I am not here to yuck-yuck on your yum-yum. I’m not going to tell you that gyms are terrible, germy dungeons and the only real reason people get memberships is so they can watch Game of Thrones on the little treadmill TV. No, I’m going to tell you a tale far more depressing. It’s the tale of The $1,000 Swim.
The best intentions
I was once like you, drunk on the promise of a new year and clad in new Lululemon attire (who would rather die than leave the house without a 5-liter bottle of Poland Spring sticking out of my million-zippered nylon gym bag).
When the postcard arrived in the mail, offering me a three-month membership at a fancy health club for less than the price of the chain gym down the block, I was in. This was no regular “bench press and Zumba” gym — it was too fancy for that. This was a club, a place for members — Socs in, Greasers out. It had two squash courts for the love of God.
Let me be clear: I like to exercise. I like to jog in the two parks near my house, and I sometimes even like doing it in the cold. I very much like and am not embarrassed to admit that I am something of a booster for Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred. I do not like gyms. I do not like gyms, even if they are light filled and semiclean, call themselves “athletic clubs” or have concierge services for an extra fee if you want someone to pick up your dry cleaning.
Why gyms are really the worst
The problem with gyms is other people. I say this as someone who enjoys the company of others and has been told on more than one occasion I am a pleasure to be around. It’s not that the other people at gyms are mannerless heathens (which they sometimes are) or that they’re sweaty (which they always are) or that they’re always using the machine you want exactly when you want it. The problem with gyms is you have to expend a lot of social energy in addition to the physical energy of your workout.
There’s the person you greet when you sign in and there are the wet naked people you have to squeeze past in the locker room. There’s the lady spritzing down the shower (if you’re lucky) and there are trainers bounding up to you trying to sell you a 10-session training package (if you’re not). By the time you arrive at the balance ball to quietly do your crunches alone in the corner of the stretching area, you are pooped. You want to go home and you haven’t even listened to your meticulously curated Spotify workout playlist yet.
I didn’t, of course, cancel my gym membership after the three-month trial. I totally forgot and ended up locked into a ridiculous membership fee for the entire year. And I did not (as many people do) go to the athletic club with the gusto of an Olympic weight lifter for the month of January, and then guilt myself into going once a month for the remainder of the year. I went to the gym precisely once. I cringed each month when I saw the automatic withdrawal on my credit card, but even that pain didn’t inspire me to go. I didn’t think of the fact that I could afford a nicer apartment for the amount I was donating to the “club” each month, of the hungry children I could feed or the trip to Europe I could take if I weren’t tithing to the gym.