Boy, do I have some Tales to Tell...
In the past couple of days, I have gotten into discussions with other fitness instructors about the changes in the fitness industry. Mainly, we talk about how more efficient the places used to be run. Although most of the places we instruct at are more stable because of them becoming corporations, they seem to have become less employee-friendly and more about the bottom line. Worst of all, they have become all about getting the members to join while sacrificing customer service.
I'm not only talking about the front desk being friendly when you walk in or about the fitness staff walking around to help you if you so need, I am talking about things like dirty lockerrooms, clean weight floors, sparkling equipment, available working machines, etc. A friend of mine who is a manager at one of the more expensive (they like to say exclusive) facilities says that cleanliness has a price. I refuse to accept that. Cleanliness should be something we expect and take for granted. What happened? Have we as members just stopped complaining and accepted that skanky towels on the floor is just par for the course? By "we", I include gym staff because we are the biggest consumers of the facility. We live and breath the gym.
As a staff member, I encourage everyone to point out to the managers of their gyms the problems that they see. Not complain. Just calmly point out when the toilets are overflowing, or when the weights are scattered all over, or when there is missing equipment, or when the place is dusty, or when the showers are not working. I never believe in screaming and pitching a fit. As a former manager, I used to just tune out anyone who did. I also remember that people who approached me calmly and politely got more of a response.
For me, it just seems that the gym consumer is no longer being taken care of. In lieu of getting "cutomer service", it seems that more money is placed into opening more locations, adding more equipment, bringing in more members... what happened to keeping what you have intact and shining? What happened to making sure the current membership continues to stay? What happened to customer service? I would like to remind the corporations that the customer is the one who has joined - not the schmoe who is thinking about it. The money you pay is going somewhere and it is not to facility upkeep.
My best friend in New Jersey witnessed a manager go into a class where the instructor had not shown up. The manager proceeded to hand out free one-week guest passes to the members. Two members pointed out that the manager did the same thing the past two weeks. They also mentioned that they did not need guest passes because why would they recommend this gym to anyone when half the classes are cancelled due to no-show instructors.
One final note, as a staff member of the New York Sports Clubs in Manhattan, I know for a fact that the budgets for housekeeping have been slashed. I know that there is no customer service training for the staff who work the gym floor. I also know they want to stop having general staff on the gym floor; you know, the ones who can come around and make sure that nobody is being crushed by a barbell. I can tell you that there is NO STAFF on the gym floor. Ask the guy who cut his head open on a piece of equipment the other day. I had to stop my workout to help him find help. When we did, the trainer offered him a band-aid and asked him not to sue the club. Nice. Later.
Just got back from Seattle and I can't sleep because I am still on West Coast time. So, here I am blogging about how much I loved it.
My partner was out there on business and decided to fly me out for the rest of the weekend. First off, the food was great. We had a blast. I recommend eating your way through Pike's Market. This open air farmer's market is insane. If you have facilities to cook when you visit, buy a ton of the fresh seafood, veggies, and whatever else and just have a blast. It's the one thing I could not do and regret that I couldn't. Nevertheless, you can still eat your way by buying some luscious fruits, some amazing baked goods, and stopping by The Tasting Room to sample some great Washington wine.
Speaking of Washington wine, take a trip to Chateau Ste. Michelle which is 40 mintes north of Seattle. Lovely drive. Lovely surroundings. Lovely workers. If you do make it there, see if you can find Matt (hottie who works the tasting bar). My partner and I thought he was cute and we never ever agree on that. Plus he was very helpful and made our visit lots of fun. Even got us a Reserve Wine Tasting which was booked for the day. I would have brought a picnic and it would have been fun BUT my man likes to eat out, so we just hit a local fast food joint which had amazing fish burritos (thanks to Matt, once again).
With all this imbibing and eating (ALERT: go to 1200 Bistro & Lounge for drinks and dinner. A great way to spend some money and time. Just fabulous. Went twice. Great food, wine, atmosphere), it's no wonder that a lot of the people we saw were not-very-lean. It started on the plane ride there. I had about four different people rub their fat asses against my shoulder as they walked by me on the plane. That's not even counting the people in rows 10 and up. My partner and I also noticed how unusually large the people were. We felt skinny-fabu next to a lot of them. Of course, not all Seattle people are "large" but it seemed to be more the rule than the exception. Maybe it was just us. We did go to the gym three days in a row while there. It wasn't empty. It just wasn't like it is in New York City. Later.
