At the gym

I shouldn’t have been surprised – after all, it’s the start of a new year – but I was still taken aback when I slipped (5 minutes late) into my PowerPump gym class last evening.

Usually, the vast floor space is peppered with the mats and bodies of 10-15 regulars. We know the routines and the instructors, and we nod to each other in recognition before assembling our paraphernalia (weights, bars, mats, straps, step risers and platform).

Not yesterday.

There must have been 30 members in the room, many still jockeying for position, despite shouted entreaties from our instructor to “get in position,”assume your places,” and “make room for your neighbor.” I watched as one woman, armed with a five-foot weight bar, swung around and nearly blinded the guy bending down behind her. I managed to squeeze into a place on the floor where I was so close to those in front and beside me I could see their  pores opening as they warmed up.

“I’ve never done this before, but I’ve got tremendous upper body strength from carrying my two-year-old around,” confided one LuluLemon clad enthusiast to another as she loaded up on enough weights to sink a battleship.

“What the heck are we supposed to do with these?” asked a forty-something woman fingering the plastic clamps that kept weights from sliding off the bars. I pictured her wobbling through her first overhead press, the thump of the weights as, unsecured, they slid off the bar and tumbled to the ground … or onto my feet … the now-unbalanced woman pitching sideways …

Eventually, the class began. “Anyone new here today?” asked the instructor. A dozen hands shot up. “Welcome!” she said. “Questions?” A fity-ish guy in a wife-beater t-shirt, curly black chest hair erupting from the top and sides, waved his hand. “I got bad knees and a hip replacement. Will I be OK?” The instructor gave him a measured look. “Maybe no weights today, seeing as it’s your first time.” The guy nodded and flexed his bicep, admiring the bulge of his turfed arm.

The first fifteen minutes of class passed. Using our weighted bars, we did a series of dead lifts and front raises to the throbbing pulse of a Beyonce track. Three women gave up and left without putting their equipment away. During the next fifteen minutes a loudly whispered argument broke out between a young woman in bright purple leggings and her muscle-bound boyfriend. “This was your idea,” she spat at him. “I wanted to try the spin class.” I gave their relationship another two weeks.

I took a quick look around just past the halfway point of the one-hour class. Several people had given up and were sitting on their mats, checking their iPhones. Others had flopped down onto the floor and were staring, panting, at the ceiling. “Dig deep!” the instructor yelled through her headset over the music as we wrapped up a series of squats. “Tough it out! We’re almost done – just sixteen more!”

Class over, I was depositing my hand weights into a carton when I overheard one woman say to another: “I think I pulled a hamstring … or maybe a tendon. How about next time we just hide out in the steam room?” Replied her companion, “How about next time we skip class altogether and meet at my place for martinis?”

I was congratulating for my superior athleticism when I felt a sharp twinge in my lower back. I thought about the steam room … and a martini … maybe a martini inside the steam room?

Slowly, I limped out of the club.



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