Tag Archives: fitness

Live Free. Die Hard. Use Gym Equipment Properly.

Live free or die hard.

Live free or die hard.

There is a gym at the intersection of 2nd and Danforth in Edmond, Oklahoma. Edmond is a suburb of Oklahoma City and is like most other suburbs in the world except maybe a little more spread out and far from major bodies of water. We don’t even have a river.

The gym used to be called Aspen. It was fun to say, “I’m going to Aspen,” and imagine that you were going to the mountains to ski wearing a white mink coat. It was also fun ask people, “How’s your Aspen?” It almost works because most people would go to the gym to do something to their Aspen, to shrink it or firm it up or make it more bubbly.

I’ve spent many cumulative hours in this gym, though it is no longer called Aspen. It was purchased by Gold’s some time ago and now has all those really annoying signs around it with attractive people wearing shorts and sports bras lifting 5 lb. free weights or stepping in a puddle: “Pain is temporary. Quitting is forever.” “Your body can stand almost anything. It’s your mind you need to convince.” “Work hard. Work hard.” I don’t really get the last one.

Growing up, visiting the gym was usually a bit stressful for me. I was uncomfortable with strangers seeing me sweat or exert myself in any way. I was convinced, incorrectly, that I was not athletic because I was not thin. If I could have exercised in a dark room away from the glaring fluorescent lights and television screens broadcasting Fox News and Maury, I certainly would have chosen it. In fact, I would have paid a premium to hide the shame of my perspiration somewhere even I wouldn’t have to see it.

My teenage gym dream has come true. There is now a cinema room at Gold’s Gym. A cinema room is a darkened enclave within the larger gym complex. It is so dark, in fact, that if you walk directly into the room after having been outside in the noonday sun, you won’t be able to see anything, and you’ll have to grope each piece of equipment to find out if it’s an elliptical trainer, treadmill, or stationary bike. This is probably what aliens feel like when they probe people.

The machines are arranged in front of a movie screen that is showing  – unsurprisingly – a dude movie of some stripe. Granted, I’ve only been in there twice, but the first time they were playing an Adam Sandler film (not Punch-Drunk Love), and the second time was Live Free or Die Hard.

I visited the gym today and was very excited about getting to use the Cinema Room and experience the joys of working out in the dark. True to form, when I walked in I almost immediately ran into a machine in the pitch-black room. After touching every piece of equipment, I finally found an elliptical trainer and placed  my feet on the landing pads and started to ellipticise. At that moment, I looked up and saw Bruce Willis, covered in dirt and sweat and blood, giving another man a wiener-withering glare. This is what I was working for, that kind of power.

I’d burned 235 calories after being on the machine for 17 minutes. Sweat had completely soaked the back of my shirt and my chin was dripping too. On screen, I watched Bruce single handedly break into a federal government building and throw a Russian assassin through a turbine. He was doing everything he could to save his sassy but still kind of wimpy daughter. I pushed my mph to 7.5.

At 43 minutes, everything on my body was soaked in sweat. I was going backwards now since my toes had gone numb and I thought, “Should I end it here?” But Bruce had just commandeered an armored semi-truck and caused millions of dollars of damage to Baltimore’s infrastructure while fighting off a fighter plane before shooting himself through the shoulder in order to kill the man who was holding his daughter captive. So I kept going.

Soon the movie ended and for the last seven minutes of my workout, I was held captive to the DVD intro as it looped.  It was kind of painful, but then I thought about what Bruce had gone through to save his daughter, and what I’d gone through to find that Moroccan place for lunch, and I knew that my body could stand almost anything, including this DVD repeat torture in the darkened Cinema room at Gold’s Gym Edmond. Needless to say, I stayed. If I live an extra two minutes because of that workout, Bruce will have saved yet another person from dying too soon.

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I Am the Shwarma

200 people fit in here

I thought I had beaten the topic of the Cairo metro to death, that all the humidity, sweat, inexplicable haze, and involuntary contact with strangers had been discussed to its furthest extent. But I was wrong, pathetically wrong, and today I touched, tasted, smelled, and saw the depth of my ignorance.

Though I did not think it was physically possible, metro use has increased due to strikes on other forms of public transportation. Practically, this means the metro cars turn into a more treacherous, sweaty, place than they have been. People and children under 4 feet tall stand a good chance of suffocating should they dare to ride.

This morning, the women’s metro car rolls up, and it is already stuffed to the gills. I can almost see a puff of steam emerge as the doors open and a few fight their way off the train, leaving just under enough space for me. I and a few others shove our way on, our body masses absorbed into a greater entity created out of metro riders like a giant shwarma leg. A woman had to suck in her stomach in order for the door to close, and I thought to myself, “the fate of this entire train just depended upon the extra 3 inches of that woman’s newly concave stomach. Lord help us.”

For the next 6 minutes, I was tossed about like a baby at a potluck. Though I wasn’t holding onto anything, it didn’t matter since it was impossible to move independently of the nest of people I was firmly snuggled into. As a result, I was pushed against my will several times into a woman standing next to the door. I thought she realized I was powerless in the matter, but finally, at the stop where we and 80 percent of the train were exiting, she said, “Why are you pushing me?! I swear I’m getting off!”

Had I the language skills, I wish I could have cooed, “Yes, friend. I am pushing you because I alone out of the countless women here in the car can move of my own free will and I have decided to use this power to pester you, oh chosen one. I am glad you are ignoring the kinetic thread of female bodies behind me that might transfer energy and placed blame directly on me for your discomfort because I am, in fact, completely responsible. I am also malicious and worthy of your hatred.”

The metro doors open at Sadat and “plop!” a mass of women is spurted out onto the platform. Someone hits me in the back, and I’m not sure whether it was on purpose or whether they had temporarily lost control of their arm because of metro fever. As I was ascending the escalator  I thought to myself, “I’ve got to blog about this.”

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