Boy, do I have some Tales to Tell...
I have met some of my most cherished friendships at the gym. Even though some of us have moved on from working at the gym, we still keep in touch; certainly not as much as we used to or would like to but, as most of you can attest, lives tend to move in different directions. It especially becomes difficult to spend time together when you start to pursue different careers.
Even though other friendships can be just called acquaintances, others, despite the time apart, remain strong and fulfilling. The times we spent together and continue to spend are always fulfilling, exciting, and nourishing. Finding people that can bring these moments to your life can be very difficult. One such friend of mine is Diane.
I met Diane when I was a Weekend Manager at a Health Club. I was working at the front desk one day when this lady came in and said that she was doing some temporary housekeeping work for us. She was a friend of the General Manager and she needed to make some extra cash, so she agreed to come and work for a few hours. She was so funny! I remember her just making comments about all the members and oggling the cute members. She made me laugh more than I ever remember laughing at the gym.
A few days later, Diane came back to the gym to work at the Front Desk with me. She said that she had picked up some Front Desk hours and was going to be there 3-4 days a week. Our shifts just happen to overlap for a couple of hours. In those couple of hours, we used to laugh so much, members would come in, look at us with bewilderment, and walk away wondering how we could be so jovial in such an unforgiving job. Little did they know that we were making fun of most of them for their idiosycracies and stupid behavior.
We did so many silly things that would make us laugh that would not necessarily make anyone else laugh. For some reason, we shared the same unorthodox sense of humor. We would do things like use a stack of towels as a foot rest. When a particularly nasty member would be bitchy and request a towel, we would take from the "foot rest" stack and hand them one. The member would continue to be bitchy at us while wiping their face with the towel we just gave them. This would send us into fits of giggles that would irritate the member even more. We would purposely call an abnoxious member by the wrong name evertime they came just to get them irrate. Needless to say, we had nicknames for everyone who came into the gym. We would spend our two or so hours together laughing so hard that our stomach's would ache.
When Diane quit working at the gym, we continued our friendship. We would get together for theatre, dinner, and various things. It seemed that there was an endless amount of things to laugh at. We also hung out with another friend who was equally as mad as us. The three of us would do things like bring framed pictures of us to dinner and prop them up as if nothing was unusual sending us into fits when other diners and restaurant staff would walk by and stare.
Well, the other day, Diane told me that she was temporarily moving back to her hometown to go back to school for her teaching certificate. Although, I wish her the best and know that she will be back in NYC soon enough, there is still a piece of me that will miss the fact that she is just around the corner from me. She is one of those persons who represents New York City to me. The type of individual who, although gets irritated by things that New York City embodies, STILL loves and embodies New York City. I will miss her during her absence from New York and look forward to her returning.
So, to Diane, thanks for the laughter that helped me get through though times at the gym. Thanks for your brightness that was always a source of hapiness for me in New York. And here's to more times together when you return. Later.
Sometimes I feel that I am getting too old to teach group exercise classes. Lately, several things have happened that are giving me cause to believe this more and more - I mean besides the fact that my heel and knees hurt after class.
When a student in my class kicked another student's bench out of the way because he would not move over, I was not at all concerned for the safety of either of them or the childish behavior I was witnessing. My concern was whether or not it would be okay for me to stop the class and go home.
As I was teaching Body Sculpt, a couple of the ladies attending class were not only ignoring some safety cues but were adding on dangerous movements that they obviously thought would enhance their workout. My concern was not for their safety. I was totally not concerned about them at all! I actually wished that one of them would get hurt so that I could make them the example in class. I envisioned smirking at them and admonishing them over the microphone system so that they would be embarassed.
