Diaspora Feature Story

FITNESS & HEALTH 101 Of the Idiot, By the Idiot and For One Idiot, like such ONLY!

kleo desert quips

Part 2

The Gym, the Frog and the Chicken

MY doctors advised, no, I think warned more than recommended, that I SHOULD do some REGULAR exercises to keep my blood pressure down and help my slowly deteriorating internal organs.

I MUST, they say, lose a bit (fine! More than a bit) of my flabs and weight; my husband couldn’t agree more.

The first thing that came to my husband’s  mind was get a gym membership to encourage my supposed attendance to the said facility. I don’t like wasting money, you see, his unproven notion of me going to the gym for the sake of getting HIS money’s worth was playing a fine tune in his head accompanied by my obvious reluctance to the whole idea. He also imagined that the contained space with exercise machines under the supervision of a licensed and qualified fitness instructor should be the safest decision for one such accident-prone, slapdash, haywire and high-strung person like me. We argued so much about it as I refused to be and be seen (by myself, mind you, with all the mirrors inside the workout area?) in a gym! Then the push came to shove; that is when he says, “It’s up to you… I will not say anything anymore…” in that calm “I don’t care anymore” tone only my husband, as far as I know could ever deliver in that special manner of his. “Yield” I decided, for my aching bones and muscles remind constantly of the need to stretch, bend, walk, run…whatever. I relented, but not to an annual membership, nor 6 or 3 months. I agreed to a month’s trial (scared that the amount to be paid was still too much to throw away if and when I end up going only once or twice and never show up in that revolting place again!

Gyms to me are like fish tanks. Why? You could see everyone inside, right? All the meat and all the facial expressions! I am glad that the ladies’ fitness centers here in Fujairah are like the spas and salons catering to women only, they are usually tinted heavily (like the vehicles driven mostly by women) and/or thick stickers cover the doors and glass windows, as a rule here in the Middle East, to keep the women inside from being seen by strangers (or stranger men even) from outside. Covered or not, gyms are gyms! I abhor the sight of gyms to the point whenever I see one, I exclaim, “The Gym” (in the same manner and tone the little green alien men in the toy machine that Buzz Lightyear went into said to him, “The Claw…” – Toy Story).

But my abhorrence is neither of the place nor the people inside really. Perhaps it reflects what I don’t have. And those would be patience and confidence for me to do anything about my own body that I have mistreated and neglected for so many years and I believe would take the rest of my lifetime to repair anyway if there is even a way. Right? So why bother?!! Ahahaha! That’s what I told my husband and doctors. Sad you couldn’t see the look on their faces!

And so, I concede and I was given my membership form to fill up, the white thin cardboard ID for short term membership came out quickly bearing what seems to be my miniature flat face captured by the camera a few minutes before and the tiny scroll of my signature. A nice colored plastic ID for those with long term memberships, the receptionist explained when I glanced at all the other ID’s hanging from hooks in a receptacle behind her replacing locker keys issued to members who were currently inside the gym. “You’ll soon get your one after your 1 month membership”, hmmm quick girl but not too amusing, I mused.

The fitness center my delightful husband enrolled me into is a unisex one. There is a Ladies Only Section should I prefer that. But my instructor happens to be a dude 6 feet tall with arms the size of my thighs, so I had to use the common area for males and females. He towers over me and reeks of that particular gym smell that for some reason, I get only from men. “Frog” as I would call him in my head for that’s what he reminds me of; started going over the program with me. He was either too fast or I was too dazed with the tang my olfactory nerves were sending to my brain that I could not comprehend half of what the man was saying.

Frog has that habit of asking, “You understand?” after almost every sentence, in a tone that is more of mockery than a query common here in the Middle East. Mostly unintended, even shopkeepers say, “you understand?” after replying to your question about a product like as if you should have known beforehand; very annoying, I tell you. You understand? Hehehe. In this instance though, he was within reason to ask because I would have looked like a real moron as he pointed on the training program card then onto a part of the gym then onto a machine; talking and gesturing and pointing. The words were swimming in my head and the frantic aromas rushing to my nose in one convoluted confirmation that I was in a place I didn’t want to be.

Frog led me to a machine and declared that I should start with that machine for at least 1 week before going to the next ones. I looked at the contraption before me, “What in the world is this monster and what does it do?” I queried more worried than when I came in (The movie “Final Destination” kept on creeping in my mind).

After much explaining, Frog decided that I should start working out and stated that he would just be around should I require his help, he then turned around and walked off. I stood in the middle of the gym like a headless chicken; feeling like everything was going to fall on me, trap me, and worse, eat me alive. Why does it look easy for others then? In fairness to Frog, he was ultimately watching me from afar; I was just staring at each and everything, doing nothing. He came back and started off again showing me how one machine works and what I had to do. He sort of tried to show me how to do it but backed off when I bolted away from him, goose bumps all over me after feeling the cold clammy skin of his arm (that could only come from dried perspiration and then sweating again, I assume). He told me to try it on my own then without coming too close for comfort. I gave him the look of appreciation then asked politely to be excused. I walked off, quickly got my small gym bag from my big gym bag. My small gym bag contains my medium sized bottle of alcohol disinfectant, my pack of antiseptic wet wipes and my hand towel. I came back quite contented announcing I was ready to commence my work out… but not before I started wiping everything any part of my body would touch on the machine with my sterilizing solutions and wipes!

I appeared at the gym every other morning to Frog’s dismay, I think. The amount of gym issued towels I used for 1 month would beat those on annual membership, I heard one member saying to a gym staff. One boy overheard them talking and added half laughing, “You know where she is with the amount of towels hanging on the machine she’s using, like laundry on line!” Well I had to use one for wiping the machine, one to cover the space on the machine I would sit on and one to… To this I replied, “You would know which machines I used as well, dear, they are the ones that are not sticky with sweat, ones with less germs and probably the ones smelling better too compared to the one you’re on, right now!”

The gym would have probably refused my membership renewal if I tried to, I didn’t. I did what I was asked to and it didn’t work out as planned. My husband and my doctors came to a realization that the gym is not the place for me to do my work out or any physical activity for that matter, thanks for that!

I saw Frog last week in the grocery shop, he said “Hello”, there was warmth and friendliness in his tone but one that could only be construed as “Nice to see you out here, please don’t come to the gym ever again!”

Fact: I wasn’t totally wrong using towels on gym equipment. They are issued to people when they are on shared exercise machines, furthermore, please wipe machines after use, no one wants to sit on a pool of sweat, specially not their own!

Next episode for next week

FITNESS & HEALTH 101

Of the Idiot, By the Idiot and For One Idiot, like such ONLY!

Part 3 – Walkie, Walkie, Talkie, Talkie.

Kleo Hernandez-Kannangara
Kleo has a Communication Arts degree from the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines which she earned in 1986. She lives in the United Arab Emirates and is married to a Sri Lankan. She has four children, all of whom were born at the UAE. She describes her self as a “stay-at-home mom” who’s always on the road doing errands for everyone, and an “inspirational’ writer which according to her means "I write when inspired by a person, place or event."

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