The Gym: Part 1

For a while now, I’ve been pinning any hope I have of living past the age of 50 on future advances in medicine. “Oh, whatever,” I’ll say, ordering up another round. “In fifteen years, we’ll probably be able to buy a new liver at D’agostinos.” Two-for-one Tuesday, a lung-and-liver deal, $19.99. Pay with Apple Pay and they’ll throw in a free testicle.

Rethinking this approach, I decided last week to start food shopping again as a way to eat healthier. As the next part of this overall life improvement push, I’ve started going to the gym again after a half-decade hiatus.

The gym is a fascinating place. It’s like a little ecosystem, governed by it’s own laws, populated by it’s own unique species. It’s like Madagascar. I decided to document my first foray in a while. Here’s what transpired.

– I leave work around 6pm and head towards the gym with a buddy of mine. We work in SoHo and will be attending the New York Sports Club in Soho. I hear it’s a good one – clean, not too busy, minimal solicitations for homosexual sex. The last NYSC I went to, in Times Square, was like Grindr in real life.

– Speaking of, I have a great NYSC locker room story. A couple of buddies and I were in the locker room of a NYSC once, and a very muscular man was getting changed near us. He walked away and into the steam room, and my friend started talking.

“Jeez,” he said, thinking the guy was gone. “Guy was staring straight at my junk.” My buddy keeps talking about how the guy was eyeing him up like a piece of meat, yadda yadda, so on and so forth.

Two seconds later, the guy walks back in, clad only in one of those comically small NYSC towels. He walks right up to my friend, towering over him, his rippled muscles glistening in sweat. He looked as if his body was chiseled by the Greek gods. The room falls silent.

“So you think I come to the gym to get laid?” the guy bellows, as my friend cowers beneath him. “I’m a United States Marine, and I will fuck you up.”

My bud meekly muttered a half-apology under his breath as GI Joe stood over him, his life weighing in the balance. Eventually he walked away. Needless to say, that’s been a great story for ball-busting over the years.

– I make a mental note to keep my eyes and thoughts to myself in the locker room.

– First step is to actually sign up. I go into a side office with one of the sales reps, bracing for the next fifteen minutes to be terrible. I hate this part; gym reps are the lowest form of salespeople. Their entire job is to prey on me when my post-weekend guilt is at it’s apex.

Oh, you had too many Bud Lights on Saturday? Why don’t you just sign this paper right here? You’ll feel so much better, and then you never even have to come back. We won’t tell anyone, we promise. You can probably even get your mom to reimburse you!

– Just as I expected, it’s “my lucky day”; somehow, the one day I decided to sign up is their best discount sale of the year. He tells me this with the excitement one might expect from a doctor telling a couple they are finally pregnant after five years of trying.

– This unbelievable discount turns out to be $10 a month, which is less than I spend monthly on Diet Snapple. Thanks to this incredible bargain, every other month I can get one more lap dance. Things are really looking up for me.

– My sales rep assures me this will save me “hundreds of dollars” in the long run. This guy is a regular Warren Buffett. Maybe I’ll just ask him to be my financial advisor.

"Month-to-month contracts are for the mentally weak. Sign up for a year, young man!"

“Month-to-month contracts are for the mentally weak. Sign up for a year, young man!”

– I can tell my resting bitch face is draining his faux enthusiasm. He’s dialed it down and is now just asking me to sign the relevant dotted lines.

– He asks me to carefully read the contract. I explain I have a standing policy of never reading anything I sign, and that if I have just signed my life away, the blood will be on his hands. He does not laugh.

– I am now the proud owner of a tiny little key chain accessory that allows me entry into this fine establishment and makes me feel guilty when doing a key bump!

– Into the locker room I go. I realize at this moment that I do not have a lock. My buddy tells me to “just bring your bag around with you”, a laughable suggestion. When the two choices are “losing my laptop, phone, wallet, and entire life”, or “being momentarily awkward amongst strangers”, there really is no choice.

– I pull out my gym clothes and put them on. After tying my shoes, I stand up and look in the mirror and am horrified by what I see: an unintentionally perfect outfit. I somehow managed to be color-coordinated from head to toe. I look like the loser white guy who shows up at the basketball court with a headband and the Iverson sleeve.

– I contemplate quitting the gym and just leaving this whole scary world behind. I could run back to my apartment on the spot! I’d simply never speak to my buddy again; I’m sure he would understand. Maybe I’d even skip town on a bus overnight, start a new life somewhere. Maybe I’ll open up that tiki bar I’ve always wanted.

– Cooler heads prevail and I walk out of the locker room, glancing back at my locker four or five times as I go, just so it is abundantly clear that my unlocked cubby contains several expensive items.

– I meet my buddy who is warmed up and ready to begin on the bench press. He starts with a 45lb plate on each side. I have fuzzy memories of lifting twice that amount when I was a senior in high school. Roughly estimating my muscle decay to be 1% per year, I hop right on, eager to prove to the world that Jackie Boy’s still got it.

– My lifting partner, assuming I’ll be fine with such a girly amount of weight on the bar, walks around and chats with another friend. I do the first few reps just fine, boosting my confidence from “irrational” to “dangerous”.

– It’s been a while, and the sensation of muscle exhaustion is foreign to me. Somewhere between the 9th and 10th rep, my chest muscles died and went to heaven. The bar slowly falls, and I realize with a horrified expression that I am not going to be able to lift it up again. I find myself in every man’s worst nightmare: laying on the bench press, the bar on my chest, with no spotter behind me, unable to lift it back up.

