasy football in some secret room behind the Stair-masters? Who knows? Anyway, when I walk up to the front desk I try to explain my situation to the front desk attendant, and she is pretty much the stereotypical “Health Club Front Desk Person”: Fake tan to the point that her skin looks like the new Louie V bag, hair died a shade of red that does not occur in the natural world, black stretch pants with a slight bell-bottom at the ankle and a hoodie advertising the name of the gym. She is only about 19, but looks 37 and I am willing to bet she’s dating a guy in his mid to late-20’s. When I walk up to the front desk the following conversation takes place:
Me: “Hi, I’m only in town for a day, how much is a one-day pass?”
Desk Girl: Blank Stare
Me: “I just want to work out today, how much will that be?”
Me: “I want to train for about an hour, just weights and maybe some cardio, no spinning, no pool, no yoga, just access to the weight room. How much do I owe you?”
DG: Removes an iPod ear-bud style headphone from her ear and says “Let me get my manager”
As I stood there waiting for the manager I tried to comprehend what exactly her job entailed if she was unable to perform that basic of a task. It was pretty clear that she must have been either dating the manager or her father owned the place and her job description involved sitting by the front door and making sure nobody stole a squat rack or elliptical trainer through the front door. After I entered the training area I realized there were no big empty spaces, so apparently nobody has been able to steal a large apparatus of any kind, she’s doing a hell of a job! When the manager finally showed up he ran through several membership options, including lifetime access for $1,500 that I would, in his words, “Be a damn fool to pass up.” Finally, I paid $10 for a one day membership. This seemed like a reasonable price until I realized a monthly membership is $30 (a dollar a day) and I paid 10x the regular price…always a shrewd businessman, way to go!
As I walk toward cardio section to get warmed up I pass a small cubicle where clients can meet with personal trainers before they start working out. I glance inside and I see a guy that’s about 5’10” 360 saying “My doctor says I need to lose weight.” This is something that has confused me my entire life, how do you not know you’re fat? How do you shop at Big & Tall stores, have to ask stewardesses for seat-belt extenders and wear khaki-pants with elastic waist bands and not realize you are significantly overweight? This statement is almost as stupid as people that grew up poor saying “We never even knew we were poor because we had so much love in our house.” It’s Effin ridiculous, I love my family to death, but if every night we all shared one packet of Ramen Noodles for dinner, I would have had a pretty good idea that we were broke. In the same vein, if you need a healthcare professional to tell to you to lose weight you are a stupid ass and I hope when you are too fat too walk that your health insurance doesn’t cover your scooter!
I get to a treadmill and decide I’m going to jog a mile to get warmed-up. They have a “Cardio Theatre," means there are 5 televisions set to the most asinine, lowest common-denominator programming available and you can plug your headphones into your machine of choice and listen to whichever one you find the least mind-numbingly stupid. Since I left my headphones in my car and it will cost an additional $5 to rent a pair (this is an incredible waste of money and paying to take a piece of foam-covered plastic out of somebody else’s sweaty ear and place it in your own is a horrible concept on so many levels). Needless to say, I do not rent any headphones and decide to gut out this mile jog while watching the live-action movie of “Underdog” on the screen right in front of me. I start out hating this arrangement, but by the time I break a sweat I am completely drawn in by the scenes of a real dog wearing a cape, flying around a city and saving people in distress. If it’s this good without sound, I have to see this ASAP…looks like a Blockbuster night is in my near future.
While I am pounding out my mile with workman-like, methodical intensity a guy gets on the treadmill to my immediate right wearing a polo shirt, pleated khaki shorts, tube socks and brown Rockport dress shoes. This is something that has also befuddled me for quite some time, how are you so committed to being out of shape that you don’ t own workout clothes? I understand a gym membership is a fairly expensive commitment by itself and the economy is making it hard for a lot of people, but have some self respect. I’m not saying you need to go to Champs and buy out the Jordan section, but go to Target and get yourself some mesh shorts and a tee-shirt so people don’t point and laugh at you when you’re doing your calisthenics.
After that awesome warm-up, I go to the weight section and begin some sets of bench press. I start with 135 (if I can’t do the exercise with at least 45 lbs. plates on each side I don’t do it in public), knock out a few sets and get to 225 (I haven’t competed in years, but I still got it, at least a little bit). It strikes me that I should probably have a spotter for this, it is awkward to ask people you don’t know for a spot, but not nearly as awkward as yelling for help when you are pinned under a barbell. There are only two guys in my general vicinity: a middle-aged fellow in a Dan Marino jersey doing deadlifts with 95 lbs. (clearly, he doesn’t ascribe to my idea about only lifting 45’s or more in public settings) and a younger dude that is jacked and completely hairless except for two massive black eye-brows that make him look kind of like a face drawn on a pumpkin with a Sharpie marker. It’s pretty obvious the old man can’t help me, so I ask “Ron Browz” for a spot and the set goes off without incident.
After some back work I go over to the Dumbbell section and start doing some Biceps and Triceps work (a weekend down the shore, of course I’m doing a straight meathead/beach workout!) While I’m doing this, there is a small group of guys that are obviously using steroids, covered in tattoos and discussing beatings and various drunken shenanigans. As I force my biceps through several sets of hammer curls to failure (I might have to get out my Richard Jefferson jersey tonight) I begin wondering what gang these guys are in, because they are talking about some pretty heinous stuff. After my third set, I hear one guy say something about “Vacation Time and getting promoted to sergeant” and it becomes obvious they are not gang members, but police officers…awesome.
At the conclusion of my workout I go into the locker room to get my stuff to drive home. When I open the door there are two completely naked grown men staring at each other and it is obvious they were in the middle of a heated exchange right before I opened the door. The silence in incredibly uncomfortable and you could cut the tension with a knife, I stand there in near shock for a second and then…Pow! Right in the Kisser! The guy farthest from me lunges forward and decks the other guy right in the mouth. He stumbles back and falls literally inches from my feet. The first guy is now yelling something about “What kind of god damn fool erases all the songs on somebody else’s iPod?” as he continues to pummel the other guy into the tile flooring. I come to the following two conclusions: First, this is the closest I ever want to be to the prison shower scene in “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” and second, how many copies of Metallica’s The Black Album could this kid have erased to warrant this kind of beating? I am temporarily unsure what to do, I can get a gym employee, but I’m pretty sure they are ill-equipped to deal with a situation like this and I will probably have to hang out and be some kind of witness if the cops are involved or I could try to break it up myself and risk getting tangled up between these two naked animals beating the crap out of each other. I decide the only reasonable course of action is to step over the mass of mangled humanity at my feet, reach in my locker, get my keys and wallet and get the hell out of there. That’s exactly what I did. I have no idea what happened to those two guys, they might still be fighting for all I know and as inept as that health club staff was, I doubt anybody went in there and broke it up, unless it was to sit them down while still naked and pitch them both some kind of “Refer a Friend” deal where they could both train there the rest of their lives for one low price.
NOTE: This post was actually a collection of several trips to this health club and the last scene was drastically exaggerated because two guys verbally arguing about an iPod in a locker room is not that entertaining.