Back in Calgary, I used to work out at the U of C Fitness Centre. At the time, some of my friends bought memberships to other gyms, feeling that the Fitness Centre at school was much too elitist and meat market-y (many Olympic athletes train there, and yeah-- I can definitely see how it might be a wee intimidating). I was too cheap (and broke) to explore other options. I figured that since the cost of my Fitness Centre membership was included (and mandatory) in my school fees, I might as well take full advantage of it.
Truthfully, I didn't find the U of C gym to be too elitist or full of bar stars, but it could be because I used to work out at the ungodly hour of 6 am. At that time of the morning, all of the people looking to score their next date at the gym were usually still hungover and/or sleeping... bless their hungover hearts. No, during my time there, I was typically joined by a handful of elderly U of C alumni who would faithfully do their gentle walks around the track. That was that, and life was good.
When we first moved to Victoria, Marty and I bought memberships to the least expensive club around: the local Rec Centre. It had many things going for it-- it was cheap, it had recently been renovated, and it was within a few minutes' walk of our apartment. However, it was also crowded and small. And did I mention crowded? I hated it there and only managed to drag my grumbling ass over there for a few measly workouts. For being the least expensive gym in town, I sure ended up paying an exorbitant amount of money per workout, if you're a geek like me and divide the total costs of things by the number of times you use them. (You know who you are!)
After my membership expired at ye olde Rec Centre, I hurried over to the YMCA to give that a go. What a difference! It's large, well-equipped (with both equipment and a variety of fitness classes), diverse, and just a few blocks away from my work. Plus, I'm now able to see why my friends gave up the U of C to come to a Y: every size and shape of person works out at the Y, and it's way less intimidating than the U of C could be. At the Y, you still see people working out in the latest Lululemon attire, but you also see a wide array of people sweating it out in an oversized 80s T-shirt and a ratty old pair of shorts. And yes, there are the people who are carefully groomed and well-manicured at the Y, but then there are also those who are more disheveled and who don't give a rat's ass what they look like for their workout.
I love it there. I like not giving a passing thought to the fact that my own workout attire is now a full 10 years old (and a little droopy on the bottom half... bought back in the day when bigger/baggier meant better!). I like feeling like I am 'somewhere in the middle' of the crowd: not the shortest or tallest, not the thinnest or heaviest, not the coolest or most awkward, not the most athletic or coordinated but also not the least athletic and coordinated. Yes, yes-- the Y here takes away most of the pressure and distractions that can characterize the gym atmosphere and makes it possible to focus on the only thing that really matters there: my workout.
I have developed a keen sense of self-consciousness in one area in particular. Despite the Y being home to a 'global village', mishmashed group of people working out, it still seems that mostly everyone has one thing in common: they all tend to sport an ipod or an mp3 player of sorts. Even the most disheveled looking old men in the faded neon t-shirts and shocking yellow short shorts have their ipod minis nestled discreetly in the armbands on their upper arms. I, on the other hand, still kick it old school. And by old school, I am not referring to the antiquities known as "discmans"; no, I'm talking about something a little bit more old school still.
I work out with one of those yellow Sony Sport walkmans affixed to the waistband of my pants. You know the ones... the ones like this (but more yellow, still) that were really cool in the 90s, when sweatbands and shimmery spandex leggings were the workout attire of choice. I still have one. It's big. And yellow. And instead of easily selecting which tracks to listen to while I'm sweating it out on the elliptical machine, I have to listen to the tracks on my mix tape (remember those?) in order. (Fastforwarding or rewinding is extremely slow on this machine and wastes the batteries big time). Plus, the 'auto flip' button on the walkman broke sometime... in the 90s, I'm sure... so when one side of the tape is finished, I have to suffer the awkwardness and embarrassment of opening the shell and manually flipping the tape. Oh, the shame!
I know that ipods and mp3 players have become so much more affordable than they used to be, and I also know that even the least technologically-adept of people can download music onto their ipods. So why don't I have one yet? I have no idea. I feel morbidly self-conscious flashing my giant cassette player around at the gym and yet... no ipod to make everything better at this point in time.
The truth is, I really like the mix tapes I made nearly a decade ago. I used to borrow random CDs from the library and record a song or two from each onto my tapes. Alas, I wasn't really clued into the whole 'demise of the cassette tape' trend until it was much, much too late. And now I have a bunch of really good (and random-- did I mention I didn't write down any of the artists or song titles? NON-REPLICABLE MIX TAPE MATERIAL. Very smart.) music on a bunch of tapes that need to be played in my hot yellow walkman.
Tell me how cool I am again?
Yeah, I know.