Sunday, March 13, 2005


I went to the gym today, with a friend for moral support and emergency translation. (My vocabulary does not include words like biceps and pecs.) We had a lovely time. The gym is MY KIND OF PLACE.


1. Cool and professional young muscly people, hiding smirks.
2. Worried cool and professional young muscly people checking my pulse and wondering whether to call a doctor.

Buff young men. Shapely Spandexed young women. (Did Spandex go out in the 80s or something? The 70s? Am I showing my age?) Beautiful bodies. Intimidating machines. Alarming grunts coming from the beautiful bodies on the intimidating machines. Fast splashy swimmers in the pool. The terrifying scent of sweaty, muscled, beautiful young bodies in the changing rooms.

Torture devices


1. The girl at the desk was beautifully made up, totally professional and had her spiel off by heart, like a perfectly programmed robot. I could understand most of it, but then asked my friend about one bit I didn't catch. When we spoke English the professional veneer dropped like a brick. The girl's mouth fell open. She stared at my friend in amazement and awe. "How did you learn to speak English so well?" she asked. My friend brushed it off by telling her she didn't speak it well at all. I said she did. The girl at the desk tried to speak English, and in doing so lost all her cool. The robot voice vanished. She giggled a lot. She tried hard, and managed quite well.

By the end of that we were all friends. The girl at the desk was sweet and unworldly under all that gloss.

2. An frighteningly muscled young man came to show us the machines and teach us how to use them. He was terrifying until he spoke. Then he turned into one of my students: shy, unsophisticated, funny, and puppy-like, only with muscles. When we complimented him on his muscles he blushed and giggled. He set all the machines to their lowest and most pathetic settings without asking first. (MY KIND OF GUY!) He tried and tried and tried to dredge up some English, but couldn't. He excused himself bashfully by telling us he played baseball at university, as if that explained everything, which it did.

Very few. I should have expected it - the gym is expensive, and this is AMAGASAKI. Amagasaki people are famously cheap. We do not pay outrageous prices for silly things like gyms. Also, this is an old area, with lots of older people.

There were three or four tired looking OLs (Office Ladies), but the majority of the customers were middle-aged to elderly. How wonderful! In the machine room there was one thirty-ish man pedalling slowly and exhaustedly on an exercise bike, several older women using other machines with veeeeery long pauses and on the lightest settings, gossiping madly or watching TV, and one older guy lying on a mat and snoring. His belly was higher than his nose. I think he was stretching, or possibly doing yoga. Nobody was wearing Spandex. All clothing was loose and cheap and comfortable and desperately uncool. There was no sweaty smell. Nobody was grunting. (MY KIND OF PLACE!)

I have never used machines before, and was shocked to discover that they are fun. (But I have another reason to get an iPod - the TV was crap daytime Japanese TV.)

Our guy started us off doing a warmup on the cycling machines with little clips attached to our ears, and I watched my pulse rate shoot off the scale almost immediately. That was rather alarming. (I am worried about the cardiograph they insist on when you join - my pulse rate was alarming before I even started pedalling. I am FANTASTICALLY unfit.) Then it was the stretching machine. Ooh, the rack! That felt great. Then one for strengthening the muscles around your waist, a sort of twisty thing that felt good as well without being difficult (especially since it was on the lowest setting).

We tried a few more, but my favourite was the machine for doing, er, lift-ups? I don't know what to call them. It was also the simplest - an odd shaped table-chair thing rather than a machine. You lie face down on the bottom half of your body with your upper body hanging down, hook your feet around the supports, and slowly lower and raise your upper body with your hands clasped behind your back, never going higher than a straight line. It's easy, but it makes your bum cheeks feel like little rocks. (Very little rocks under a layer of flab, in my case.) I know, because I put my hands back and checked. Oooh! And it didn't hurt my neck. A couple of the other machines the guy had shown us were too much for my poor damaged neck, so it made me extra happy to find something that worked without hurting. I am going to use that machine until the flab on my bum cheeks turn into bouncy little rocks.

On the last machine I discovered that I have even less strength in my upper body than in my lower body. I have arms like twigs, and it was almost embarrassing. (But it wasn't embarrassing, because it's not that kind of place.)

Machines are fun. I didn't expect them to be fun, but they are. Our friendly muscleman/baseball player told us repeatedly not to keep going until we hurt. It shouldn't hurt, he said. He gave us some recommendations for how much to do. Easy peasy recommendations for flabby people. (MY KIND OF PLACE!) I suspect this advice is why none the customers looked particularly buff.

Last stop: the pool.

The 25 meter pool has six lanes. There were also three (THREE) large hot pools for relaxing in afterwards, with different sorts of jets and bubbles. And a sauna. When we went in there were six elderly people in the hot pools having a gossip session, two in the sauna looking limp and exhausted, and two in the pool. The two in the pool were in the walking lane and the beginner lane. We floundered up and down the pool a few times. I ran out of arm strength before I ran out of puff, which was amazing considering how little puff I have. But still, I was the fastest swimmer there. (MY KIND OF PLACE!)

In the changing room there were only five or six women, most of whom were older and/or flabbier than us.

I can only conclude that people use the gym more for socialising with friends than for exercise. The only people who looked buff were the people who worked there. Amagasaki-ites are just not into exercise, which is why Amagasaki is MY KIND OF PLACE.

I'm going to join.


Ms Vile File said...

I too am fantastically unfit, but I live in inner-city Auckland, thus all the gyms are cess-pits of Uber-Mummies and buffed Ponsonby types. They eye up newcomers with a steely evaluative gaze, and smirk when one doesn't have the ability to work out for more than five minutes without turning beetroot-red.
Perfect excuse not to go at all, I say. So I don't.

Badaunt said...

Those are the reasons I have always avoided gyms. But then my back... my back...

Silly me. Around here, people just do not behave like that. Or look like that. I should have known that in Amagasaki a gym would be regarded as a good place to have a nap.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you enjoyed the gym! It's a shame that some people have to make it intimidating for others, or a lot more people would be getting fit.

I don't belong to one. I just do my exercising at home.

elizabethbriel said...

Badaunt, sounds like my kind of place, too. I don't generally like sweating in public, especially around the rigorously buff.

From the accounts my boy gave of Korean gyms, they've got lots in common with the Japanese.

E.P. said...

My condolences about your back, GoodAunt. I can relate cuz from Jan '93 till about 3 years ago, I too had to go to the gym EVERY day for the debilitating FibroMyalgia in my upper back, shoulders and back neck.

>>>His belly was higher than his nose.<<< ROTFL! (I'll be giving him competition soon...)

melinama said...

Good for you! When my son was sick, working out at the gym was a great outlet for anxiety. Now we have an elliptical trainer at home and we watch Netflix whilst peddling. I've kept it up for five years, now.