Thursday, February 16, 2006

My friend Jen got me thinking...

...and moving.

I just got off the phone with my friend Jen.
Jen is a lovely American girl, who nannies part-time and is in the final process of becoming a certified social worker. Jen is not only nice, she is also hilariously funny. She is such a riot!

Let me give you an example.
I answer my phone with the usual "hello?" and without even saying hi or identifying herself, she starts the conversation like this............
"Girlfriend, its called sugar free, fat free hot fudge! I mixed it with some diet ice pops and I have been pooping all night. I am lying here in bed and my stomach is talking back to me."

That's the thing you love instantly about Jen, not only does she get right to the point, but she does it in such a way that you are laughing uncontrollably before her third sentence.
Jen has been on a successful diet for ages now and she is looking HOT.
We spent half an hour laughing and gasping at the chaos that is Manhattan. My conversation with Jen, got me thinking ...about exercise, dieting and the gym dilemma in Manhattan.

I have found Manhattan to be a place where you can't walk two blocks without seeing someone in gym sweats either heading to one of the many gyms or heading home after a strenuous workout.

Take Valentines Day for example.

I was due to meet my husband at 7 p.m. for a romantic dinner where we were going to exchange gifts, except, I hadn't got him one yet.
I know, I know, I feel terrible about it.

You know how Valentines Day goes. It comes so soon after the holidays that after the exhausting season that is December and January, you are all out of gift ideas. Well I was anyway.

So I left work at 6 p.m. and raced down the block to Broadway. I ran into Circuit City and found a few DVD's and stuff my husband would love and headed out to the curb to hail a cab. After 15 minutes of standing out in the cold, my hand outstretched and a look of plea on my face, I gave up trying to wave down a taxi and just stood there. I found myself looking into oblivion, trying not to stress out about the fact that because of my lack of Valentines Day preparation, my poor husband was going to be waiting for me in a crowded restaurant. His arms probably loaded with gifts and flowers, all alone on Valentines Day and I was still stuck on Broadway trying to get a ride to the restaurant.

Anyway, so I am in complete denial about the time, trying to block out the fact that I just pushed over some poor man to get to the other side of the street when I look up and see about 20 people running on treadmills.
It's a sight I see all the time, I walk past this exact gym everyday and there is always a line of sexy-looking people working up a sweat.... All facing the street, panting like they can't see you and so involved in burning calories that they dont seem to care that you can see them.
This is one of the many gyms found on the corners of busy Manhattan streets, with glass walls so chubby passersby can see in.
Voyeurism at its best. Or worst!

I think it's a blatant advertising gimmick that says ..."look, these people are working out, you could look like this if you joined this gym NOW!"
This was visual propaganda if ever I have seen it.

So I tucked my coat over my large breasts and sucked in my ever-expanding tummy and all of a sudden began to laugh hysterically.
I could not get the image of the hamsters I had as a child out of my mind.
These people were literally hamster-like.
They might as well have been running inside a hamster-wheel.

Forget about the health part.......
Why were they there? Why do they look so angry and why is my first reaction to take the necessary steps, spend a few thouand dollars I don't have and head on my way to doing my damndest to become one of them?

I sometimes feel like Manhattan's pressure is not just about being thin and healthy. We all want to be healthy in some way, whether we admit it or not. I for one could definitly stand to lose a few pounds, but the people I know and see here in NYC, all seem to want to look like they are on their way to a gym (even if they are not), just come from a gym or are all card carrying members with such busy lives that they never have time to go to their fabulous gyms.
People seem to carry their $3000 membership cards like we did hall passes in junior high.
I must admit that I have been sucked into this, time and time again.

There is a definite status attached to which gym you can afford to go to, what expensive apparel you can afford to wear to these exclusive gyms and how much you paid for the outfit you are going to sweat into at the gym.

Don't forget, you have to actually look good enough to go to the gym, because you might have to be running on a treadmill, front and center, in a window-walled gym on Broadway.
The pressure is so much, that after you pay for your membership you might actually never go for fear of having to be in the front-lines of a popular gym in a city that never sleeps.
There are actually gyms in Manhattan that are open 24 hours a day. Can you imagine that? Who exercises at 3 a.m.?

Why are we not spending the extra 40 minutes it might take to workout and spending it outside by walking to work? (yes, I am talking to me!)
Has the outside world become so bad, or are we just so lazy, that we don't make use of our surroundings anymore? Understandably, when it's cold our options are more limited, I like to think that the gym is an OK place then, but I have walked past these gyms in the summer and they are even more crowded.

Jen, the friend I mentioned earlier, doesn't do yoga or belong to a gym. She has started walking across Central Park to get to work....even when it's cold. It can sometimes take her an hour, but she walks to work and walks home. This cool chick has lost almost 18 pounds over the past few months and she is looking fabulous.

