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.