Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Gym: Intense and purpose

Attribution for the title of this post goes to a gym in downtown Bisbee, Arizona, whose name is perhaps the best-ever play on words: The Intense and Purpose Gym.

Seldom does anything live up to its sales pitch.

Gold's Gym, however, is a welcome exception. About a decade ago, Gold's Gym established an outpost in Bryan, Texas, about a half-mile from my house. Ten or twelve years ago, Gold's offered a very attractive annual membership for charter members. Being a bit wary of the Venice, California, Muscle Beach reputation, I hesitated. Although I was in fairly good condition from cycling, and I had been a regular at gym in another state, I was wary of the meat market atmosphere at some gyms.

Could a middle-aged, overweight, unfashionable female feel comfortable in such a place? I was skeptical. But when two co-workers 10 years my senior joined, I overcame my shyness and joined. It's been fabulous.

The muscle-bound young man punctuated his pitch full of superlatives about the gym with references to his own impressive weight-training routine, both of which I discounted. He glossed over the group exercise classes and gave short shrift to the weight-training machines, both of which are the mainstays of my fitness program.

With a black/white/gray color scheme, the gym opened a few weeks later with what seemed at the time a wondrous variety of machines and a palette of group exercise classes. I loved it. The classes were expertly taught by professional, motivated instructors. Everything started on time. Although I was an experienced cyclist, the beginning group cycling class was, well more than a challenge, but eventually I worked my way into condition.

I progressed on weight training and saw immediate results. I loved the choreographed step aerobics classes.

Eventually, a sparkling gym was built in College Station, about four miles away. The Bryan gym was demolished and a gym rivaling its College Station sister was built its place, with a rubberized floor, an block-long avenue of aerobic exercise machines, four times the number of weight-training machines of the original, an airy aerobics room, and, of course, the free weights.

Starbuck's' CEO Howard Schultz talks about a "third place" other than work and home. For me, that is the gym, almost every morning.

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