This recent bout of illness has effectively ended a pretty consistent streak at the gym. "I can't work out, I have a respiratory infection," I rasped to my coworker/gym buddy Janet yesterday. "Also, I need to go out drinking." I make awesome decisions about my health.

I recently joined the oddly-named Printing House Fitness Club, a gym near my office in the West Village, and it is fancy as all get-out. It has a rooftop pool, a sauna, an on-staff masseuse, a boxing gym, and several squash courts, none of which I will ever use, but all of which dazzled me enough to relinquish my credit card after a tour. They also have a ton of classes, all of which purport to be geared towards any fitness level but are mainly attended by chiseled Adonises (Adonii?) and middle-aged women who have dedicated their lives to exercise. And me, huffing and red-faced in the corner.

I am a serial gym-joiner, having amassed something like seven gym memberships in the last five years. I love joining gyms. I love buying new sports bras and gym locks and going 4x in the first week of membership. I love the idea that this will be my fresh start, my willpower's final conquest in the war against my inherent laziness and latent obesity. But these forces are strong, and they are allied with superpowers, like pinot grigio and my couch.

Maybe if I write a long blog entry about my gym past it'll jump-start my motivation, or at least my shame.

During college I worked out intermittently at the college fitness center called the "Plex," a crappy facility frequented by thin, rabid blonde girls. I once came in late to a step aerobics class that, in that mass frenzy of post-New Years good intentions, was attended by about 60 people. I scrambled to put my step together and join in the action, hopping and kicking and squatting along with the class. About halfway through the class my hastily assembled step came apart while I was mid-squat, and I tumbled to the floor with a resounding crash. Sixty sets of eyes turned around to stare at me in bemusement. The instructor stopped the class and yelled, "Are you all right???" into her microphone. I had no choice but to get to my feet and keep moving while my roommates laughed hysterically. It was only after several more minutes of class that I realized I was bleeding pretty profusely. I did not return to the Plex for the next four years.

There was the women's gym I attended during summers home from college, in a mostly Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood. It was a really crappy facility - crowded, poorly equipped, reeking of sweat and mildew - but the ladies in this gym were INTENSE about exercise. I would often take two aerobics classes back-to-back, and these bitsy middle-aged broads would be there when I arrived and when I left, thrusting 10-lb weights over their heads while the rest of us worked with 2's. The one time I actually stayed late enough to watch them leave, they came back to the locker room and started changing into floor-length dresses and wigs. This was a surprising revelation. No disrespect to Orthodox Jews meant, but if were a member of a religious sect that dictated I couldn't show any skin between my neck and ankles in public, there is no way I would be working out four hours a day. I've considered converting to Islam just for the figure-forgiving burqas.

Post-college, I joined a Boston Sports Club, which had a branch near my office in Lexington. I used to work out in the mornings with my coworker Brenda, a grandmother of seven with stamina and determination I could not match. She shamed me into coming at 6:30 every morning and I spend most of my time on the elliptical having teary fantasies about my bed. After a few months of this I joined a sports club near my apartment that had really great aerobics classes AND a laundry room. I made occasional use of the laundry room.

After I moved back to New York in '08 I signed up for a trial membership at the Fitness Guru, a teensy, shockingly expensive gym in my office building in DUMBO. I'm pretty sure the place was actually someone's apartment at night. Instead of locker rooms it had a single bathroom with a digital scale, a scented candle, and a medicine cabinet filled with expired prescription bottles and night cream. There was a dog who seemed to live at the gym, and if you tried to work out on one of their two treadmills he would come over and watch you. This was a little unnerving, because he had one brown eye and one blue eye, and because he was a dog that lived at the gym.

Most of the gym's floor space was taken up by medieval torture devices supposedly for gyrotechnics (or pyrotonics?), but I was too scared to use them. During fitness classes they set up a long piece of cardboard as a divider for the "fitness studio." The one class I attended was a circuit workout during which I had to hula hoop alone in the middle of the class for five full minutes while everyone around me played hopscotch. I did not return to the Fitness Guru, and I avoided the dog's eyes whenever he passed me on the street.

After that I joined the Stuyvesant Town gym with Jenna, but we spent more time talking about exercise than actually doing it. Did you know that if you put on your gym clothes and drink pinot grigio on your lawn it actually burns calories? It's science.

Which brings us to present day, the Printing House, and my renewed commitment to exercise. This will not be another in a long list of failed attempts at fitness. I will not lose my will and drive. I will fight and prevail. I will go every day unless there's something better to do.


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