My Life at the Gym
by Jeffrey Dobkin
Going to the gym is always so much fun with getting to see all the young girls (of any age) who take care of themselves. And me? Yes, I’m walking around in my Ralph Lauren sweatsuit, two hundred dollar Nike sneakers, and Lulu Lemon shorts. Cool. That’s right… I’m a gym rat. Oh yea.
So it’s fun until you have to, you know, work out. That part kinda sucks. Well, for me anyhow. I just have trouble adapting. Here’s how it all started, way back when…
I tried running. That turned out to be the longest 15 minutes of my life. The only encouragement is that there are TVs in front of the treadmills, and I could keep up with General Hospital, and Family Feud.
But, no. I quickly learned they put the TVs more than a couple of feet away. And at the gym, glasses just didn’t go with my gym aesthetic = no glasses. I was glad I could see the TV, but sigh… couldn’t see any detail. I like golf and baseball, it would just be so much more interesting if I could see the ball. And closed captions? Forget it. No, no TV. So, there you have it: turned out running wasn’t for me.
So I moved on to weightlifting. Turns out that wasn’t for me either. Hell… they’re heavy. Who knew!? Even the little ones. And the tiny ones? Too many people make fun of you. Even the little kids – middle schoolers – the little bastards. They’d stand over in the corner and look, point and laugh. My revenge? I can drive and they can’t. Ha Ha. The little shits.
But I figured I’d stick with it for a few beers, I mean few years, just to give it a real honest try. Then, just when I was getting used to the weights, some trainer comes up to me and says I need to move up in heavier weights. I guess the gym was having a shortage of small ones and he was saving those for one of his regular clients. Then I find out – the big ones are even heavier! Hell – who wants to lift them. So I left. I gave it a good try, though. Worst two days of my life.
That left a more limited array of gym stuff to try. So I went to an aerobics class. Sooo… that’s where all the pretty women go when they leave the stretchy part of the weight room. I thought I was going to like it there. Oh yea… All those petit bodies bouncing around in tights. I finally found my thong. I mean thing.
Then, just when I was about to talk to someone, bam, the loudest, jumpiest music I ever heard comes on and everyone starts jumping around like they got fire ants in their skimpy little shorts. And there I was just standing there with a dazed, confused, bewildered look on my face.
Not to be outdone, I started jumping around, too. Unfortunately, everyone seemed to be moving in the same direction but me. The class trainer barking undescerable directions to move something, somewhere. What? What th…!
It reminded me of the line-dance class I took – but played at 8x speed on my DVR. I’ve never felt like such a geeky white kid who certainly couldn’t dance… and showed up to prove it. No, turns out aerobics class wasn’t for me after all. A bit embarrassing, really.
By chance I watched some old guys playing doubles tennis. It reminded me of when I played baseball: they always put me in right field. Turned into a game of me yelling “Hey, hit it to me!” every time someone came up to bat. That was my career, I yelled it over and over and over. No one ever did. Sigh…
Still, tennis looked like it was fun to play, so I bought a new outfit, racquet, sneakers, socks, bag, grip tape, and balls and challenged some of the top players on the ladder. Oh yea, I was ready to be a tennis nut!
Played a few games, got yelled at. Wow, those guy are good, but they get pissed really easily when you can’t get their serve back. That’s because they hit it so fucking hard. If you want someone to return it, slow it down a little, buddy.
Then I challenged some of the players in the middle of the ladder. Played a few games, got yelled at. They weren’t as good, but still they could be pretty bitchy when I watched the ball go by. Hey, if they really wanted me to hit it back, they could have hit it a little closer to me.
Naturally I kept waiting for the ball boy to retrieve the ball and give it to me – you know, like on TV. Found out that doesn’t happen except on TV. Stupid game.
Then I challenged some of the players at the bottom of the ladder. They sucked. And the most exercise we all got was walking over to the fence to pick up the balls we missed or hit out.
I personally felt the court was much shorter on their side; and I didn’t see how, but the net was higher on my side.
No… tennis wasn’t for me, either. Not with the odds stacked-up against me like that. It looks so much easier on TV. It’s not.
So I looked at racquetball. LA Fitness has racquetball in some of their newer, larger gyms and it looked like fun! At least the ball comes back to you after you hit it. And the front wall that you have to hit is so big – how could you miss?! And you can’t hit it “out.”
So I bought a new outfit, new sneakers, new shorts, a shorter racquet and balls and decided to go into a court and see what it was like before challenging the top players. Hell, it was easy. And the ball came back to me. This was the game for me.
That was then, this is now. Life has changed over the past 25 years, not that I’ll admit I’m that, you know, old.
Aging gracefully has never been my strongpoint. I got a bit of a belly just to let you know I’m older than most of the people at the gym. I also want you to know I’m glad, I’m glad I ate that last french fry on the table. Because if I get hit by a bus on my way home tonight, I want to know I ate that last french fry, too. Hey, it’s an analogy. That I didn’t miss out on anything in this world and in life. I worked for that belly, and I’m keeping it. The hell with dieting. You want to eat fucking salad all the time, go ahead. I’m not.
But before you think I’m slow, I play racquetball 3 or 4 times a week in the “open” division. I still go in to practice once a week or so, and take lessons most Sundays from someone who plays on the pro tour. I’m ranked first in Pennsylvania in my age group, and about 10th or 12th in the city of Philadelphia – any age and division. When I play, I play for a couple of hours. Not bad for an guy who never liked working out. And you know what? It’s still fun. Yea, racquetball is still fun after all these years.
I’ve been playing with some guys I’ve known and played over the course of 25 years. Good friends, all. All my tee shirts now have small holes in them – and the old favorites that have large holes in them I hide from my wife who throws them out when she sees them. I still wear them on special occasions. All the guys wear shirts that are kinda old and have holes in them… just like us, we’re all kinda old too. That’s the dress code now. Just like kids wear jeans.
Sure, I take my motorcycles out – well on warm days, anyhow; still like rock and roll and like a lot of the new bands: the Kongos, Walk the Moon and Two Door Cinema Club. I go to concerts at the electric factory, play Pandora and Spotify to get new music and download stuff from my kids hard drives when they’re not home.
And I’m still at the gym 4 days a week playing racquetball and staying young. Anytime you think I look old for 53, just grab a racquet and step into a court with me. How hard can it be – it’s a big front wall you have to hit, and the ball always comes back to you…
Jeffrey Dobkin has written seven books, mostly on direct marketing, but a couple on humor. When not at the gym he’s usually out riding his motorcycles in the summer, and putzing on his computer in the winter. Visit him at jeffreydobkin.com and buy his books – he needs the money. Just kidding, you don’t have to buy his books. Just send the money.