Madrid Gym Observations

Today’s blog entry is somewhat of a rant and has little to do with Madrid or with Spain – I hope.

DISCLAIMER: The following is not intended to generalize about all health clubs in Madrid or the exercise professionals working in them. It’s only my personal experience with one gym in Madrid.

I like to go to the gym. Well, I don’t LIKE to go but I know that if I don’t I’ll have more difficulty living daily life in the present AND in the future. I do it not because I love the pain, the heavy breathing, the constant sweating, the hot and humid locker rooms, the frequently empty toilet paper dispensers, and certainly not to look like many of the 20-somethings I see around me with their “fit and trim and hardly exercise to get that way”.

I do it also to avoid – or to stave off – becoming overweight, which is a greater challenge with every passing year. I do like having visible muscles and a flat stomach but haven’t had the latter for quite awhile now even though I only eat two meals a day. That is to say, I have bran cereal for breakfast, a big lunch, and only fruits and vegetables for dinner – and almost no snacks. So how is it possible that I DON’T have a flat stomach with this kind of diet and this amount of exercise?? Could it be genetics? Age? Or maybe the fact that apart form the gym I have a sedentary lifestyle, sitting most of the day in front of a computer. Well, I suppose all these things are factors in how we are. And it’s funny – or not – that as my shoulders get broader, my chest wider, my arms and thighs bigger – but little of the fat is reduced. We all know that muscle weighs more than fat so….. instead of losing weight, I’m GAINING weight and my pants get tighter and tighter. It’s not at all fair.

“The Population” at the gym is varied. You have your small, thin, petite girls. You have your 0% fat guys and lean muscles. You have your seriously overweight and desperate men and women. You have your older folks whom seem to spend more time talking and reading the sports newspaper than actually exercising. And you have your gym trainers.

Ahhh… the trainers. Of course, the trainers are there to help with your exercise form, help with the use of XYZ machines, and of course, to be personal, paid trainers for those who want personal assistance. I’ve been exercising all my life, off and on, and I’m amazed to watch some of the gym-goers exercising using such incredibly poor form – right in front of these supposed exercise professionals. The “clients” are going to fast or have their arms or seat in the wrong position and all the while the trainer is chit-chatting with the client about what they’re going to do that upcoming weekend. I have only seen a few trainers actually stop at an exercise station and correct a person’s form. There are few particular trainers whom always seem to be training the prettiest girls, never the old or the overweight, ONLY the pretty girls. And boy do these trainers take interest in them. They’re all the while rubbing their shoulders, smiling, being charming, and doing very little “training”. And the girls seem to like it too! No matter that the client is doing all the exercise in a nearly dangerous and harmful manner. And other trainers are like real gigolos – or so they believe themselves to be. When girls enter the gym the trainers always walk along side them, smiling, taking their arm or stroking their backs, doing things which would certainly get you arrested as sexual harassment in the United States. But again, the girls seem to like it. Or maybe they’re afraid to say anything. Who knows.

When I exercise I do a kind of circuit training routine. For example, I will do one set of an upper-body exercise on MACHINE A, upon completion of that one set I get up and go to MACHINE B where I’ll do one set of lower-body exercise, then immediately back to MACHINE A. I do this back and fourth, completing 4 sets on each machine – WITHOUT STOPPING. It’s good upper and lower body exercise but also good aerobic exercise. After completing MACHINES A & B I’ll take a very short 2 minute break to take a drink and wipe off the sweat from my face and then go to MACHINES C & D and do the same. This way I get double the exercise in the same amount of time and plus it’s even better exercise. I leave the gym exhausted but feeling good.

The morning hours, until about 11am, is very very busy and all the machines are in use, causing long waits between machines. From 11am to 2pm it’s not busy at all. But regardless of the hour, it’s nearly inevitable that I have to wait for the machine to which I’m going to use because people see me leave MACHINE A and assume, correctly, that it’s not in use. I snooze, I lose. But it never fails. While waiting to return to MACHINE A, I wait and wait and wait because the user is an older person who’s in no hurry to finish with his/her exercises. Sometimes I think they just want to sit there and relax because there are no chairs in the gym. And you know you’re in trouble when the person at the machine brings along a newspaper. WHO READS A NEWSPAPER WHILE EXERCISING???!! Answer: People not very serious about exercising. So there I am, standing behind the occupied machine while the person sitting there reads through an article about the latest Real Madrid soccer match, sometimes 5 to 7 minutes pass until they go back to their exercising. I know I’m within my rights to ask them if I can take a turn while they’re waiting, and sometimes I do, but the answer is sometimes a gruff reply, upset I’ve disturbed their “resting station” while they “possess” this machine until they choose to leave it. So usually I don’t ask and just wait. It’s at these times when I fully understand why rock and movie stars have their own personal in-home gyms. ¡OJALA! But you can usually tell when a person will be more cheerful and more than willing to offer up the machine in between their sets. These people are usually more serious about their exercise and more mindful of others around them whom are “cooling down”.

Do you ever get on a treadmill next to someone and 10-seconds later you think to yourself, “Man, this guy stinks!” and feel ashamed to immediately change to a treadmill further away because he’ll somehow know?

I’ve even seen a few women with breast implants, but not too many. And when I say “breast implants” I don’t mean these enormous pornstar-style breast implants (not that I’ve ever seen any, of course), but rather “average size” implants. One of these particular woman is one which proudly sunbathes topless in warmer weather. This same woman must have forgotten her gym shoes so she was doing all her exercise wearing high-heeled boots. It looked more funny than sexy as she strutted from one machine to another. I’ve never seen this particular woman crack a smile, she never talks to anyone and no one talks to her, she’s very serious about her exercise.

(saving…writing more… about topless sunbathing, breast implants, and girls in the men’s locker room – all the usual gym anecdotes, right?)

 
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