Tuesday, September 14, 2010

May I please pay you to shriek feel-good
messages at me until my self-esteem rolls
out the door like a runaway treadmill?

Brad Pitt playing a personal trainer in Burn After Reading.

195 pounds

I’m seriously considering joining a gym this fall—not because my attitude about my body has changed, but simply because I got a raise.

As some of you know, I gained about thirty pounds during my first year of grad school in 1998. As a result, I started exercising every day pretty soon after that. During the seven years I was in grad school, I alternated between working out in the gym (free of charge when I was a grad student) and exercising outside. But when I finished grad school, I couldn’t afford the monthly membership fees and had to rely almost entirely on outdoor activities for exercise—mostly walking, biking, and playing tennis.

But now that I’m rolling in dough (I'm obviously kidding), I thought it might be nice to head back to a real gym. I have mixed feelings about it, of course.

It seems so American and decadent to workout in the gym—what’s wrong with exercising in the great outdoors after all?—and it goes against my belief that we should focus on exercise that feels more like play than work. But when I was walking in the dark one night last week, I realized that the winter months are fast approaching, and I’ll be happier if I have an indoor exercise haven.

So I finally put on my big girl panties and started looking for information about the gym closest to my house. When I got to the website, they were offering a free pass for newcomers, so I clicked on the link.

Like anything else, the free pass wasn’t completely free. You had to trade your personal information—including email address and phone number so that, I’m sure, they can call and bug you about joining—and answer a few questions about yourself.

Fine. No problem. I can handle that.

Or so I thought.

Because when I came to the first question, I found myself already beginning to get irritated.

The problem is that the possible answers for this question are quite limiting. Here are the choices you could check after you are asked, “What are your primary interests?”

Weight Management

Increased Energy

Nutritional Guidance


Stress Release

Overall Better Health

Unfortunately, there is no “other” option, which is what I would have chosen if possible. But instead, I had these six, somewhat limiting options, most of which imply that you don’t like yourself the way you are.

1. Weight Management—the message is that I either don’t like my weight and want to change it or am terrified of gaining weight. But I do like my weight. Sure, it would be nice to lose a few pounds, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like my body the way it is now. And it seems to me that this option sends the opposite message.

2. Increased Energy—I’m not really joining a gym for increased energy. I already exercise every day and, as a result, have energy to spare. So this option doesn’t really apply. And I hate that there also seems to be the sense that someone who chooses this option might be feeling down. I don’t want faux happy trainers coming up to me at the gym and trying to cheer me up. That would make me want to hit somebody with a barbell.

3. Nutritional Guidance—This option is clearly just code for “diet,” and we all know how I feel about that. And I am certainly not joining a gym for nutritional guidance, nor do I don’t want ANYONE telling me how to eat, especially some hopped-up gym employee.

4. Motivation—I’m also already pretty motivated. I don’t need anyone—again especially not some obnoxious gym grunt—trying to motivate me.

5. Stress Release—same thing. I already have a stress release. I just want one that is indoors.

6. Overall Better Health—this option CLEARLY states the problem: “Better health.” Not “Overall Health,” which would be an option I’d be willing to check, but “Overall Better Health,” which again implies I’m not happy with my health right now.

I’m sensing a trend here—they seem to be implying that no one joins a gym to maintain their current lifestyle, which is what I’m doing. But rather that people only join the gym to change.

But I don’t want to change!

I just don’t want to walk in the dark all winter. And maybe I’d like to hit some aerobics classes and lift a few weights while I’m there too. Is that really so hard to believe? Why are “exercise indoors” or “use better equipment” not options??? Even something to the effect of “maintain overall health” would work for me.

We probably all know these options are not available because gyms don’t make money off of happy people. No, the workout and weight loss industry makes it money off of people who are so desperately unhappy that they’ll do anything—even go to a hot, sweaty gym with perky “trainers” who shout obnoxious feel good messages at you while you’re trying to burn a few calories—to feel good again.

Honestly, I just don’t know if I can put up with all that bullshit. And my fear is that the you-must-lose-weight-to-be-happy message will be omnipresent, blaring at me like an alarm clock I can’t shut off.

I guess what I’m really afraid of is that no one at the gym will accept that I don’t want to diet and that I like myself the way I am.

Truth be told, I’m terrified of that.

It’s almost as scary as not working out.



  1. Since you work at WKU don't you get to work out there for free? The location seems pretty ideal though I've never hunted for gyms.


  2. Hey, Jessi,

    Unfortunately, the WKU gym is only free for students. Faculty have to pay to go there!


  3. I would definitely recommend joining a gym. At my gym (24 hour fitness) they offer classes that are free to members, which are a fun way to mix up your workout and enjoy something new! Classes range from Zumba to Hip Hop to Spinning (and more!). Also, are there any Lululemon stores in your area? They offer free classes about twice a week (usually yoga, pilates, or a group run) that are also a great way to mix up your workout and enjoy something new.