In Which I Attempt To Justify An Unnecessary Indulgence. And Also Talk About Sweat A Lot.

Here in Charleston, we're a little bit behind when it comes to the Swanky Fancy Gym Department. (And yes, that is its official name, though it's possible, of course, that you may also have heard it referred to as the Holy Crap, I'm Not Paying That Much Every Month Just To Have a Personal TV On My Treadmill Department, which is its alternate name in many parts of the country.) I suppose the thinking is that we Charlestonians will get our cardio by chasing each other through the cobblestoned streets or doing some vigorous bell-ringing in one of our eight million churches. Possibly we are supposed to lift heavy bags of grits to get those sculpted shoulders we want, or tone our glutes with dance moves perfected at our debutante parties. In any case, I was a little disappointed when I moved here three years ago from London (where there was a Swanky Fancy Gym on every corner), by way of San Diego (where there was a Swanky Fancy Gym in every apartment complex, which actually amounts to maybe three on every corner) and discovered that my options for allowing someone to take money out of my bank account on a monthly basis so that I could wear lycra in public and sweat copiously were limited.

First of all, there was Gym A. It was a fairly good gym, not too far from my house, large and well-lit with a lot of equipment and good classes. It was only for students and staff at the nearby medical university, unless you could get a friend's friend's boyfriend who was a doctor to write you a note saying you should be allowed to join---which, uh, I obviously DIDN'T do, please don't report me to anyone---and at the beginning of every semester there were always these bags in the lobby with free samples of mini shampoos and toothpastes for all the new medical students, which came in very handy when you were packing for a trip. What I didn't realize, however, was that Gym A was actually The Gym Where It's Apparently Okay To Hit On People Who Are Working Out. I cannot count the number of times I was on that inner-and-outer-thigh-press-thing---the one where you open and close your legs very suggestively in order to one day presumably get thighs that could crack walnuts---when a strange man would approach and start CHATTING to me. Chatting! Can you imagine a time when you would be less likely to want to chat than when you're drenched in sweat from your half-hour on the elliptical climber and sitting astride a machine whose sole purpose is to make you open and close your legs suggestively? Neither can I. Apparently at Gym A, though, it's the norm. And lest you are picturing hot medical students sauntering over to do the chatting---and thus wondering what the hell I'm complaining about---let me assure you that they were never hot medical students. Oh no, they were always old men in WOOL SWEATERS---always argyle sweaters, because apparently nothing says sporty! like an argyle sweater in the gym---and droopy knee socks. There was also once a man from Sao Paolo who followed me into the parking lot and scared the shit out of me, but I later surmised that perhaps there was something a little bit wrong with him in the head, so I decided not to make a fuss. Do you know how I know he was from Sao Paolo? Because he WOULDN'T STOP TELLING ME.

After I decided not to renew my membership at Gym A, I had several choices. First, I looked around Gym B, which was very obviously The Gym For Grunting Weightlifters and also, judging by how many machines they'd shoved into a very small room, The Gym For People Who Have No Concept of Personal Space. Then I went to look at Gym C, which had recently opened and was being touted as the hot new place for young urbanites---which, obviously, is just what you want in your gym---and where I probably could have got a Mojito on the treadmill if I'd wanted to, and maybe a free Franz Ferdinand CD just for signing up. I was rather tempted to join Gym C until I realized that all the machines were right up against this big window that faced out against the street, so that not only could the people INSIDE see you sweating away, but so could the people OUTSIDE. And this struck me as a little unfair. After all, the people outside were always walking at a pace that did not make them hyperventilate and they did not have their sweaty hair falling in their eyes and they were not wearing gym shorts that showed off the very problem areas they were trying to target. And so I decided that I would be too self-conscious to join Gym C, which anyway, according to a friend who did join, went on to become The Gym That Was Overrun By Eighteen Year Old Barbies. And so that left me gym-less for a little while.

Until Gym D opened! Gym D was most definitely a Swanky Fancy Gym, the first Charleston had seen. In fact, Gym D was a little misleading at first, since all its advertising called it "Charleston's First Adult Health Club". I'm sure I wasn't the only one who pictured co-ed showers and uh....well, maybe I was the only one! But anyway! Did you know when I lived in San Diego there was a trailer park that I ocasionally drove past and the sign out front said it was an Adult Trailer Park? Also, did you know there even were trailer parks in San Diego? Because I didn't.

