Thursday, July 24, 2008


Today I went to our neighborhood YMCA, our Tampa YMCA, much different than the Orlando YMCAs to which I've become accustomed. Orlando YMCAs are brimming with personal flat screens on treadmills and clean pressed towels and of course lots of 40 somethings in color coordinated spandex. That is a status symbol I've come to realize. I was still wearing my finest jade and pearls to establish my upper working class status. I wish I had been educated on the matter before I lost my great grandmother's broach on an elliptical machine.

I just got home from work and found the start of this blog when I opened the computer. I know where she is going with this. At the start of the second paragraph she is going to start talking about how the Tampa YMCA has machines from the 1930's and free weights in large, iron, 3D trapezoid form with handles on the top and marked in white print "100 lbs." She might say how she would expect to see barrel-chested men with handlebar mustaches and white and black horizontally striped singlets lifting the weights up and down over their heads.

Until about a year ago, I would have said all of this was only her own prejudice against the Tampa Y - and baseless. But that was before I saw one of the Y's in Orlando to which she was accustomed. Coming from the Tampa ghettos, I walked into the Dr. Phillip's YMCA and expected to think her descriptions were overblown. But then an employee walked up to me and handed me a steamed towel and said, "I say, dear sir, God's blessings on you in hopes of a capital workout." Then I walked around and worked out on (and this was amazing to me) machines that had upholstery not held together by duct tape. And all the dumbells came in sets of two. Previously, I'd just used weights that were within 10 pounds of each other and switched arms on different sets. It is an amazing place. And I can say that all of prejudice towards my YMCA was well-founded.

Okay, that's my two cents. I'll let her finish her blog now when she opens the computer again.

I'm glad he interrupted there. I was actually losing my train of though. The only thing I would say is it's no longer "your YMCA" and "my YMCA" it's our YMCA. Our YMCA, where the temperature is always a little too warm to be indoors and clean pressed towels are replaced with paper towels from dispensers similar to those found in public restrooms.

During my workout experience (generally 3 weeks on, 2 months off) I have become much more well acquainted with weight machines than with free weights. I've always found them more convenient. They require less "know-how" as there is only one exercise that can be done per machine and they prevent me from having to go over to the "free weight area" where college-age males stand in front of mirrors and lift up their shirts to see if those sit-ups they did minutes prior have kicked in yet. I don't know why lifting your shirt up in the gym is an acceptable practice. It's like all social etiquette is thrown out of the window. Nobody ever says anything like, "That makes me uncomfortable," but I guess if spandex is socially acceptable, most practices are.

I've had to denounce my devotion to weight machines here in Tampa as they are not up-kept. I always find as I use them that one leg is higher than the other or one arm extends further than the other, or I find myself playing a rousing game of "find that smell" on the leg extension machine. "Is it me? Is it that guy? Oh, no, it's just the handle grips that lots of people touch. Phew. That's a relief." Once I realized my left leg was becoming far superior in strength to my right I figure I should switch to something more unvarying. Free weights. It was time to rub elbows with frat boys and high school seniors hoping to replace acne with biceps before college.

Joel was nice enough to coach me on some exercises that worked certain muscle groups because he knew if I ventured into this new chapter in my exercising chronicles alone, I would do something like drastically increase my neck girth while doing an exercise that I think works my obliques. There is always an added strain to any relationship when the husband begins coaching the wife in her workouts. With every additional helpful exercise he taught me, my brain would go further into "he thinks I'm fat" land. He'd say things like "this is another really great butt exercise," and I'd say things like "So, two exercises aren't enough?" And, he'd say, "Well, no that's enough, but, well I thought I'd just teach you all of the ones I know," and I'd say "Why do you think I need to know all the ones you know?"

"I just thought I'd teach you all of them so you can do them on your own."
"Do you wish I was thinner?"
"No, you are very thin. Too thin."
"No, I want you to tell me the truth. (I don't actually, I just want his lies to sound very truthful.) Do you think I've gained weight?"
"No, of course not." Silence. "Do you just maybe want to go do the weight machines?"
"No, this is good. I just wish you didn't think I was fat. That's all..."

It continued on like that for a couple minutes until I realized there was no winning for either of us through this line of questioning. Entrapment does not a happy husband make. I think maybe I was hoping the conversation to end with him saying, "You're super skinny. Let's blow this popsicle stand and get a McFlurry." I wish most conversations ended that way.

As time passes since my first experience with our Tampa YMCA, I wish I could say it's growing on me. I tell myself it's a great place until I get there and remember that instead of air conditioning, they just have a giant who lifts up the corner of the roof and breaths very open mouthed into the facility. As I continue to push myself to go, (one to two days every other week or so) there are two things in which I find solace. One, I have definitely observed that instead of spending money on attaching televisions to Stair Masters they are using their means to pour into the community which is a beautiful thing to see. Two, I am married to a man who can treat staph if ever necessary.

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