Friday, January 6, 2012

Thoughts on gyms

Our second visit to London is off to a good start. It took me a few days to get accustomed to the neighborhood, but I've figured it out now - exactly how long it takes to walk to Royal Albert Hall (12-13 minutes) , and the locations of the grocery stores, the library branches, the gyms. I still haven't joined a gym - the memberships are wildly expensive for short-term contracts (between 60-100 pounds per month = $100-140 per month) ... I have been biding my time, because Cirque is trying to negotiate a fitness center exchange. They do this in many cities, working out a deal with a local gym which offers us free or discounted memberships in exchange for tickets. This is really only needed for Cirque's support staff. I've never heard of an artist attending an outside gym or even a yoga class - they are pretty much set, and pretty much exhausted, by their work and their training. However, the support staff and accompanying tour members are eager for gyms, classes, spas, etc.

I did get a free 3-day trial at the most beautiful gym in the neighborhood, and had a great time. I love visiting new gyms and experiencing the different environments - not to mention the wild and wacky equipment some of these places come up with. The one here features a whole area set aside for these devices, called Power Plates, which are supposed to give you a full-body workout by vibrating your muscles. "Achieving your fit, new body is just a shake away."

Home in Natick, I went to a gym that had this fun trend - the Prowler Push. You are basically pushing a sled full of weights across a stretch of Astroturf, in the middle of the gym. "High Intensity Metabolic Training! Unlease Your Primal Edge!" My favorite online tip: "If you don't have access to a prowler, you can get similar results pushing a car around an empty parking lot (make sure you have someone working the brake for safety reasons)."

...I laugh at this stuff, but the truth is I am rarely adventurous at the gym. I like my treadmills and my elliptical machines. For a change sometimes I'll try a bike or a stairclimber, or do some mild resistance work. My heart rate goes up and my mind relaxes, and for the most part this has been sufficient.

However. As my mid-thirties crawl towards my late thirties, and the effects of raising-three-children, no-longer-doing-trapeze, and genetics kick into action, I'm starting to feel alarmed. These old gym routines are simply not cutting it, to maintain my weight and muscle tone. Mulling over this problem on January 2, I was not prepared for the Turkish Personal Trainer.

TPT approached me in a kind and friendly manner - she was offering a free trial workout, would I care to join her? I jumped at the chance. And then, an hour later, I nearly had to crawl out of the gym, as she kicked my butt more thoroughly than it has ever been kicked. To any outsider it would not have looked like anything outrageous. But we were doing free weights! And when I felt a little tired, she didn't let me stop! All the cells in my body started to mutiny towards the end, I thought I would either be sick or pass out. But of course I just kept smiling at TPT and pretending like I was just fine, ex-trapeze artist and all.

48 hours after this event I was still walking funny and having trouble bending down. But I learned something from all this, which is that I really don't push myself very hard. I guess I was surprised, because I used to make a living urging other people to do one more pullup, tighten those abdominal muscles. But imagine that - when it comes to my own workouts, I am anything but a taskmaster. And I've been told by many people that it just gets harder, the older your body gets - that you will have to work more, just to maintain what you had before. This is rather discouraging to think about.

Our finances won't allow for any more visits to TPT. So I am still feeling kind of adrift with my fitness goals for this year - knowing I want to be stronger and fitter, but without any real idea or plan of how to get there.


  1. I want so badly to see the vibrating thing in action! Video post!!!

  2. You know, I watched the online videos:
    but they're just not very interesting, because you can't see the vibrations. I may have to try the damn thing out myself for an eyewitness account.