So anyway, to cut a long story short, I joined Gym D. And if you're now going to ask me how I justify spending almost twice as much a month on Gym D as I did on Gym A, I have five words for you: Aveda products in the showers. Also, mini TVs in the treadmills, and the phenomenal view over the harbor from the two-story high windows, and the fact that I have a $20 credit at the smoothie bar because two of my friends joined (which should buy me, ooh, half a smoothie probably), and the lovely way the staff always greet you by name when you arrive, and the Excellent Class of Hellishness on Saturday mornings that---though it will leave you unable to even open doors without wincing in pain for a few days---will certainly do more to sculpt your shoulders than lifting bags of grits ever will.

Do you know, however, the very best part about Gym D, and the reason I continue to allow them to extort my hard-earned cash from me and bully me into attending their classes, which are led by an insanely peppy woman who has surely spent the morning drinking the coffee from Whole Foods?

No men in argyle sweaters. Ever.

Nov 14, 2005

The only Swanky Fancy Gym they have in Singapore is on Orchard Road and also faces out to the street, which for those of you who have never been to Orchard Road is the equivalent of being on US Weekly Magazine in your neon pink lycra jumpsuit sweating, each and every week. Fortunately there's a gym where I live which also teaches you life saving, as a lot of the time old paper-thin men may drift off on the rowing machine and you have to accidentally kick it (or...row it) to make sure they're coming back.

Nov 14, 2005

Okay, just one question. What is this "gym" thing you are talking about? ;)

Nov 14, 2005

Holy crap, girl - I think I just found myself another favorite blog!

I love the way you write, it's like you're talking in my head. Try as I might, though, I can't hear it in a British accent. Your phraseology is very americanized - dare I say even California-esque?

Re: Your profile. You refuse to drop the "h" in herb? How hysterical is that, I ask you!?! My question is, if the people in England say it with the audible "h", and we americans supposedly speak English, why don't WE say it that way? (That's just a hypothetical question, of course - I know all about the morphing of language through time, etc.) (I'm also a parentheses addict.)

Well, my manager is not in the office today, so I'm going to go back and read your entire blog. Whee!

I am also a Swanky Gym afficionado - my husband and I just left our cramped, ill-equipped, poorly ventilated, inexpensive, overtalkative-senior-citizen-filled YMCA for a HUGE new Swanky Gym. It boasts acres of equipment (you need a map to get around the place - I nearly became a live-in member the first time I went, because I couldn't find the front door to leave) and the prerequisite personal TV screen on each piece of cardio equipment - stationary bikes included!

It has just the right mix of super-fit muscle heads (for personal inspiration "Boy, would I like to look like THAT!") and out of shape lard-asses (for personal ego stroking "At least I don't look like THAT!") and serves damn good peanut butter health shakes. Only $5 each, and if you buy ten you get one free! Whoopee!

I won't say that we go to the gym enough to warrant the expensive monthly fee - but when we do go, we are so inspired by the larger-than-life murals of muscular, flat, fat-free torsos that adorn the walls that we overwork ourselves to the point of weeklong soreness. This makes us FEEL like we're getting our money's worth.

Well, I'm off to read some more!

Cheers -


bad andy
Nov 14, 2005

Sigh... San Diego... where the cost of living is almost double (and rising) the average earned income.

Gyms should have designated hours for chatting. You know the ones where people are working out when people should be going out. And have those hours strictly enforced... or just not have chatting at all.

Gyms should also have these huge weight-lifting bouncers. You break the rules ("Hey you little sweater wearing pencil stick, she doesn't need a spotting line, she's only lifting the bar.") you get thrown out. Which might be an interesting way to get out of those darn contracts.

You should hit up your health insurance provider or your employer and see if they give you a break from working out regularly.

You want to know one of the biggest things I miss from San Diego... Jamba Juice. sigh.

Nov 14, 2005

I too go for the swanky gym. Sadly, I thought that i belonged to quite a lavish place until i read that YOURS has Aveda products in the showers! Damn greener grass! The illusion that I belong to a swanky gym has been shattered.

Nov 14, 2005

I, too, would join your gym solely for the Aveda products.

