I did something for the first time today. I joined a gym. I typically like to get my exercise in a more rugged way, like bodysurfing or running on the beach barefoot, but we’re getting to the time of year when the wind starts blowing consistently, and although the sun will be shining, beach activity will be less enjoyable due to the swirling sand. So I figure, why not, let’s pull the trigger, and do it.
I literally searched on my iPhone’s map and found a handful of nearby gyms. And Oh My God, did we score. I have found the best gym, ever. This place is amazing. So amazing that I will leave it unnamed here. I think this gym might be one of San Francisco’s best kept secrets, and I don’t want to be the one to share it. I don’t want to spoil its magic by inviting people in. So I’m not naming it, just describing it. And I am absolutely not checking in on Foursquare there, gym rat badges be damned.
Where do I start? First off, it’s unbelievably cheap. There are three monthly options, and the cheapest is $10 a month. The second tier, which we opted for, is $19 a month, but if we go 3 times a week for 3 months, we get that reduced to $10 a month. (Which, by the way, is a great idea for a gym. Reward your frequent members with lower rates, incentivize them to work out.) That means that if I do go 3 times a week, for a month, I’m going 12 times a month, and subsequently, am paying less than $1 per visit to go to the gym. It’s almost free.
Second off, and I probably should have started with this point, as it is the first thing you see, is the gym’s aesthetics. It’s located next to a store called “Hollywood Eyebrows,” which I think gives you a good sense of things. Mirrors everywhere, of course, but it has wall-to-wall bright red carpeting. Walking into the gym is like walking into a time machine, I’d maybe even call it a Gym Time Machine, which could be the sequel for Hot Tub Time Machine. They have standing tanning booths in this gym, which are free. I can only imagine the amount of cancer you can get in those things. There is about a 3 foot gap between the mirrors on the walls and the ceilings, and those are filled with vaguely American Gladiator-esque blue and red striped banners. I’d say it’s like 40 yards long, 30 yards wide, with a women’s only section for the women who are creeped out by working out with guys around (yet another awesome feature) and a really bizarre little cubby side room for “personal training.”
All of this points to the third awesome feature: the people. This gym is happily devoid of platinum blonde trophy wives with the Chinese character for “strength” tattooed on their low backs. It is instead filled with Chinese people who want to work on their strength, mostly old Chinese people, the type who find tremendous pleasure in finding good bargains the same way that my wife and I do. In addition to the Asian senior citizens (which comprise about 70% of the gym membership) you have some high school kids trying to get stronger, a couple of actual meatheads, but those seem incredibly rare, and so on and so forth. Honestly, it’s like Average Joe’s from the movie Dodgeball, but with red carpeting and standing tanbooths.
We signed up, and my wife wanted to take a 75 minute cardio/bodysculpting class. I figured this is the day of First’s, so why not take my first cardio/bodysculpting class. I’m planning on doing a big swim on Sunday, so I didn’t want to lift myself into useless soreness. So into the enclosed, but still carpeted, space for the cardio/bodysculpting class we went.
The stereo system was pumping a cheesy remix of a cheesy pop song. Our teacher was probably 55 years old. Our classmates probably averaged about 65 years old. I was the only male. We were in the small minority of people for whom English was our first language. I was in disbelief about the journey I was undertaking. But I did it.
Our teacher counted out as we punched the air, pulled invisible ropes while bouncing, and did numerous version of jumping jacks. She was particularly fond of counting “seven!” her “fours” were more like “fouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuur!” and “two” was apparently the same thing as “zero,” because at “two” she’d change to the next exercise. It became pretty clear that she only had about 15 minute worth of moves, and would spin us to face a different wall and look into a different mirror to distract us from realizing that we were doing the same things over-and-over again. I recognized about 60% of the moves we were doing from the scene in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure where Joan of Arc invade a mall gym to teach aerobics. (It’s the first 10 seconds, and then again at 2;28-2;36 and then again at 3:25-3:35 , but it’s worth watching the whole clip to re-experience a slice of heaven. And if you haven’t seen this movie, you are a lost soul.)
About 20 minutes into the class, I realized I couldn’t stop smiling. I was loving every second of this class. I felt like I was 4 years old, doing ridiculous dance moves in my carpeted basement with my siblings, dancing around to Sesame Street records while my mom videotaped us for posterity’s sake. (Those videos, which would have been youtube gold if youtube existed back then, are invaluable in my family.) I was carefree, the old chinese lady next to me in pink leggings and an oversized bright yellow t-shirt was carefree as she flung her arms around somewhat maniacally, the teacher was carefree, the woman in way too much lipstick who kept smiling at herself in the morning was carefree…we were all enraptured with this moment of complete and total carelessness. It was amazing. It was 100% endorphins.
I can’t wait to go back to another cardio/bodysculpting class in San Francisco’s best kept secret gym.