– I briefly consider yelping out my friend’s name and having him run over to help me, which would have definitely been the most embarrassing moment in my life. No less than two females would hear my meek cry for help. That option is quickly ruled out, leaving:

Option A: Roll the bar onto my own throat and commit suicide

Option B: Somehow lift the bar myself

– In today’s world, embarrassment is man’s greatest motivator. Like those crazy stories of a mother lifting a Buick off of her trapped child, my body taps into some strength reservoir I did not know existed.

My eyes roll into the back of my head like Halle Berry whipping up a tornado in X-Men. A zen-like focus washes over me; the bar becomes but a feather in my hands. I lose consciousness as my adrenal gland empties epinephrine into my bloodstream and my heartbeat doubles. I enter a lucid dream where the entire gym is laughing at me while I wet myself in front of the spin class. The members of the class are the 30 most beautiful women that I am Facebook friends with. My old football coach is in the back, shaking his head at me, disgusted. What the hell happened to you, Gashi?

– The bar slowly rises until my arms are extended, finally touching down safely on the rack. I regain consciousness, my pulse steadying, tears forming in my eyes. I have the thought that I just experienced the greatest physical achievement of my lifetime. I am in awe of myself; I have reaffirmed my belief that anything is possible, just like Adidas said. The strength of the human will is indomitable; if we could all just work together, there is no limit to what we could ach-

“YO, dude, you done yet?”

Sigh.

– Going to the gym makes me very happy that we’ve evolved into a society with laws to protect the weak. The gym reminds me what being a caveman would be like. None of these other sexy cavewomen want to hear my funny stories or get to know me. They just want to find the largest caveman who could protect them from predators.

You think today’s women are shallow? If they had Tinder 8,000 years ago, instead of those cynical “How tall are U?” messages girls send right away, they would say, “How many rival tribe leaders hav U brutally murdered? If u havent killed any1 w/ ur bare hands then pls dont msg me.”

*drifting into daydream*…

Except one beauty of a brunette, the cavegirl of my dreams: Naranja. While the rest of these dumb broads are chasing around the meatheads, Naranja marches to the beat of her own drum. She’s a whiz with a bow and arrow – her dad taught her when she was young, even though it was against tribe rules – and she doesn’t need to rely on a man to protect her. She’s a little rough around the edges, though. The first time I tried to sneak into her teepee to leave her a poem I had scrawled on a rock, she would quickly tackle me and put a spear to my throat in the darkness.

“What the hell are you doing in my teepee?” she would hiss, pushing the spear up against my jugular. “And what the hell is that between your legs?”

“You’re not the only one with a spear,” I’d say with a devilish smile. Nothing gets my juices flowing like a woman with a weapon.

– As we head to the matted floor to do an ab workout, I contemplate just how difficult it is to avoid being a creep at the gym. The place is a visual minefield. I am constantly fighting my innate urge to procreate. It’s a miracle I’m not running around humping legs, let alone not staring. Plus, every other wall is a mirror. I find myself closing my eyes whenever possible, both to avoid a lawsuit and to give the appearance I am trying harder than I really am.

What a normal exercise. It appears to be working multiple muscle groups. Perhaps I will watch so I can also try this exercise with  a friend.

What a normal exercise. It appears to be working multiple muscle groups. Perhaps I will watch so I can also try this exercise with a friend.

– I open my eyes while doing some ab maneuver on my back to realize my shorts and boxers have ridden completely up my legs and have morphed into a thong. My thighs are completely exposed. They are whiter than fresh snow on the Himalayas. Combined with the fluorescent lighting and mirrors, they appear luminous and hairless.

– I attempt to escape from my wedgie mid-exercise, without stopping my ab routine. This makes me appear like a dying fish, floundering in odd ways on the mat. I see one of the trainers that’s walking around stop and take an extended glance at me; he appears to be double-checking that I am not having a seizure.

– After our ab workout, we go through a few more exercises. Most of them I cannot remember. Like a torture victim, I escaped to a happy place – on a sunny hillside somewhere, having a picnic with Naranja. We are eating a rabbit she caught for us. Her hair looks nice today.

– As I sit down at my locker afterwards, I realize I no longer care whether or not my belongings are in my locker. As long as I can make it to my bed tonight, nothing else matters.

– My belongings are all there, but I realize I forgot to bring boxers. I decide to go commando on the walk home, seeing as there are really no other options.

– I bid my partner adieu. He looks spry and full of energy as he ambles off. I hate him.

– While I slowly shuffle home, I can feel my thighs begin to chafe from the lack of undergarments. I still have ten blocks to go.

– With five blocks left, my inner thighs feel like sandpaper. The few hairs that exist there have tangled together and formed Boy Scout double-knotted duel hairs. I have two choices: to squat and awkwardly swing my legs with each step, letting my entire neighborhood know that I have some sort of issue going on “down there”, or continuing to walk normally, with each step escalating the excruciating pain.

– Obviously, I choose the latter. With the focus of a Buddhist monk, I block out the pain and continue to stride normally, just another successful young man on his way home from the gym, crushing life. Rise and grind.

Level of focus I achieve when walking normally despite chafed inner thighs.

Level of focus I achieve when walking normally despite chafed inner thighs.

– Upon making it into my building, I immediately widen my stride to the point where I am almost doing a split with each step. I run up the steps into my apartment, collapsing on the couch and splaying my legs like a porn star ready for the director to say “Action!”

I will not move from this position for two hours.

***

I found it legitimately difficult to lift my shampoo bottle the next morning. Masturbation was a pipe dream, completely off the table for at least 72 hours. Lifting anything, even a fork, was hard.

Luckily, the next day was cardio – and that’s another post for another day.

 

– By Jack Gashi