i worked to about 7pm today and then went to fitcorp, tied sneakers slung around my bag, gym lock clipped to the buckle of the strap. i totally looked the part of the "guy going to the gym." i laughed at myself, the irony. i am not a gym guy at all. would a gym guy stay at home sunday afternoons downing a whole pack of pepsi and empty a bag of potato chips while watching a baseball game on tv? that's more of the real me. sure, i run around the charles river, but that's almost like getting out of the office and enjoying the weather kind of thing, or socializing with coworkers. the exercise for me is very secondary. so it's with that thinking that i attend my first gym night.

i get there, and before i walk in, i pass this tall, attractive woman who's leaving the gym and smiles at me like we know each other. hey, not too bad! i go in and because it's my first time, i need to get a gym id made. i have never had a gym id! as a matter of fact, this is the first time ever i've paid to join a gym. the only other time i'd went to the gym was right after college, when i could still use my college id and sneak into the tufts gym for free. anyway, it's all high tech now, and the girl behind the counter tells me to stand here and i'm facing an intel webcam connected to a computer that instantly snaps a digital photo of me for the id. i ask the girl if i can get changed while my id gets made, and she tells me it'll be waiting for me in this little alphabetized card catalog box when i leave.

so i go into the men's locker room and i pick my locker, one that's away from everyone else. it's not that crowded, but from the corner of my eyes i spy a few naked bodies moving around. a ha. i did not need to see that thank you very much. more about that later. i get changed into my circa 1992 cure's disintegration t-shirt and i go back out into the gym area.

i grab a towel from the rack (courtesy towels! this is what $69/month gets you!), and that whole time i'm thinking to myself, what should i do? treadmill? nautilus machines? stationary bike? i decide to give the treadmill a try. it came highly recommended from john, who called it "fun." the only other time i've been on a treadmill was at the tufts gym. i remember turning it on and when it started moving that's when i turned it off and ended my treadmill adventure. back in those days, i wasn't interested in cardiovascular exercises. i was all about strength training, which was what my friend david was doing, so that's what i focused on as well. i was also skinny as a stick back then, and exercising to lose weight wasn't high on my priority list. 5 years later, things change.

so i climb onto the treadmill machine, trying to act all casual and cool even though i have no idea what i'm doing and i'm looking at everything on the machine, trying to figure out how to operate this fancy gym contraption. i start the machine and it's going really slow, crawling pace. i hit the speed button to increase the pace. beep beep beep. okay, now we're doing 1 mph. oh sweet. it takes a few minutes and plenty more beeps before i've got the treadmill adjusted to a fast enough speed that i'm actually jogging on the thing instead of just walking fast. it feels weird at first. i have never ran in place so fast before! it's like someone defying the laws of nature and inertia and physics! my head is in a tizzy but i quickly snap out of it as i see this guy get on the treadmill diagonally opposite me. there's something about this guy that makes me ill. maybe it's the fact that he's tall and looks very fit. maybe it's his matching outfit. maybe it's just his smug face. there's just something about him that rubs me the wrong way and i begin to hate him. competition. he obviously knows what he's doing and he cranks the machine up to running pace immediately, no warm ups for him. and i'm watching tv on the monitors (some boring sports show on one tv, some equally nondescript show in another -- will someone please change it to the gilmore girls? i think they're on tonight), but i'm secretly looking at him from the corners of my eyes, see how fast he's going. 10 minutes into our synchronous run, he slows to a walking pace. i win! i win! didn't think you could do it, guy! minutes later he's starting back up again. you want a little more, tough guy? you don't want a piece of this! i've been running on the charles! a treadmill's like a baby's toy for me! i've been taking it to the streets, yo! i'm for real! 10 minutes later he stops for good. i thought so! the pace i was running at was 6mph, which makes me a 10 minute miler, so i amped it up to 7mph, which places me in the 8.5 minute miler running group. i did 7mph for 10 minutes before i cranked the machine back down to 6mph for the final 10. wow, i guess i'm not entirely ready to push myself just yet. i haven't been running regularly in some time anyway, don't want to overdo it on my first day at the gym. the treadmill itself is a cool machine. two holders for maybe a beverage and a walkman. the readouts, though fairly basic, are pretty cool -- tells me my time total, the total distance i ran, the speed i'm running at, and even my heart rate if i put my hands on these two metal contacts on this support bar. i wish i could have these readouts when i run on the road! after 30 minutes (2.8 miles, not exactly 3 miles, because i started the machine off at a walking pace) i hit the cool down button and the treadmill slowly deccelerates down to a stop, with a countdown timer. i step off the treadmill and this is where it gets trippy, because i still feel like the ground is moving beneath me! i'm a little wobbly, but i don't fall down, which is good for a first day at the gym. i don't want the gym guys there to know me as "that guy who fell down after using the treadmill for 30 minutes."

after 30 minutes of running i am thirsty and i get some water from one of the water coolers that dot the gym. they have these disposable paper cones, and the water is ice cold, not like that drinking fountain water on the bank of the charles river! i walk to the nautilus section of the gym and it's completely empty. excellent! it's like being in a physical fitness toystore, and i can try out all the machines. unfortunately, i'm already pretty tired from all that running, so i only do the lat pulldown machine (3 sets, 14-10-6 reps increments of 25-50-75 lbs) and the tricep machine (1 set of 14 reps of 25 lbs). i'm hungry, i'm tired, i'm ready to go home. but before that happens, it's time for me to get naked in front of strange men.

am i the only guy who gets extremely uncomfortable getting naked in front of other men? why is it okay to be naked in front of other men in a gym locker? i don't think it should be encouraged at all! just because we're the same gender doesn't make it okay for strange men to expose themselves to me! actually, i have no qualms about other people's nakedness -- it's my own nakedness that i have difficulty in dealing with. call me a prude. so i get to the locker room and it's thankfully empty. i make a quick inspection of the shower room conditions. individual stalls, but there's really no place to put your stuff, other than maybe a hook on the wall for a towel. i hurry back to my locker (i hear someone coming in!), strip butt ass naked, and almost run to the shower area with a towel, and quickly into a stall. the stall is very clean, and there's a large body soap dispenser. i shower quickly, towel dry inside the stall, and come out with the towel wrapped around my waist like a sarong. thing is, the towel is one size too small, and it's like i'm wearing a slutty mini-sarong, and i have to hold the towel in place with my hand otherwise it'll fall down. there's a naked man who just got into another stall, i catch a glimpse of his nakedness, i quickly leave the shower area. i get dressed, gather up my stuff, and then blowdry my hair with the courtesy blowdryers lying around the place. i leave but not before collecting my newly minted gym id. the guy behind the counter remembers my name, "hey tony!" he says, "hey eric!" i respond back. i leave. thus concludes my first gym night.

next time i want to try the stationary bike. and i have to remember to bring a bottle of water, and grab something to read from the courtesy magazine rack. i also really want to try the weight lifting bench. i miss it, it's like an old friend -- a friend who will crush me if i am not careful and don't have a spotter. but i feel that the lifting bench is the only equipment in that gym built for men. i want to grunt, i want to strain, i want to wear lifting gloves.