As of this past Sunday, Faustus of www.searchforlove.blogspot.com is officially a fitness instructor. I remember when he was someone who contacted me via this blog to tell me that he enjoyed my stories about the gym. He decided to come take my step class, which is where we first met. I am proud to be able to help nurture his goal of fitness instruction.
Talking to him lately has brought back memories of my enthusiasm when I was a new instructor. I remember brimming with nervous energy. Would they like my class? Would they find it a good workout? Would they like me? Will they come back? I remember practicing my routine for my first audition to teach step class. I remember the cute member coming into the dimly-lit studio to say that he has been watching me practice and "knows" that I will be perfect for the job. I remember having to teach a slide class instead because they needed an emergency sub. I still run into one of the three ladies that took that first class of mine. Years later, she told me that she was a bit perturbed to see a sub for the class but was quite pleased afterwards. She doesn't take classes anymore but said she would come back to take my class if it wasn't so damn crowded.
Eight years later, I am still teaching classes. I do love it. It tires me out, though. I enjoy smaller classes where the people who come are enthusiastic. I hate the drama of a large class - the jockeying for placement in the class, the person who insists that they can do more than they should be doing, the pregnant woman who looks like she is in her FOURTH trimester. It all weighs heavily on my mind and grinds away at my psyche. I am exhausted at the end of class. No matter how much I promise myself that I will only teach and not do the step class, it never stops me from putting 110% into it. I try to say that at least I get some cardio.
So, Faustus, CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Enjoy it as much as you can. At least we're not stuck behind a desk in a cubicle. Get your cardio in. Try to avoid becoming as jaded as me. Remember Danskin Supplex shorts in red with the 5" inseam. Call me if you need advice. Or if you just want to bitch about the woman in the front row. Later.
I spent the weekend at a friend's camp/ranch in the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania. We always go during Memorial Day weekend but made an extra trip to stain her deck.
As part of the tradition, we have dinner at a local restaurant called the Red Lion. They are known for their Broasted Chicken which is a brand-name for chicken that is awfully similar to KFC. For $8.95, you get two pieces of white-meat broasted chicken and three (extremely plentiful) sides. It is so much food that you have to take some of it home.
While dining there on Friday night, I noticed that I was the only non-Caucasian there besides my friend Janice who joined us for the weekend. I also noticed that Janice and I were probably the healthiest looking. Actually, our table was the healthiest looking. Let's just say, Atkins or South Beach has not taken over this area.
As many times as I have visited, I am not sure there is even any type of gym in the area. Certainly, most of the people at the Red Lion don't go to one. With all the information being sent out about obesity and the health issues related to it, a large part of this country still does not care. Watching people tear into steaks, broasted chicken, pizza, salads bathed in blue cheese, cheesesteaks, fried everything, and buttered bread, just proved to me that I live in a bubble.
Because I work in the health club industry, I am surrounded by people who watch what they eat, exercise, and have a general concern for their well-being. I was aghast at the amount of food people ate. The table next to us had about three pitchers of beer for the 4 people plus each had a large entree and dessert. My stomach hurts just thinking about the amount of food. None of them took anything home because there was nothing to take home. And none of them seemed apologetic for it.
I am not sure how to feel about it all. On one hand, I applaud them for eating and not having any hang-ups about the fact they do. They just happen to eat this way. But, I cannot believe that being more-than mildly overweight is at all comfortable, no matter who you are. Which fills me with anger that they are not doing anything to change their current health status.
As much as I am part of that culture when I am there - digging into my deluxe pizza with ham and pepperoni, I understand that I only do this once in a Blue Mountain moon. I guess I need to understand that my hang-ups are not theirs. But when my taxes are being used to care for these overweight indivuals (as is being proposed in government), I think I do have the right to be concerned. Later.
A month and a half ago, my partner decided to start the South Beach Diet. After rolling my eyes a couple of times, I decided to do what I always do for him - I make sure that the food I cook and any food stocked in our pantry is appropriate for the diet.
