And it is gorgeous! Leather couches, scented towels, fountains, yoga mats that feel like clouds, and a personal trainer around every corner… Yes, it was the Other Gym. (What, you thought I had a near death experience?? Actually I probably would see squishy yoga mats on my way to the light.)
Here in my little town, besides the strip mall “anytime fitnez”es & Curves, there are two main gyms: the YMCA, where I go, and across town, a behemoth of asphalt and art deco glass, the Other Gym. My Y is pretty much like every Y you’ve ever been in and while there are no actual members of The Village People, there are plenty of characters. For instance, there’s the guy that walks around the tracks swinging his arms wildly as if caught in an invisible gnat storm at all times. There’s the girl with Asperger’s Syndrome in all the Pilates and yoga classes who brings about 50 stuffed animals and lines them surrounding her mat and then proceeds to narrate the entire class to them. Then there’s the instructors who, considering they get paid like 10$ an hour, obviously teach us purely out of the kindness of their hearts, knowing there’s not a lot of money for additional training.
I love the teachers at the Y and think they should get major bonus points for doing a down dog in front of 100 plastic eyes while blowing dust bunnies away from their mats which can only be called “sticky” for a host of non-yoga related reasons, but when I heard about a master Yogi at the Other Gym and my good friend D offered to take me on a guest pass, well, I couldn’t refuse.
Heaven in Tight Shorts
The first thing was the free locker key. The Y charges you five cents for a small locker, which they are totally serious about collecting btw, and if you bring anything larger than a sandwich you have to have your own combo lock or risk donating your post-workout snack to a needier mouth than yours. The Other Gym had beautiful wood lockers that are so chic they make my home look shabby, set in a dressing room that recalled everything good about Roman bathhouses – all for free.
Next up was Phil. Perfectly tanned, toned and coiffed, he led me through a power Yoga workout so, um, powerful that it literally left me shaking. His incense was so tasteful & his vinyasas were so smooth, even the pool toys were lining up to get a date with him. He was everything I’d been promised and more. As a parting gift, he gave us scented towelettes to put over our eyes during Savasana or Final Resting Pose. Sweaty, stretched in every direction, and inhaling something both earthy and light, I almost was ready to go on to my Final Rest. At the very least, I was not ready to go home.
D, being both an intructor and personal trainer extrodinaire there, was happy to oblige. She fed me lunch, cooked by a Chef, natch, in the expensive and oh-so-trendy cafe (it had all the macronutrient ratios posted right on the menu!) where we chatted with fitness die-hards, the like of which I had only ever encountered before in magazines like Outside. (Seriously, have you ever read Outside magazine? It should be renamed Outdoor Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Every time I read about one of their heli-ski trips where both the heli and the skis are trucked up the mountain by obliging Sherpas, I don’t wonder why the rest of the world hates us. And yet I still have my subscription.)
D concluded our morning by giving me the grand tour. The weight room was so light- filled, I felt like an angel doing chin-ups in front of a mammoth, not-even-a-single-fingerprint, picture window (except an angel, having wings, would not need to do chin-ups but whatevs). There were tennis courts as far as the eye could see. Row after row of the latest cardio equipment bowing before larger-than-life screen TVs. An in-house full-service spa. A pro shop. And shiny, lululemon-clad, white-teethed women everywhere with not a gnat-waver or stuffed animal in sight.
I briefly considered selling my house to move permanently into the Other Gym.
But I would miss the Y. There is no Gym Buddy Allison or Candice there. No Turbo Jennie. No Sergio the maintenance guy who is helping me with both my Spanish and my latin hips (which I mean in the least-dirty way possible, sickos). Somehow I doubt the highlighted teens working in the kid’s area of the Other Gym would lovingly cuddle my baby even after he just barfed all over them, like the seasoned moms at the Y do. It was while considering whether I would get away with half the stunts I pull at the Y (box jumping on the weight benches, handstand walks down the hallway, joy rides in the elevator) when it occurred to me: I am one of the “characters” at the Y. I’m the crazy girl cartwheeling around the gym and and hanging by her knees from the chip-up bar while screaming to Allison & Candice about my newest experiment or the research that they totally have to read. So maybe the Y would miss me too.
People have a lot of different feelings about big-box gyms, or even gyms in general. I have several friends who swear that, for them, working out inside any place makes it all work and no joie-de-vivre. People who are active CrossFitters or Monkey Bar Gym-ers work out in a glorified garage and love it. The fact is, that for a lot of us the gym is where we spend a considerable amount of time (and money). It is where we make friends and connnect with other like minds in our community. It is the only place left in our culture where standing around naked talking to a stranger in the locker room doesn’t feel weird (okay, maybe a little weird). We are both vulnerable and powerful there.
Am I saying that if D invited me I wouldn’t go back to the Other Gym? Boy howdy, would I! (In fact, I’m going back next Wednesday for a very special experiment I’ll tell you about next Thursday.) Even if I had to ride piggyback all the way there – and trust me, you should see D, she totally could carry me piggyback across town. But I’m not giving up my Y membership any time soon. I need them and, I think, they need me too.