But I would have to work out for months BEFORE I could actually GO to the gym. Sigh.

Nov 14, 2005

Further evidence that I have succumbed to the second-class citizenship of parenthood: No more swanky gym - instead, a family membership to the local recreation center.

Aveda products in the showers? I'd visit daily, if only to bathe.

Gretchen C.
Nov 14, 2005

Oooh, Gym D sounds fabboo. I totally know what you mean, because I live in Orange County, California -- very close to San Diego! Hi! -- and do you want to know something? The hospital where I had my daughter, in Newport Beach, has a Starbuck's kiosk between the parking lot and the front door. The emergency room has valet parking. You can grunt out a baby with an ocean view and a pumpkin spice latte (HA!) in your hand. I kid you not. Once you've lived in Southern California, damn skippy you're meant to be offered a mojito on the treadmill.

Also: That was the FIRST THING I THOUGHT when I read "Adult Health Club." I figured they would have streaming video of "Butt-Fuck Sluts Go Nuts XXVIII" on the elliptical trainers.

Nov 14, 2005

My employer pays for my health club membership fee which means I'm a complete dork for not joining the super-swankyfied club near my office. Instead I joined the Crunch Fitness near my house and then didn't go for two years (but my employer kept paying! How guilty did I feel! Not so much because it's only $50 a month. They can afford it). ANYWAY, I now go once a week for kickboxing and it's totally worth the price of admission. Frankly, I'm too intimidated by the swanky club. I mean, Oprah goes there, ok? Every famous and rich person in Chicago goes there. I just can't sweat around famous rich people. What can I say? It's a phobia.

Nov 14, 2005

ah, the argyle sweaters. at my gym, there are no men with argyle sweaters. there are, however, men who wear too-short of shorts. and men who wear jeans, which doesn't sound that bad, but makes me insane. and the men who see the hot blonde in the corner on the stairmaster, so they go get on the stairmasters on either side of her, and even though they are DYING and can't even hold themselves up, BY GOD THEY ARE GOING TO STAY NEAR HER.

and frankly, i'm glad. that means they're not on either side of me.

Nov 14, 2005

Sadly, my company foots the bill for my gym membership, which means that corporate users abound and many of them are sweating it up in cutoff denim shorts and wristbands.

The far-reaching suburbs of Washington DC are SO NOT SWANKY.

Nov 14, 2005

This is hilarious! I followed you over from Breed 'em and Weep and I'm glad I did. You are a hoot!! (It's a southern term. You live in Charleston so I'm sure you're familiar with it.)

As for the Gym issue, I wish I could find one where guys hit on me. I didn't realize the one I joined is apparently the meeting place for every single pregnant woman within a 50 mile radius. I'm not sure what get's my heart beating faster, the workout or the constant fear that one of them is going to pop out a kid right in the middle of the blue plastic exercise mat.

On the plus side....I am always the thinnest person in the room! ;-)

Swedish Girl
Nov 15, 2005

The Aveda products could almost persuade me, speaking as a member of a gym where you only get some sort of Chernobyl-coloured multipurpose substancein the shower: Is it shampoo? Showergel? Washing-up liquid? Industrial loo cleaner? Who can tell?

But deep down I know that peppy Wholefood crack addict would scare me away, if you so got the whole spa treatment.

Nov 15, 2005

Wow--Aveda products? Nice! I couldn't find a fancy type Gym D where I lived, so I settled for the women's only, 30 minute circuit fitness facility. There are no smoothies, no showers and no argyle sweaters.

The people are nice, but it is as though I have a tatoo on my forehead that states I am not from here. I would give ANYTHING for the employees and patrons to stop asking me if I want to attend their church. This is now why I am going at 6AM --to avoid the Churchies! I wrote about this a few months back:

Nov 17, 2005

What is wrong with me? When I read, " ... at the beginning of every semester there were always these bags in the lobby," at first I thought you meant there were unattractive old women in the lobby. But that isn't at all what you meant.

When I was growing up in a small town in Oklahoma, there weren't any gyms. One of my female friends used to get a workout in her backyard by lifting old pipes her dad had left lying around. She developed some pretty impressive muscle tone that way. But a gym is a much better route to a smokin’ physique, even if there are unattractive old women in the lobby.