Of all the new year cliches, none seem to be more true that the people who fill gyms, yoga classes and fitness centers on January 1st. I’m what you could call “a gym class regular”, not a hero, not a meathead, not even an enthusiast, but a dude who noticed his fitness joint when it opened, got on the ground level membership pricing, and goes enough to justify the amount that comes out of my checking account each month. I’m familiar with the treadmill, the yoga mats that I do push ups and sit ups on, and the bench press area. I know how to sweat and maintain my mediocre build of 43-year-old Campbell Soup Can. I put the stock in stocky.
It’s been three and a half years since I joined my gym and I like it. There are meatheads with gallon jugs of distilled water and a duffel bags full of stuff that I assume are Barry Bonds approved “supplements”, but I haven’t done any journalism to confirm. There are a lot of people who look like me, middle-aged, graying in the usual areas and proud of their one-hour sweat three or four times a week. I’ve even traded hellos, how ’bout them local sports teams conversations and dude, can I spot you on the bench moments with a few others.
When I walked into my local ligament pull this morning, January 1, 2014, I expected swarms of newbies. I mean I read Facebook, the Twitter, and Instagram. Everyone I kinda sorta know is going to change for the good and make 2014 their bitch.
The parking lot was full. I smiled, pulled into one of only two spaces available, scooped up my workout gear and went inside. You could smell the temporary enthusiasm. It was combination of the Target makeup counter and human mothballs from the last time people hit the mills and weights. The girl behind the counter checked me in. She’s my oldest daughter’s age, 18, and sarcasm is her co-pilot.
“Welcome to Jungle, for now.”
I laughed at her line and dodged two women dressed in clothes that cost more than my entire wardrobe then bumped into six different dudes trying to find a locker in the men’s area.
“Hey man, thought you’d skip this week, glad you didn’t. More tales to tell this way, huh?”
The gravely voice belonged to Pete. Pete looks like George Peppard when Peppard played Hannibal Smith on The A-Team. I’ve always assumed Pete loves it when a plan comes together. One day I’ll smoke a victory cigar after we take out some rouge military guys. I didn’t respond, because once you talk to Pete, you’re in for a ride that doesn’t let up for a while. I smacked his arm with my right hand and laughed then found my favorite locker, number 23.
The floor of the fitness center looked like those news clips you see of the Wall Street Stock Exchange. People were everywhere, like ants all up in a picnic. My gaze caught one treadmill open so I made a line for it. It was in front of a TV playing Fox News Channel. This was going to be a painful 25 minute rat race. I noticed the guest on Fox & Friends was an astrologer. I was amused. Someone forgot to tell their producers and hosts that their network didn’t believe in science, fake or otherwise. But the sixty-year-old woman huffing next to me on her treadmill seem totally engaged. I tweeted my thoughts instead of saying them out loud.
After my run, I noticed my usual workout wasn’t possible. Everyone was on everything I needed so I started people watching. I saw the trainer guy crash and burn flirting with two girls who were working out in full make-up and earrings. I noticed a female muscle head throw a minor temper tantrum when one of the newbies left weights on a bar. Every few minutes a regular would notice me, nod their head and mouth “this sucks” or “six weeks” or “kill me” and I’d laugh. I wondered how many would stick it out and become average, run of mill, regulars like me. I saw two guys with major potential for mediocrity. They were polite, about to pass out and apologetic for getting in the way. They were even cuter than the ones who’d be gone in six weeks.
The music being played signified the new school attendee. Top 40 ruled. Strong women with children mouthed the words to “damn, she’s a sexy chick” and “I’m sexy and I know it”. While out of shape dudes couldn’t help themselves to classic Lady GaGa or Pitbull.
By the time the bench press machine was open and I could do my four sets, One Republic’s Counting Stars played. That line, “everything that kills me, makes me feel alive” said it all. That was why I was here on January 1, 2014, trying to feel alive at 43-years-old. After I finished making my chest and elbows feel like they were about to explode, I started counting stars, those people who wouldn’t be around in a month. I hold out some hope my cynicism is dead wrong. But for now, I say 4 out of 45 will be there trying to make themselves look good for their significant other son Valentine’s Day.Lance Burson is writer living outside Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and three daughters. He’s the published author of two books available on amazon for kindle and in paperback from Lulu.com – The Ballad of Helene Troy and Soul To Body. His favorite exercise is full body massage followed by whiskey.