Tonight, I did my first swimming cross-training at 24 Hour Fitness. As previously mentioned, I also belong to my beloved shitty, local gym, but alack, as a shitty, local gym, it doesn't contain a pool. Or very much equipment. But I needed a pool, so I signed up for 90 days at the bohemoth located nextdoor to the Arclight Cinema and headed over this evening after work.
The place. Is. Massive. It's insane: Two floors, probably in the vicinity of 20,000 square feet, 30+ elliptical machines, 30+ treadmills, 15 stationary cycles, free weights/machines, and a 4 lane pool.
Local shitty gym? 8 ellipticals, 6 treadmills (one has been "under repair" for around 2 months now), and a locker room door that exposes the men's showers to anyone who happens to be in the stretching area.
24 Hour Fitness also has: A "lounge area" complete with espresso machine, a number of vending machines filled with water/sports drinks, and a desk area where personal trainers sit to prep for their day's work that rivals any college lecture hall.
Local shitty gym? One case filled with waters and a small assortment of sports drinks and a bench by the door where you can plop your ass down to pull on a sweatshirt.
As I entered the gleamy, glistening portal into the gym of the future, I pulled out my temporary membership card I'd printed out when I signed on online. Presenting it to the 19 year old boy behind the counter, I stated proudly, "New member!", at which he raised a curious eyebrow and confusedly took the paper, scanning it beneath the scarlet web of the bar code reader, and handed it back to me.
"Uh," I said, "so, where's the mens locker room?"
He shrugged. "Around the pool. Kinda behind it."
Three 21 year old hipster girls walked past me, giggling and texting, all donning what could have been workout gear straight out of 1976.
"Okay...and, that's...which way?"
"Behind there. Like a U-turn around that corner."
I wandered aimlessly, finally catching a glimpse of someone else obviously making a charge for the men's lockers, following him down a mildly confusing, Spinal Tap "Hello Cleveland!" hallway, before finding the lockers.
My swim went fantastically. Just 30 minutes kicked my ass, and I had an entire lane to myself the full half hour. Unfortunately, as I stroked along down the lane in my Speedo, I was on display for the parade of members walking in the entrance, glancing through the wall of window as they chattered in their cellphones over the thudding, piped-in bass music.
I began longing for the inane conversations I've had with my shitty local gym staff; watching the fat, old men in their dress shoes and soccer shorts try to figure out the machines; the middle-aged gay couples joking loudly with one another at the free weights, the mass-of-muscle personal trainer who always gives me the biggest smile and "HELLO!" when he sees me.
It's so easy to be persuaded by the luster of the shiny and new. It doesn't hurt to experience everything you can, but remembering what really makes you feel at home - be it a 75 year old Russian man in spandex straining to lift a 10 pound weight, or a front desk worker who can't wait to gossip about the hit and run he saw out front earlier that morning - can't be replaced by flashy machines or athletic gods and godesses.
I guess when it comes to it, I'm like my gym: Local, and a little bit shitty.