Now don't get me wrong, I have seen people walking in Central Park, jogging and such, but why are gyms now multi-million dollar franchises?
It seems to have become like some weird science experiment.
Well, I am going to start an experiment of my own.

I am going to let go of my new years resolution to join a gym.
I make the same 2 resolutions every year.
1. Join a gym (1 year membership)
2. go to the Gym(for one year)

I usually join a gym and never go, but I end up paying for it the entire year.
Not this year.
No way!
No more wanna-be hamster running for me. No more sweating it up with a hundred other people and praying I don't get athletes foot while showering in a communal bathroom and trying to avoid making eye-contact with the anorexic looking woman parading herself around the gym.

OK, so I have only gone to the gym like 4 times, but I am not going to go at all now.

On most occasions, I would feel excited and motivated by looking in the gym windows at all the beautiful skinny manhattanites running and sweating in unison. But I didn't this time.
I felt sorry for them. There they were, running on a treadmill at 7 p.m. on Valentines Day.

What has happened to us as a people?
Man invented the treadmill!
When did the gym become the most popular place people go to work out?
Is it just me, or are we all so used to having things done for us, so much so, that we can't go out into the world and take advantage of our natural surroundings?

To cut a long story short, I made a few new New Years resolution on Valentines Day.
1. To be prepared for V-Day next year ( maybe I should buy a gift now, wrap it and store it for this time next year. Not a bad idea)
2.To take public transport instead of cabbing my lazy ass all over Manhattan. This means I will walk to and from the subway, and walk the extra few blocks to get to my destination, because public transport routes aren't always the most convenient.
4. To excercise in my natural surroundings.
5. To take the stairs to and from my appartment....oh this will be hard, the 12 flights it takes to get to my apartment on the 6th floor are exhausting...but I will do it!

In light of all that, I went sledding a few days ago in Central Park (when the 30 inches of snow was still actually on the ground!).
Boy oh boy, what a workout. It is amazing what a good workout you can get traipsing up and down a hill covered in snow, carrying a sled and a 3 year old and simultaneously dragging yourself upward and onward. We spent 2 fabulous hours freezing and sweating and panting and laughing outdoors, in the snow.

We had a blast. It was the best workout ever. It was all outdoors and we didn't have to pay a cent to take advantage of it!

Today I walked down 12 flights of stairs (maybe in a few days I'll start walking up them too!)and walked a few blocks to work from the subway, but tomorrow, who knows, I might do something crazy, walk a few more!


gnarly nanny said...

love your observation about the hampster wheel- so true. i must admit, i was guilty over the summer of the hampster wheel syndrome- joined a gym, walked on the treadmill... don't get me wrong, my membership was a paltry $24 a month, but still... seems so silly to spend ANY money to... walk. which is something you can do at nearly every moment of every day. FOR FREE. so that's what i do now. not having a car is a great motivator, seeing as public transportation sucks in buffalo. but you're in new york, and i'm sure using the transit system is somewhat more convenient than here (we have one subway line, it goes up and down main street) plus you'll save money a.) not paying taxi fare and b.) not joining a gym!!
hope v day went well in spite of somewhat underpreparedness. :)

sarah said...

my goodness. i never thought of it that way. now that you have mentioned it, it is true. hamsters walking. we don't walk outside anymore and we think of it as working out. i am going to walk outside more.
thank you for inspiring me.
i am going for a walk now. outside.

Anonymous said...

when its cold i get the gym idea.
thats a lot of money is it really true.
I looked online and it is.
no way would i spend that money
its cold now, but soon it wont be and i will run outside. my gym membership costs $100 a month. I thought that was a lot. It is a lot. but it expires in june and i wont renew it.
You get me thinking, thats why I like your blog. thank you for that.

Anonymous said...


R said...

I have PERFECTED the art of always looking like I'm on my way to work out. I'm hoping that my body will revolt and get on a treadmill while my mind is in the freezer eating Ben and Jerry's. So far the body is voting on party lines. This means I'm getting fat just sitting here typing this. Maybe if I bought new running shoes? hmmm.
Thanks for visiting my blog by the by. Love yours!

Anonymous said...

Your friend Jen sounds hilarious :) Also, I totally ditto your gym comments, although when the baby turns the 6 mo. required to get into YMCA day care I'm TOTALLY using it during the day to give me a little break to work out :) haha. Thanks so much for the encouragement- I know, it's a hard balance between being a good person and letting things go and stepping in there and getting what's due to me. I must admit I have no idea where that line must be drawn! But you are right, I need communicate. Today I started late and got off a couple hours early, so it's hard to be upset about helping out a little last night :) So we'll see. But thank you!
ps I keep checking the blog to see how your book is coming along. So exciting! :)