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So, today I’m at the gym. I didn’t want to go, but I skipped out yesterday so I told myself that I’d go and put on my gym clothes and if I had to screw the pooch by strolling on the treadmill for 20 minutes, well at least I would have done something.

So, I’m there. My tshirt is a bit snug, and I’m not super okay with that, but whatev. I decide to lift some weights because my legs have finally recovered from Saturday’s workout and Sunday’s hike.

I do a super set of squats and chest press – no biggie. I could lift heavier on the squats but I’m using dumbbells and I can find two 25 pound weights, but I’m having a hard time finding the second 27.5 pound weight and the jump to 30 pounds is a bit much for my grip strength right now. I could probably lift heavier on the chest press (I’m doing a 35 pound bar) but I’ve got a bit of a wonky noise that my left shoulder makes when I lower the bar back to my chest.

Next on my workout list is step ups and bicep curls. Now, I should be clear: I hate step ups. In case you don’t know what a step up is, you step up onto a box with your right foot, bring your left foot up to the box, step down with your right foot, bring your left foot down, and repeat. Ideally you’re using a box that’s about the height of your knee (18-20″ or so).

My old gym had a built in 16″ box in the women’s section, covered in grippy carpet so you didn’t slip off. The coed section saw people using regular plank style steps with those risers that you add to at either end. They’re shockingly stable, as I saw one day when I was watching a guy jump repeatedly from the ground to a step that was about the height of my boobs. At the Y here in Ottawa, they have actual plyo boxes with adjustable heights and they’re BIG. Nice, wide platforms to jump onto. No risk of ever jumping off or over it.

At my new gym, they have the Reebok Step. I don’t really understand this step. There’s some configuration options with the base to make it higher, and when you stack them one on top of the other, they’re not that stable looking. They’re pretty stable when you’re actually on them, but they look unstable.

Anyway, I’m doing my step ups on my right foot. I’m supposed to do 15-20. Fifteen if I’m feeling cranky about them, 20 if I’m feeling tough. I’m at 12 step ups when the damned step broke. The support in the base that raised up the upper step sort of smooshed inwards and the whole top step slipped down to the left.

Logically, I can understand that the step was probably broken before I ever set foot on it. (Supported by the fact that I put it back together and it promptly came apart again.) Logically, I can say that the configuration I used was not stable. Logically, I can say that I miss the steps from my old gym, and boy do I wish the women’s section had a plyo box. (Note to self: check the co-ed section, which is sadly up a loooooong flight of stairs which seemed insurmountable considering I didn’t even want to workout today.) Logically I can tell you that really way heavier people than me can use a regular step without breaking it.

The emotional realm is not logical, however, so my inner fat kid died a total, humiliated death when that step broke. My “is that chair strong enough for me?” fears all came rushing back. My mad desire to eat anything and everything to make myself feel better came surging to the fore. My embarrassed “oh god, please don’t let me blush or break out into tears” furtive look around the gym was unstoppable.

I moved the step that I couldn’t put back together to the side, got another step, put it on top of my base step, and finished my set. Then I did my bicep curls. Then I did another set of step ups and another set of curls. And then I walked the fuck out of that gym with my head held high.

Sure, it was 4 different exercises and 10 sets before I was supposed to leave, but for a day when I didn’t want to work out and this happened, I will celebrate the fact that I accomplished this much.

Tomorrow, I’m asking a staff member about plyo boxes and how to set the steps up properly. This. This is never happening again.


I’ve had a gym membership pretty much consistently since I was 20. My sainted parents shelled out for gym memberships for me at home in the summers during university, and for one year when I lived off campus and had only two days where I actually went to the university (and its free, albeit totally crappy gym) each week.

When I moved to Ottawa I got a membership at the gym in the building where I worked. Oh man, it was a SWEET deal: $20 a month and I got to watch Question Period on the elliptical every day. I changed jobs and moved to the mothership of that office gym and it was more expensive ($30 a month) but so big! And a hot tub! And the sketchiest change room I’d see for several years! But the personal trainers were cheap and even though there was a signup for the cardio equipment if you went at 7pm every night (when Buffy was on) you could usually finagle going from one machine to the next for a full hour.

Then I changed jobs again, sold my car and had to find a gym more in the downtown area. I started working out near my office at a GoodLife gym in the basement of a mall. Oh, the ventilation was bad. The equipment was old. I struggle to forget the horror that was the ladies toilets (how can there be THAT MUCH HAIR???). But, they had the greatest group fitness instructor ever – a woman who was fit but not skinny and who was so awesome that she did an Ironman. A full one! Loved her.

And then I changed jobs again, and my corporate membership expired and oh man I was so stressed but couldn’t work 12 hours a day AND go to a gym  downtown so I bought a car. Yeah, I bought a car. Also known as a $15,000 gym membership. I bought a car and re-joined the GoodLife as my dad’s family member (discount, holla!) and started to play squash. Because it was a good way to meet people and hit things legally.

I’ve been back at the GoodLife for four years, mostly on a corporate membership for around the equivalent of $35 a month. My branch is a little weird. The people are intense. The gymgoers, not the staff. They line up waiting for the gym to open on the weekends. They line up because it doesn’t f’in open until 8am. And it very inconveniently closes at 6pm, which sucks when I actually generally kinda want to work out either before 8am or after 6pm. Also, insanely busy. So busy that getting a parking spot is a real challenge. They have an agreement with a business next door so you can use their lot after 5pm. Totally doesn’t help – that lot is ALWAYS also full. And they have the usual maintenance issues – broken equipment, broken tiles held on with duct tape, no towels, etc. But that corporate membership is pretty sweet – it’s $25/month cheaper than the regular price, and my dad gets that price, too.

Since it looks like I’m going to have to break up with squash (sob!), I’m second guessing that gym membership. Especially since my new office (same job, new building) is less than 1km from an enormous facility that I toured on Monday that is, hands down, the sexiest gym I’ve ever been in.

You know those American movies when they show people on spin bikes but they’re really nice bikes and they have fancy equipment and shit? That’s this gym. They have spin bikes in the regular cardio area with tvs that will play you your own personal spin class. Fuck me. No having to be there when there’s a spin class. No having to judge myself and fake turning the knob “one big turn”. Nope. Just … c’mon. It’s so sexy I could weep. Every single piece of cardio equipment has its own TV. No more watching an infomercial at 8am on a sunday morning because that’s the channel that’s available.

They have not one, but two pools. As long as there’s no class happening, you can lane swim. They have enclosed individual shower cubicles with doors instead of those nasty curtains you pray you don’t have to touch. They have a warm up and stretching ROOM in between the weights and the cardio equipment, not just one paltry mat that is never enough space for the core and stretching work that needs to be done. And wait for it… they have four squat racks. Not Smith machines. Full, actual squat racks.

Sigh. It’s $30 every two weeks. And I think I’m going to join. I could get up at the same time as I do today, go to the gym instead of the office, workout, shower, and still be at work for 8:30am. That’s one less hour of me being frustrated in my office (cause you know you leave at the same time, no matter what time you start). That’s one less hour of staring at my computer. That’s one more fixed hour of getting healthy.

Even though my corporate GoodLife membership doesn’t expire til mid-July, I think I’m going to get this one started next week. I think it might very well be worth the money. And it might spoil me for all gyms to come.

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