When an obviously new student took my class, I knew that she would not be able to follow most of it. I reminded her that it's okay that she may not get the choreography, that she should just be concerned about stepping up & down on the beat of the music, to just relax because the point of the class is to work up a sweat, that eventually, after more classes, she will learn how to step like the rest of the participants. Most importantly, I reminded her to bring the bench down to just the platform because that extra two inches of a step up would make her first workout too difficult. Needless to say, she did not heed my advice. I found myself wishing that she would fall flat on their face causing her wrenching pain and damaging her nose job.
Have I become such a cynic that I wish ill fate to my students? Am I just losing patience for people who don't listen to the advice I give as a qualified instructor? Is it true that as you get older, your tolerance for stupidity wanes? Or is it just that people are taking less responsibility for their actions hence leading to banal behavior? Just wondering. Later.
If you don't know yet, I love New York City. I especially love it in the summertime when an enormous number of the inhabitants venture out to their share in the Hamptons/Fire Island. There is a sense of calmness that settles on the City during Saturday and Sunday.
People who stay in the City share this unspoken love for the calmness. You can see it in our eyes and our behavior. I can see it in the enthusiasm people have when they attend my Saturday morning Step class. It's also evident in the relaxed aura that emanates from those who are sitting next to you during brunch - not just the fact that you are sitting having brunch but the fact that you did not have to wait for a table.
Few things are more satisfying than opening up the Sunday New York Times and reading it while chowing down on your Lumberjack special WITH the potatoes and toast. Those who tend to avoid the carbohydrates are busy running around Long Island's "elite" beaches. Equally as exhilarating is getting to the gym and stepping onto your favorite treadmill. Most of the people who you normally wait to finish are running outside or running around the Hamptons.
Summer in New York City can be fun. Get yourself a tennis permit so you can play one of the hundreds of well-kept public tennis courts. Venture out to Brooklyn's Prospect park where you can lay out on Long Meadow with a nice picnic and play frisbee. Take the train Jones Beach, walk to the "gay" area, and appreciate the "views". Most of all, enjoy the fact that the gym is half-empty: take that class you always meant to try, start a new weight training routine, try a new piece of cardio equipment. Do it now because, come September, everyone and their next-door neighbor's best friend will be back with lots of angst resulting from the drama that happened "on the Island". Later.
Ever wonder what the Universe is trying to say to you? Here are three things that occurred at the gym while I was teaching class:
1. A lady in my class told me that the metal rod inserted in her spine to keep her artificial hip in place has slipped. She said she is in extreme pain but will continue to take class because she is bored and cannot stand the thought of staying home or trying other forms of exercise.
2. As I was teaching Body Sculpt, I noticed a man using the Step Mill (that's the machine with the moving stairs). Said man had a vest with some sort of weight attached to it. At first glance it looked like a father with his child in a papoose.
3. I found a condom (in its wrapper, thank god!) in the group exercise studio while teaching class.
Not sure what this is all supposed to mean. Maybe it's time to pursue a new career. Later.
For those of you who aspire to becoming a fitness instructor, think it through EXCESSIVELY before you do. There is little doubt as to why our profession gets very little respect and this following story is a good example of why.
First, some background: at most health club facilities, the instructor of a class is supposed to find a substitute instructor for their class, if they are unable to teach. Most employers will help their instructors by giving out names and phone numbers of other instructors who are available to teach at the times one needs coverage. With the invention of the internet and email, some instructors have created instructor email groups where you can post the classes you need to find substitutes for. Sounds easy enough, eh? Think again.
One problem with this group mailing list is that some members of the groups (who we assume are all adults) will use it as a way of promoting some sort of "function" they are probably benefiting from. Now, that does not sound bad if said functions have to do with fitness or fitness instruction. One particularly disturbing mailing was an invitation to a Botox party. Are you fucking kidding?!?!??! The person who sent out the Botox invitation was then asked to stop sending out these types of emails. At the same time, a warning was sent out by the group moderator about the rules and function of the instructor email group. The individual who sent out the Botox invitation then began emailing the group with a number of emails basically whining about being reprimanded. Of course, a few other instructors have joined in with the retorts and comebacks - all snowballing into a massive amount of emails that have nothing to do with finding substitutes for classes.
