Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Gym

Ah, yes, I think. The moans and groans of the gym. A place where noises of this caliber in any other context would signal some sort of strange sexual release, imminent danger or weird nature call.  But no, I’m at the gym, and at the gym, you don’t question groans. Or mention bad body odor. Or feel awkward doing those hip-thrusting exercises. At the gym, pretty much anything goes.
Dressed in a Relay for Life T-Shirt circa 2004 and maroon and gold CMU shorts, I walk in to the mat-covered room, taking in the tight Spandex, bulging veins and satin basketball shorts. The place is pretty busy as people of all shapes and sizes attempt to maneuver around the various weight machines –metal contaptions featuring mini cartoon bodies on the side highlighting the muscle groups, making promises that yes, you will work your biceps, your back, your quads with this machine. A collective smell of sweat and hope – hope that this year, I’m sticking to my new year’s resolution; hope that this time, I will lift 217 pounds; hope that by God, I will run around this track until I’m dizzy or pass out— lingers.
I walk further into the room and look to my left, pulling my stub of a ponytail tighter as I curiously begin looking for the culprit who sounded more bamboo than human to express his muscular pain.  Or strength.  You never could tell.
The groan echoes again, and this time, I spot him.  A man with a red face, blonde hair, green MSU shorts and tan –scratch that, orange—skin stands –scratch that, squats—near me in his rainbow of workout glory.  Sweat drips down his face like mini tributaries of testosterone and water as he puts down the dumbbells and walks –scratch that, struts—to the water fountain to hydrate those heavily worked muscles of his.
I sigh, bending down to tie my black and pink tennis shoes, a steal I got at the cheap shoe store at the mall. Loop, swoop, pull. As I stand up, I look just in time to see the man-bamboo  (man-boo?) wink to a girl with a Snooki poof and black yoga pants as he continues to strut gallantly to the bench press. Ew. would bet fifty bucks this guy would call that strutting  “swagger” but I say he looks like an awkward rooster. Or a baby horse that is just learning to walk, all stumbling and sideways. I turn towards the track.
The gym is quite the eclectic place, perfect for prime people watching because mostly everyone –whether you are fit, fat, guy, girl, 65-years old with blue hair and high cholesterol or 18-years-old with a tan and low metabolism, is somewhat conscious of their health and body. Fortunately (I see you, Attractive Guy Wearing Michigan Basketball Shorts) or unfortunately (Your shirt is wayyy too low, Middle-Age Woman with the Baby Phat Top), everyone has a body, and the gym is a place to work out that body.  So you get to see a lot of unique people.  And hear a lot of groaning.
I am not the cute girl when I work out. I don’t have hoop earrings in.  I usually wear T-Shirts and shorts instead of those matchy-matchy, cute-but-looks-like-I’m-not-trying-to-look-cute workout outfits from Victoria’s Secret. My hair is not teased to any sort of volume. My new shoes often make me trip on the track.
So yes, I am quite the looker. And on top of all that, no matter how good of shape I am in, I always look sweaty and red.
Passed down from my mother to me, my post-workout face’s tendency to turn a strange reddish-pink hue makes me end up looking like a faded red Crayola washable marker that lost its cap.  Sometimes when working out with friends, I will make a disclaimer: “Don’t be alarmed at how red or pink my face gets. I’m fine.” 
One day after working out, I decided to make a trip to Subway, since that makes sense, right? Consuming a bunch of calories after burning a bunch of calories? Go team. Anyway, while making my six-inch turkey on wheat with green peppers, pickles, lettuce and honey mustard  (Not toasted. I’m no diva.) The Sandwich Artist looked at me curiously, then said, “Someone just got out of the tanner, eh? You’re looking a little burnt.”
Starving and sweaty, I was confused for a second. Burnt? Then I realized he thought the color of my face was due to the overexertion of fake UV rays rather than an overexertion of my cardiovascular system.
“Um, yup,” I replied while looking down, embarrassed for some reason. “Those tanners. It’s those last two minutes that got me.” Why was I lying?
“Yup,” he replied as he layered the turkey slices over each other, tucking them in in a bed of wheat bread. “One time I stayed out in the sun too long in Florida. Got sunburnt so bad there were blisters oozing all over me.” While telling his Florida tale, he squirted the honey mustard a little too eagerly on my sandwich, the pale yellow condiment spreading thick over the lettuce. I grimaced as I looked at the honey mustard while visualizing his blisters.  Goodbye appetite.
“That’s really…um…(Gross? Too much information?) Detailed…” I reply.
“Yeah,” he laughed. “So be careful in those tanners.”
Overall, though, working out is a good time. You get healthy. You see lots of unique people. You hear weird groans. It’s a jungle in there. Or rather, it’s a jungle..wait for it….gym.
[Corny joke. You like it.]