March 19, 2012 by David Gillaspie
(originally published: http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2012/03/the_right_gym_matters.html)
Not everyone joins a gym to model the outfit they found under the Christmas tree, or test their sweat-proof make-up. The reasons for public fitness are as great as the number of exercise stations on the gym floor.
The spoken, and unspoken, truth of gym rats is they show up to save lives, beginning with their own.
If you find time for yoga classes and spinning in the bike room, you’re way ahead of the curve. If you join to pick up your conditioning where you left it twenty years ago, check with staff members before you load the bench press bar with forty-five pound plates.
Once you fall into a gym schedule, you notice others showing up the same time as you. After a few weeks you see familiar faces doing routines similar to yours, except they do it better. Remind yourself it’s a coincidence, not a gang of stalkers zeroing in on you.
As months pass and you don’t lose even one pound, you realize diet is more than another four letter word. You adjust your workout accordingly and settle into a maintenance program for gradual improvement. More important, you start talking to people showing up in your common time slot. They make the effort to help when you need a spotter, or give advice when you mistake a leg machine for an arm machine.
Eventually you gain enough confidence to offer others the knowledge you’ve acquired. If a skinny kid decides to warm up with 225 lbs, you throw them a friendly warning. If an older lady can’t adjust one of the machines, you do it for her.
The gym experience evolves from anticipated drudgery to a welcome sense of community. You notice the formerly gray haired man’s new richer color running down the back of his white t-shirt. You see the ebb and flow of friendship between gym members who look like they could lift a car.
Then it happens.
You’re in the locker room dressed and ready to leave. One of the guys comes in and lays on a bench. He says he doesn’t feel well. You get him a bottle of juice. He still doesn’t feel well. You ask the right questions and he gives the wrong answers. He needs help.
The right gym has staff who know the drill. They don’t overreact, don’t panic. There’s no rush, just the steady progress of good training doing the right thing. Two minutes after the ambulance and firemen arrive, gym buddy is hooked to an EKG, IV, shock paddles, and oxygen. They put wheels under him and head for the hospital.
The high stress moments following a health-related event need calming words and sure action. Those aren’t promises you see on marketing hand-outs. Join any gym and start breaking sedentary habits; join the right gym and save your life, and others.
The right gym builds the sort of bonds you can depend on; the kind that stretch without breaking. It’s a bonus you won’t read about.