Home > Society and Culture, Uncategorized > Why the Gym Raises My Blood Pressure (and not in a good way)

Why the Gym Raises My Blood Pressure (and not in a good way)

Monday morning I pull on my exercise clothes, newly laundered, and righteously set out for a scant 10-minute drive to the nearby 24-hour gym. My family joined this a couple years ago due to convenience and availability of hours. The inconveniences are its smallish size and senior dominated membership.  Also, men are allowed.

Now, before anybody gets offended here thinking this is a senior or man bash, just hold on. I equally offend everyone if you read with an open mind. Why is it that I go off to the gym always planning on a successful and healthful workout and come back riddled with resentment? Let me walk you through it.

First up: I enter the gym and find that all of the treadmills are occupied. They are being trod by a legion of overweight females of various ages at roughly 1 mph. Some of them are reading while they stroll, others talking on the phone and one watching Kathy Lee Gifford. They are exercising their minds and their social skills, but their bodies not so much. Never mind. Running the treadmill isn’t really all that good for feet and knees, so I pass them by peacefully and claim one of the two stairmasters.

My stairmaster is the older one with duct tape, but I am content. However, on the new one next to me is a largish man sweating profusely, red faced and heaving in a way to suggest that he is already over his threshold. As I step on to my stairs, I see him reach out and turn his setting higher. I am alarmed. He shouldn’t be doing this. I know CPR but never want to use it. I turn my face away, refusing to be codependent. His health is his business. He starts to grunt at intervals. Uffggh!  Rruurreeeh! A stench surrounds me, sticking to my damp skin like smog.   He reeks. It isn’t a good sweat-stink, more like bad hygiene combined with heart medications.  I try to ignore it, but fail.
Nauseated, I quit the stairmaster and look for a more isolated machine.

In the corner, I locate the only thigh exerciser at my gym. Perfect! It is well away from the stench of the stairmaster.   Before I can get there, a very tall and broad senior woman lumbers over and heavily drops onto my machine.  Well, she is welcome. It certainly is the right of every female to avail themselves of this particularly female oriented equipment. She drapes her saggy rear over the seat and begins – STRETCHING?   She stretches flabby arms, torso side to side, bending from waist, neck, hands behind head, legs out, legs in.  Endless.  I am livid. She never once uses the machine for what it is designed for – a lady’s THIGHS.  I want to go over and remind her that stretches can be done anywhere, but this machine is unique to a purpose. Could she possibly stretch on a bench, I would ask her?  I look at her glassy stare, her mouth drawn into a scowl. Or, maybe I will just let her alone, I think.

Shut out of everything I love, I make a frantic beeline for the “pusher.”  This is the one where you plant your feet against a movable weight and push out. It burns your ass in a frightfully lovely way. I can always just feel my ass tightening and getting cute again. I set my weights and begin pushing. Out of the corner of my eye, I see him. He is the creepy old guy who comes to the gym to scope out females.  He is sitting on a machine that affords him a good view of the “female” type machines and pretends as if he is lifting weights, but I know that look. He is ogling. It is not always the same man.  In fact, it has never been the same man.  It is the just the man today who ogles. I ignore him, but he moves to the machine right beside me. I have burned my ass enough, I think. I am not intimidated by this triple necked skeez with greasy hair and elephant knees. Not a bit. I just am ready to move on.

I glance longingly across the room at my favorite unit.  It is one where you sit upright, and then push down on weights with your whole upper body, bending slightly forward. You feel the tightening of your midriff. My midriff!  Lost cause, but this machine always gives me hope. It is currently occupied by a beautifully groomed senior woman in full makeup and concrete silver hair (sorry seniors, just being honest) who is completely absorbed in the engaging act of picking at her manicured nails!  I stand and watch for a minute. Then two. Yup! She is very much focused on her cuticles and nothing more. I decide to get aggressive.  There is only ONE of these machines and will NOT be sacrificed to a nail picker. I move forward, and fix her with a disapproving stare. At some point, she picks up the irritation vibes I am shooting toward her, gives me an apologetic smile, and begins to actually exercise. Well, fine.

I am feeling really frustrated as I do a larger view of what is really available. I look at the flat bench, the one I need to do my sit ups and leg raises. I really need this, as my hips cannot seem to take a mat. On it is a 20-something man lifting weights. Why he needs to lift weights sitting on my bench is a question mark. He has a hoodie over his head even though it is 102 degrees outside these days and the gym’s air conditioner is having a hard time keeping up. He is sweating profusely even in the crack of his ass, this leaking out onto my bench and forming a shiny cesspool. I decide he can have it.

My energy level has declined significantly by now. I am feeling a bit discouraged. I check out the thigh machine again. Stretcher lady is gone, but a middle aged MAN has taken her place. REALLY?!!  Oh, come on!  Men have no interest in their thighs. We all know this. Don’t these men know a lady’s machine when they see one? I mean, I don’t go in their “weight cave” and dominate the pulley machine.  Shit no.  A female could be lynched for that.   Disgusting man!  I consider walking over and ogling him, just for spite.

One of the meandering treadmillers has gone home, bless her gum-popping soul.  I take her place. I turn it up to 10, and begin a run. I am so irritated by now that I stumble. Bad idea plus, embarrassing.   I turn it down pretending nonchalance.  I feel the strain in my knees and lower back now and berate myself.

Shamed, I go sit on a stationary bike in the bike rack (or Siberia as it seems to be). Bikes that go nowhere are always empty except for kids whose moms have taken them to the gym so mom can exercise without hiring a babysitter, which is against the rules. You can usually find a Barbie doll or two sitting in the bookrack.

Now my workout is so disjointed and unfocused that it is less than worthless. I begin stroking the useless pedals and then see a familiar face come in the door.  It is the “Kerm, the annoying self-promoting personal trainer, the guy that is always going to “help” you do your workout out of kindness and then corner you to arrange a few
sessions.  Oh, damn! I refuse to look at him. Too late, his shoes are beside my bike.

“Hey, Kaye! How’s your workout coming?”  I lie.  I tell him how much progress I am making and how much better I feel. In the process of lying, I realize how much I probably really NEED a personal trainer.  But, I will never tell him that.

I will only watch stealthily, my blood pressure pounding in my temples, until nail lady and stretching lady and ridiculous thigh man get OFF MY MACHINES!

Kaye Elder Proctor

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  1. August 15, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Hilarious. And true. Great post!

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