This, my friends, is why we, as fitness instructors, cannot get the respect and benefits that are given to other workers. If you think that there is childish behavior in all career paths, I highly doubt that there is this much elsewhere; and I have worked in four different industries. The childish responses remind me so much of the fights kids used to have on the playground. So, before you come over to our side, think carefully... think very carefully. Later.
Last night, I sat riveted to the TV channel called BRAVO. My latest obsession is the show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." Although I am pro having exposure for all things gay, I do have to say that I take some offense to this show. Once again, just like Jack of "Will & Grace", I feel that the show represents us in an over-the-top-and-always-witty-and-catty sort-of-way.
If you have not seen the show, here is the gist: 5 ultra-hip, very attractive queers invade an out-of-touch straight man's life in order to give him an overhaul and bring his "style" into this millenium. They redo his physical appearance, his living quarters, his cultural knowledge, and his cooking abilities in order to impress said straight man's peers. I agree that some people need a major makeover. I highly doubt that most of these straight men will keep this up because let's face it, a leopard never changes its spots.
Anyway, after watching the show, I felt absolutely dowdy and un-hip. As a matter of fact, I found myself thinking of ways of updating my wardrobe and style to "fit in" with the style crowd. Then it hit me: these 5 "Queer Eyes" are a miniscule part of gay life. Being gay is not about having the latest clothes or going to the latest scene. It's not about having a gorgeous abode or above average entertaining skills. It's not about using the latest beauty products and shiny appliances. My homosexuality is not about my physical appearance at all - regardless of whether my waist is 32" or 42", I still am gay. What concerns me most about this show is that the public will begin to equate being gay with a superficial temporal nature. I cringe when I see that the only way we can get acceptance from the rest of the world is to do something to make them "feel pretty" albeit momentarily. It makes me feel like we are kept around for that and only that.
It scares me that no matter how hard we try, the only outlet allowed us is one where we are seen as providers of entertainment and folly. Granted this all falls under the showbiz realm but isn't there a chubby food-and-wine expert who happens to be gay that they can use instead of the ultra-chic nerd that they have? Hell, give me a call, I'll fill in.
It angers me that I am represented in the media as a catty, bitchy person who only wears the latest clothes and is overly concerened with his physical appearance; who is not concerned with anything but superficiality and material objects. Nevertheless, I will be watching to give this show some ratings. Maybe then, a different type of show that represents us gays as everyday humans who are deep in debt and shop at Old Navy will be broadcast on TV. Later.
Ahhhhh! Summer at the gym can be glorious. This is what the gym experience should always be like. Most classes are not jam-packed (thank goodness that some people are taking advantage of the nice weather). The gym floors tend to be more manageable (maybe due to the fact that people have more flexible summer hours at their jobs). Overall, the general feeling at the gym is one of laid-back non-chalance. I love it.
I love the people who come to the gym in the summer. Most of them are there because they want to be; not because they have nowhere else to go. My classes tend to be populated by people who are there to take class and make the best of it. It reminds me why I enjoy teaching. Very few things can compare to the joy an instructor gets when teaching to a group of people who are giving back the same energy that is being sent out. By the end of class I am glowing with energy. I guess it also helps that there is this sudden rise in percentage of beautiful people in class (both male and female).
It's true that the "slackers" who show up for class during the winter and post-holiday periods tend to be "not too attractive". The "regulars" tend to have a glow that makes them extremely luscious. This is all probably due to the endorphin rush and, let's face it, if you work out on a regular basis, you tend to achieve a body that makes you feel confident and positive about life in general. Which, for those of you who don't know, can be infectuous.
I love my regulars who have benefited from my class to some degree. Now, I am not talking physical benefits although some have achieved that result. I am talking about the relaxed and cheerful attitude that these people bring. I have always said that I don't care what your body looks like - it really does not matter. There is so much more to someone who enjoys the psychological benefits of working out rather than the physical. The people who have a smile when they come in because they know that this is their time and they are in charge of it.
