Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My Ghetto Gym

I have been going to the gym since last November. I dutifully trudge on the elliptical for about 20 minutes, then I lift weights. I estimated that yesterday I lifted a total of 35,000 pounds in about half-an-hour, which I think is pretty impressive for a guy my age.
I go to what friends have called a ghetto gym.  It’s in a refurbished warehouse and has several dozen machines whose workings I have not yet fathomed. Its cleanliness is impeccable and insured by a small, round Latino man who may have been born with a canister vacuum on his back. I suspect he gets a better daily workout than do most of the gym’s clients.
Seventeen large TVs hang from the ceiling, most of them showing ads for Dutch Master Cleaner, Ultra See-In-The-Dark Sunglasses and car title loan companies. Most gym-goers have earbuds in, but I don’t. I sort of like trying to guess what’s happening on the screen, and most times I think I’m wrong. Sometimes, though, there’s breaking news, and when that happens, a brief video of the story will appear as if on a tape loop.  This morning, someone apparently hit a home run and was mobbed by a crowd of fans.  The same clip was repeated nine times in 12 minutes. I am not sure what this means.
Here is what my gym does not have: a sauna or steam room; tennis courts, a swimming pool, rowing machines, kettlebells, and complimentary anything including towels.  This is a bring-your-stuff gym.  Nor does it have the sort of ├╝ber attractive people you see in gym ads; although there are a couple of massively built up, short guys with lots of tattoos, I have yet to see one of those model-types that is tanned, buffed, and completely free of body hair. I think the models may use the gyms downtown that cost a couple of hundred bucks a month. Mine’s only $10 a month, which gets me the machines, a drinking fountain, and the friendly face of Larry, a retired Verizon employee who runs the morning shift. My gym is a haven for palish middle-aged men and women with a few too many pounds, and a French pastry chef who, every time I talk with him, obsesses about the weather.
Along with my gym attendance, I have started drinking a lot of water, some 64 ounces a day, not counting coffee or soda, which is OK as I don’t drink the latter. I have also eschewed refined sugar and flour, bagels, most red meats, artificial sweeteners and pastries, while trying to eat more green stuff. I have drawn the line at quinoa and kale, in any form.
In spite of all these efforts and sacrifices, I can’t help but notice that I am not getting younger, nor becoming buffer or wrinkle free. My abs remain more barrel-like than six-packish.  But I feel better. The ghetto gym is working a slow but inexorable miracle. I neither need nor want the far more expensive places, with their implicit promises of age reversal and surgery-free sag removal. Going to my ghetto gym makes me happier and, perhaps, more sociable. The pastry chef is a pleasant person with whom I get to chat in my native language, and he is happy now that spring is in the offing. I have passed some sort of test, and now the vacuum cleaner man no longer runs over my feet with his linoleum-polishing cart. Larry at the front desk logs me in without my even asking. I’m just another older grey-haired guy trying (without much success, I must admit) to lose a few pounds. And damn, I lifted 35,000 pounds yesterday!

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