I do have some leighway because there are things that I can stock that I know he will not have the motivation to cook hence he will not eat them. I stock some rice noodles and potatoes for those moments that I am craving starch. I cook white rice because he is not a fan of it and it also satisfies my Asian-self. But overall, I avoid stocking any type of wheat product (pasta, crackers, breads) and fill the fridge with vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, fat-free cheese, and the such.
As a person who has continued to battle the bulge successfully by proper nutrition and exercise, I tend to frown on any diet plan that eliminates any foods from consumption. I feel that if you want fried cheese bits, then have fried cheese bits. If you are craving a banana split, then dig in. But because he is my partner, I support.
Well, as of today, he has lost ten pounds and is feeling very good about himself. I am ecstatic for him. I guess in the end, as a fitness instructor, above and beyond all the positive physical results of exercising, in the end, one hopes that mentally people will feel good about themselves. It give me so much joy to hear someone tell me that taking my class lifts their spirits and helps them forget all their problems for an hour.
Exercise can help you achieve your physical ideal but even if you do achieve that, it does not matter unless you are happy with your results. How many times has one met someone who is physically amazing but continues to think they need bigger biceps, a smaller waist, and thicker calves? I personally find people like that boring, stupid, and, frankly, imbecillic.
On a side note, because of the change in eating habits, many have noted my suddenly svelte and lean physique. The cute trainer at the gym even said that I looked stronger and more cut. Maybe I shouldn't make fun of this diet. Later.
While having drinks with a fellow instructor and an avid class attendee, whom we both adore, the topic of lazy exercise class participants came up. All three of us agreed that they are irritating and wondered why they would bother coming at all.
My fellow instructor Jessica and I happen to have a bunch of the same people come to class. We talked about the Asian lady who apparently takes class seven days a week but still looks like an overstuffed doughnut. We talked about the other Asian lady who comes to class, stands in front with two risers on each side of her step, and can barely make it through the first 15 minutes, leaves BUT comes back again next week. We talked about the gentleman who could probably become an instructor because of his physical skills BUT would be offensive because of his attrocious body odor.
We then moved on to making fun of the needy Hispanic girl who said she was moving to California to pursue her acting dream, only to be back two weeks later with larger breasts. She confessed to me that she went away for a "boob job". She decided to start working out early because she felt fat BUT her wounds were not healed. She proceeded to take step class while wincing in pain and holding her boobs with her arms to keep them steady. We had a great laugh at her expense.
We talked about the the 50-year-old Caucasian lady who stands so close to the instructor that one could consider it anal sex. We noted her lack of enthusiasm for class and how she never ever lifts her knees or heels. We talked about her pasty skin - "It's not alabaster, it's not milky, it's DEAD!"
See what happens when you feed alcohol to fitness freaks with semi-decent bodies. Later.
There are very few things better than friends. I'm not talking about friends that you see once in a while. I am talking about friends whose friendship just seem to transcend everything. No matter how long it's been since you have talked or seen each other, connecting again feels like you saw each other three hours ago.
When it comes down to it, after all the hard work we put into our careers, our bodies, and our futures, nothing really matters if you don't have friends. I am blessed to have few but meaningful friendships. First, my partner of seven years. Then my best friends in South Jersey and Atlanta. My oldest friends and tennis partner in NYC. And now, my new best friend who lives in Massachusettes and is moving to Portsmouth, NH. What more could one want.
I love my friends because we can have lunch and have the most hilarious time and fall into serious discussions only to go back to the hilarious times again. I can call them and talk as if I have just spent the last 24 hours with them. They can listen to me complain about the fact that the new "queers" on the block are so damn thin and fabulous and what the hell happened to me. I can break into how much I am thankful for where I am and being in a relationship is the best thing ever.
I can complain about my lack of a butt and my protruding love-handles (which my partner says do not exist but what does he know). I can have my friends over for some wine and popcorn and then head over to the local Vietnamese restaurant and be drunk as can be as I eat BBQ spare-ribs.
When it all comes down to it... you gotta have friends... not necessarily a boyfriend... just friends. Later.
First things first: Quite unexpectedly, I have a four-day trip planned to Seattle in two weeks. The bf is there on business and bought me a ticket to come out and spend the weekend (man I lucked out). So, any suggestions as to where to go eat, what to see, things to do, gay places, etc? Thanks in advance.