These are the people I adore. The ones who have made a choice and are sticking to it. The individuals who are coming to class to improve their health to go along with their healthy mindset NOT to improve their physical appearance so as to improve their psychological one. They are the ones who make it worthwhile even when I feel like "jumping off the ledge". So thanks to them all - they are the reason why I am here. Later.
A friend of mine was working out on the elliptical machine the other day when he noticed something disturbing: two children, neither of them older than 5 years old, were playing on the elliptical trainer next to his. Not playing as in using the machine properly BUT playing as in using the machine as a jungle gym.
I was working out this morning on the heavy weights when I noticed a young boy about 8 years old sitting on one of the weight benches playing with his Nintendo Gameboy. His father was on the adjacent weight bench working out his biceps.
A co-instructor of mine was lifting weights one morning when she realized that there were three (yes, you read correctly) strollers with sleeping babies on the same weight floor. There mothers were in the vicinity trying to get a workout of some sort.
My first question is always: WHERE THE FUCK IS THE MANAGEMENT? Shouldn't the management of the gym inform these people that you cannot have your kids hanging out on the gym floor?
I can understand bringing your child to the gym and checking them into Child Care. What I don't understand is why parents do not see how dangerous the gym floor is to children. Have these people lost their minds? Are they so desperate to get a workout that they will risk the chance of their child getting hurt? Forget about the kid hitting his head on a piece of equipment. How about the child getting their hand ripped off by a treadmill?
We all know that the moment that a child gets hurt, it is everyone else's fault except the idiot parent who has chosen not to protect the child from the hazards that the gym presents. Parents, if the child is too much to take care off, USE SOME FUCKING BIRTH CONTROL! Sometimes I see a child running around the gym and hope that they get hurt so that the parent will notice their stupidity.
I truly am an evil person. Later.
As a good friend of mine once said, "Spandex is a privelege, not a right." Before any of you accuse me of throwing stones from my glass co-op, I must clarify. The other day, while making my way from the lockerroom to the classroom, I noticed a gentleman in the same "short shorts" that I always wear when I teach class or work out. I thought to myself, "Man, he has nice legs." A few steps later, I walked by a middle-aged lady also wearing the same "short shorts" that I wear plus a tight sleeveless t-shirt and thought, "She looks good for any age."
As I continued my walk to the exercise studio, I passed a person who was doing bicep curls who also was wearing "short shorts". I took note of his ghostly-pale legs and throbbing vericose veins (not to mention his thick ankles) and thought to myself, "Why, oh why, did I have to see that?!?!?!?"
Just a note: if you are going to wear revealing attire, please have the body for it. I am not advocating placing undue stress on oneself to adhere to some unattainable body ideal. What I am saying is that if you do not have the "body" to wear a midriff-baring shirt, THEN PLEASE REFRAIN FROM DOING SO!
I don't think that the issue is with not having a pefect body. The issue is that there is a better way to show off your assets. I applaud the woman in my step class who is overweight but comes to class in a bra top and spandex shorts - such bravery should be rewarded. What I would like her to do is put on a T-shirt. I am one of those persons who would rather not see her jiggling body. If and when she loses the weight and tightens up her body, she is more than welcome to take class in only a bra top and spandex shorts. Until then, STOP! Which made me think:
Why do we have a hard time looking at people's imperfections? Is it really grotesque? Does it remind us of our own imperfections and the hardships we go through to hide or change such imperfections? Are we offended by the self-confidence they have to put on outfits that don't hide their flaws? Or are we just jealous of it? If these people are confident with their bodies, shouldn't we applaud them for not falling prey to the societal pressure of having a supposed perfect figure?
If you have the answer to any of the above questions, you can find me at the gym working out to keep my "short spandex shorts" priveleges. Later.