I have found myself in an abusive relationship. With my gym.
The showers never work properly. And I keep going back. There's always one or two cardio machines out of order. And I keep going back. The air circulation in this underground facility is poor; just the other day I couldn't escape the stench of Dirty Old Man (a mix of armpit and Halitosis) while I pumped away on the elliptical. And I keep going back. It seems like the water is turned off "for maintenance" every other month, preventing me from refilling my bottle at the fountain or taking a shower and cleaning off the sweat and grime that has accumulated on me while listening to the new batch of tunes I've just downloaded to my iPod...
And I keep. Going. Back.
The gym in question is the 24-Hour Fitness on Pico Boulevard, just two blocks east from the skyscrapers of Century City. Besides the clientele not being the sweetest of eye candy one can ogle, the facility itself is in need of a major improvement. When the stationary bikes were upgraded to sleeker models last spring I had hope. I actually thought that a change for the better was coming, that my local gym was about to get the makeover it so desperately needed. But no. Turns out it was just a tease. (And what about that new fingerprint-scanning device at each entrance? You're telling me 24-Hour Fitness poured money into something that makes their employees lazier rather than putting it towards machine upgrades?)
Why do I keep going back? Location, location, location. The gym on Pico sits perfectly in between home and work. If I can get myself up at 6:45am I can shower there and then finish my already short commute to work. And if my calendar isn't scheduled with any evening activities, I can stop on the way home for a nighttime cardio session.
The 24-Hour Fitness in Santa Monica is a tad out of the way, and parking there is a pain (yes, this is Los Angeles, but over the years SM has become increasingly infamous for its difficult parking restrictions). The one in Hollywood by Arclight Cinemas (above) is arguably the best one in L.A. with its elevated views of the city, state-of-the-art machines, soap opera actors, and multi-leveled roominess, but you're not going to find me driving the extra 30 minutes to get there from the Westside. The West Hollywood gym is pleasant enough on the surface, but take a stroll back to the steambath in the men's locker room, and you may find yourself in the middle of a dress rehearsal for a porno. And then there's the one in Sherman Oaks which is just as nice, but to repeat: it's Sherman Oaks (read: The Valley).
Isn't a gym supposed to make one's workout as enjoyable and pleasant as possible? Do I deserve to be faced with inconveniences every other week? Must I stomach the sight (and smell) of the rotund, middle-aged dude who insists on wearing the same mysteriously stained tee and ripped runners shorts that are skimpier than a Catholic schoolgirl's skirt? Must my accommodations be so limited? My patience is wearing thin.
What do I do? Do I switch gyms and acclimate to a new environment, get acquainted with a different group of people? Farewell Wolf Blitzer lookalike who kept to himself, always clinging to his Simpsons aluminum water bottle. Goodbye quiet jock who always greeted me with a "How ya doing?" every morning in the locker room. So long Armenian housewife with the inappropriate amount of makeup; may your mascara run and burn your eyes for the times you hogged the stationary bike. And to Mr. Popularity I say nothing. While you were buddies with practically everyone you came into contact with, you never bothered to learn my name or say hello. Did I not warrant your attention or your need to make chitchat in between reps?
Maybe I do need a change in scenery. Maybe I don't. Maybe I should just feel lucky enough to have a gym I can call my own while there are those less fortunate who must get by with their rusted barbells at home...and the sidewalk pavement. I have until April to decide whether to stay or go. But something tells me my finances won't allow for a down payment on a brand new membership. I already got a new car. Suck it up, Hiko.
Oy to the vey.
For now, I'll just sit back, curl up on the couch, do my best impersonation of a sloth with a bag of chips, and ease into some holiday laziness. And then go back to the gym to burn it off.
It's a vicious cycle I tell you.