I Need a New Gym, and I Don't Want To Talk About Weight Loss, Get It?

How hard can it be to find a gym that doesn't gross me out or try to make me feel like crap about myself?
Publish date:
August 25, 2011
gym, exercise, nerds, radical anti-diet extremism, meatheads, asthma

I am on the prowl, kids. After two years of loveless marriage, my gym membership and I parted ways at last in June. Oh, we adored each other once, it’s true.

My gym was one of a large national chain, and I got a really good deal on the monthly fee. The building was brand new, as were the machines. It also had a pool, which was surprisingly clean -- when I first started going there, at least.

There were always paper towels in the paper-towel-dispensers, and the locker rooms were sparkling and comfortable, a fine place to take off one’s clothes.

But as is so often the case in long-term relationships, time passed, and my gym stopped taking such immaculate care of itself. It started taking me for granted. We were legally contracted to one another now, you understand, so where was the motivation? I wasn’t going anyplace else. And what’s the occasional band-aid floating in the pool mere inches from my face during an emphatic breaststroke? No big deal, right?

Clearly this gym had underestimated my self-respect, because not only did I refrain from throwing up when I saw that band-aid, I also followed through a few weeks later and cancelled my membership entirely, a ridiculous procedure requiring me to log in to my member account on the website, print out a form, fill it out by hand and then mail it through the post.

I was actually motivated by many other things -- the locker rooms had gotten gross, it seemed like no one was ever cleaning the machines, and I was sick of the crowds of bellowing jocks that had recently taken up residence. The band-aid was just the final straw.

However, now I find myself without a gym, and I do like to have a gym in my life. I am only just starting to accept the fact that I am going to have to get back “out there,” as it were, and “meet” a bunch of new gyms and have some bad experiences and hopefully find the right one, or at least the right one for now.

I am kind of terrible at first dates with gyms. At my former club, early on in the sales pitch, I asked the pitch-making dude -- whom I would later learn was the manager of the whole place -- what the clientele was like. Generally speaking.

Actually, what I said was, “I just don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of meatheads.”

The dude froze and was silent, looking both offended and confused. I quickly followed up, “Like I just want to do my thing and not deal with a competitive environment.”

Ah, we were back to the scripted language. No competitive environment here! He left us for a moment to go grab some more paperwork and my husband, who was there for moral support, shook his head and chuckled at me: “I can’t believe you said that.”


“That thing about the meatheads,” he replied.


“Lesley -- that guy is TOTALLY a meathead.”

Oh. Well that would explain the look.

I am also a little aggressive insofar as the weight loss issue is concerned. I want nothing to do with weight loss -- I don’t want to hear about it, and I certainly don’t want the trainers I employ to assume I am there to lose weight. Ideally, they should ask me my goals and stick to them. So I tend to be very... firm on this point, once going so far as to warn a trainer that if she mentioned the proposed fat-destroying efficacy of a certain exercise to me just one more time, I was probably going to blow up at her and she was probably going to go home crying.

I am not trying to be cruel, you guys -- it’s just when I say I don’t want to talk about weight loss, I REALLY MEAN I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS. Listen and abide by my wishes and we will get along wonderfully.

Unfortunately, weight loss talk is abundant at most health clubs, and if I had a dollar for every time a totally unknown stranger has sidled up to my elliptical and cheerfully asked me how much weight I had lost “so far” (um, zero pounds, zero ounces) and encouraged me to “keep it up” (um, fuck you) -- well, I could easily pay for a year at Equinox in cash and still have funds left over for Pinkberry afterward.

It would be one thing if I invited such conversation, or brought up hypothetical (but actually nonexistent) weight loss myself -- what enrages me is the presumption. OF COURSE the fat lady can’t be at the gym simply because she enjoys working out and feeling strong and awesome. She MUST be here because she hates her body and wants to lose weight.

What I really want is a nerd gym. Not like a hipster-nerd gym, with vintage video game cabinets in the locker rooms that nobody actually plays. No, I envision a gym for real nerds, where awkwardness is the norm; where one can fall off a treadmill and people come to help, rather than staring in horror; where asthma inhalers are plentiful and not embarrassing.

"Doctor Who" and reruns of Carl Sagan’s "Cosmos" on the televisions! Xbox 360 consoles strapped to the ellipticals! Carcasonne and Settlers of Catan in the cafe! I would never leave.

Unfortunately, my dream gym doesn’t exist, and I now embark upon the monumental task of combing the city of Boston for a gym that simply doesn’t suck.

What do you ask of a potential gym? What are your highest priorities? I am ruling no options out here. I shall go to the lady-gyms; I shall go to the wealthy-people gyms; I shall go to the old-people gyms; I shall even give the YMCA a shot. I will leave no stone unturned. There are plenty of fish in the sea!

At least, the fish outnumber the band-aids. I hope.