I always wonder whether or not my gym attire is a bit... well... a bit too little. Once, a fellow blogger told his co-worker that he was going to go take "Tim's class". His female co-worker said, "OOOOOHHHHH, Tim with the shorty shorts?" So, now, that name has stuck - Shorty-shorts Tim.
Another friend of mine said that I am known mainly by my tight miniscule Danskin supplex shorts. THEN, by the fact that I teach a pretty decent class. I am beginning to feel self-conscious about being known for my shorts. Maybe it's not just the shorts. It may be the fact that I tend to wear them with the form-fitting sleeveless tank. Yesterday, while working out, I noticed that some of the shirts worn by the guys in the gym had more material than my entire outfit (including jockstrap). Maybe they are too short.
But I wear the shorts for functionality. I fully believe that while teaching, an instructor SHOULD wear attire that allows the student to see how the musculature works. It helps for students to see which muscles are involved in an exercise. It also helps the instructor because he/she can point to the functioning muscle. Baggy pants and tees will only hide that fact making it difficult for the student to understand the exercise goal.
My friend Kevin says that I do it to shock. That my goal is to show off my legs and butt. If there is one body part that I am proud of, it is my legs. They are a product of years of tennis. I don't do any type of exercise for them beyond the lunges, squats, and cardio I do during class. I am blessed with genetically-gifted legs. Well, is it so wrong to show them off?
Anyhoo, I have started to adapt the "If you don't like it, then don't look" attitude. Hey, I don't think it's offensive. It's not as if I am some saggy-assed person with vericose veins running around the gym half-naked. I'm just half-naked. Later.
Don't cry out loud
Just keep it inside
Learn how to hide your feelings.
Fly high and proud
And if you should fall,
Remember you almost had it all.
Even though the lyrics to this song are very repressive, there is something about it that makes me feel strong whenever I hear it. Maybe it's meaning goes deeper than the obvious.
Melissa Manchester has occasionally changed the chorus to "So cry out loud, Don't keep it inside, Don't learn how to hide your feelings."
Maybe back in the 80's those changes meant more.
Nowadays, I think the lyrics hold a different meaning. Instead of bemoaning your failures, take control, actions speak louder than words, be proud of your accomplishments, and, in the end, better to have lost than not tried at all.
Maybe I am going too deep into these lyrics. For myself, what I consider my failures at the gym are not something I ever "cry out loud" about. I went from 220-lbs. of fat to 140-lbs. of bone to 175-lbs. of lean muscle. I still wish that I was skinnier. But I also know that whining about it will not get me where I would like to be physically. If there is one thing we should all do is "fly high and proud" and remember that we should be proud of our accomplishments... "remember we almost had it all". Later.
Is it bad if you put your pet on a diet and begin finding ways for them to exercise? About 6 years ago, I "inherited" a cat. Actually, Leena (who I call Kitty) came along with the relationship. She was grossly overweight because Mike always left out a ton of food for her. So, like any normal American, she would eat everything in site.
When we moved to the Upper West Side, our new vet pointed out that Kitty is fat. Nope, not overweight. Not too large. Just plain old FAT. Well, the trainer in me kicked in. Under the vet's guidance, I put her on a 1/2 a can of wet food (or 1/4 cup of dry food) in the morning AND another in the evening. The vet also said it would help if we played with the kitty to keep her active. Kitty was 9-years-old then. Let's just say that her idea of activity is walking to her food bowl.
So, for the past two years, every moment I got, I would chase her around the house, tease her with a laser pen (she loves chasing the light), place her on elevated surfaces and have her jump off, and any other type of behavior that would bring her into Target Heart Rate Zone. I stopped at wrapping a heart rate monitor around her. For some reason, I didn't think this would endear me to her.
Despite her meowing and occasional nip at my hand, she indulged me in all these endeavors. Well, I am happy to report that at the ripe old age of 11 years (which is old for a cat), Kitty is lean, svelte, and probably in the better shape than the average American. Her excess skin has also receded; which is something I was concerned about when she lost a bunch of pounds.
She'll probably live much longer than we expect. I love my Kitty. I'm thinking of training her for the marathon. If only I can get her to stop napping all day long. Later.