If you’ve ever considered joining a gym, you’ve probably been told the same lies I was told…you’re going to look better, feel better, have more energy, make new friends, and be healthier…you’re just going to love coming here!

When I first moved to Charleston, I finally set aside my aversion to monthly payments, and I tried out several gyms before settling on Ladies Choice Fitness. As the name suggests, it was a ladies only gym. That is probably why it went out of business. There was nothing interesting there. I mean nothing interesting to do there (just treadmills and Judge Judy). I did, however, go faithfully for the two years. I do not remember looking better, feeling better, or having more energy, and I didn’t get to know one single person over the course of my membership. The employees changed like the wind and very few of the members came to sit around and chat. That is, except the Mary Kay lady. She cost me more money than the whole membership.

I did nothing for two years after severing ties with Ladies Choice.  That is, my plan was to get exercise by mowing the lawn and doing other profitable activities. I tried out several gyms, though, and finally after one high-pressure sales talk, I found myself joining Select Fitness. I went there consistently for one year before Steffanie talked me into doing P90X with her. But Steffanie recently got married and took P90X with her, so I have found myself debating once again what I’m going to do to look good, feel good, have more energy, make new friends, and be healthier. This is where the story really begins.

By now, I had a pretty good idea of what gyms are in the area and what they offer and what they cost. I made up my mind to start going to St. Andrews. They don’t have very impressive cardio machines, weights, or technology, but they have a pool, racquetball courts, and Tae Kwon Do classes that all sounded interesting. I am a fan of variety and I was looking forward to trying some new things.

Last Tuesday night, I went by on my way home and they offered me a free week, so I thought I would do that to get started. I arrived early Thursday morning prepared to swim laps. The pool was already loaded with dedicated swimmers quietly gliding from one end of the pool to the other. Some of them you could only see a small snorkel sticking up above the water, and a few you couldn’t see at all. I hoped I snuck in under the radar while they were all preoccupied. I’m not a very good swimmer. In fact, I don’t know if you would even call what I do “swimming.”

But I splashed my way to the end of the pool and back. And there and back. And I was pooped.

I looked at the clock. It had been about four minutes.

Fortunately, one of the super-good swimmers took that opportunity to swim on his back one lap and that idea saved me. I did some swimming on my back to break up the work out. Well, that, and the ladies aqua aerobics class. Little did I know that at 6:00 am on Thursdays, about a dozen ladies ages 60 and up don swimsuits and do kicking and stretching in the pool right next to the lane I was in. It was so entertaining that the next 20 minutes passed quickly.

But when I got to work at 7:30 am, I was exhausted. Seriously, I was trying to prop my eyes open the whole day. I was slapping myself, eating chocolate, and playing music and I could just hardly stay awake until 5:00. In fact, I had a headache and generally felt terrible. So much for the “feel better” and “have more energy” lies. I could have gone to sleep under my desk. Maybe they put some kind of drugs in the pool.

I still felt so awful on Friday morning that I didn’t go back to the gym until Saturday. They had a 9:00 am “spin” class. For those of you that don’t know, that’s what we cool people call riding a bike. Again, trying to be inconspicuous because I had no idea if I would be able to keep up or not, I picked a bike all of the way in the back of the room. There was an impressive number of people for 9:00 am on a Saturday, so I figured I would pretty much go unnoticed. The instructor played a video of lovely scenery while giving us instructions. We climbed hills, did sprints, and just enjoyed the Puerto Rican roadways in between.

As I rode along, I noticed that pretty much everyone else had brought water and a towel with them. Well, that was okay, it was only an hour. But the more we sprinted and climbed, the hotter it got in that room. Even with fans blowing, I could tell I was starting to get light headed. Would this class never end? I kept looking at my watch. Ten minutes. Five minutes. Two minutes. Zero minutes. It should have been over, but there she was, still up there smiling and giving instructions—oblivious to my agony.

Finally, she instructed us to get off our bikes to do some final stretches. I got off my bike, but the world just kept spinning. I tried to stretch, but Puerto Rico was starting to go black. I knew I needed to sit down or I was going to end up on the floor some less desirable way. Good thing I was in the back. I sat down and leaned against the wall. The class was basically over and surely no one would notice me.

Wrong. People were on me like flies on honey. Was I okay? Did they need to call an ambulance? Did I want the rest of their water? Did I need to call someone? Had I already purchased my burial plot?

I stood up so that people could see that I actually wasn’t dying, just a little faint, and about four of them escorted me to a bench outside. It was much, much cooler, so I felt a little better and I tried very hard to act like I was fine so that they would all go away and leave me alone. No such luck. Cups of water. Juice. I tried to put it all in my system and it was not a good thing. I was going to throw up. “I need to go.” I said, and I made a charge for the ladies locker room. At least I could throw up in the privacy of a stall.

But it wasn’t over. The lady in the stall next to me took it upon herself to run to the manager. The next thing I knew I had the manager, class teacher, and a few other people all pinging me at once. “I’m fine.” I kept saying. “We’re going to call someone to pick you up.” They told me. “Who can we call?” Frankly, I couldn’t think of anyone who would want to drive to the gym on a Saturday morning and get me when I was fine and had a perfectly good truck sitting out front.

Then they told me they had to fill out an incident report. Good grief.  There was a “bad girl file” on me and I hadn’t even joined yet. Yeah, so much for the feel better, have more energy thing. That’s strike two.

Monday morning, I went to swim again before work. The only lane open was smack in the middle of all the super-good swimmers. Twenty minutes seemed like an eternity, and I kept getting water in my contacts which made it so I couldn’t see where I was going. Thank God for the floating ropes that I kept bumping into.

I didn’t have the same level of diversion, so I felt incredibly self-conscious swimming alongside of people who looked and acted like something out of the last Olympics. I have to swim with my head up, because if I put my face in the water like everyone else does, I end up with a coughing fit, and I really don’t want another incident to add to my record. I have stopped laughing at the ladies doing aerobics in the shallow end of the pool.

Then I had an idea: all of these people had skull caps and goggles. They may not make a better swimmer out of me, but they do make for a fairly effective disguise. By the time I put my hair in a black latex cap and put on a thick pair of goggles, who really cares how I swim?

Well, let’s just say that it’s a good thing I never believed the lies about looking better, feeling better, and having more energy. So far, this gym has had me looking foolish and feeling terrible. I will say, though, that the people have all been nice; especially when I want to be inconspicuous and stay under the radar.

And this morning, I made myself go back to the spin class and this time made it through without an incident report. In fact, I made a friend at the class (calm down, it was another girl). And maybe if I keep working at it, I will learn to swim with the Olympic greats. Maybe. Oh, and I bought a racquetball racket, so I’m going to give that a try.

And if all else fails, going to the gym at least gives me something to post on Facebook.

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This is an non-original title and a non-original post (written a few years ago)…but I’ve been re-inspired to go to the gym recently and, frankly, I need a little more time to finish my next “original” blog post.

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