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The Best Of 2008

Chained to the Treadmill
By Sola Biu -- Contributing Author [Email This Story]

It all started with this: "Hi, itís Sue Ellen from the gym . . . today is the last day of our January special . . . if you join after tomorrow itís $150 more." Iíd been screening her calls while I decided whether or not I wanted to sink my money into her establishment; but once I heard this message, I immediately dropped my jelly-filled donut, and showed up at the gym faster than you can say "dumbbell."

Sue Ellen, the gym owner, has the air of a person from a small town in Idaho who is determined to make her gym successful in the big city. She looks like she is in her late forties and it must be noted that she is one of those few human beings that has conquered the ultimate feat: obliterated all her body fat. Her one physical oddity is her really long hair . . . it isnít shampoo commercial long, but the kind of long that looks like it hasnít been cut since she was in the 5th grade. The kind that makes you want to sneak up behind her with scissors and just snip-I digress.

Scene: GYM

Sue Ellen greets me and pronounces my name incorrectly. Everyone does. I correct them only if I see a friendship in our future . . . Sue Ellen is a shark . . . it is obvious our friendship will cease once she has gotten me to sign up.

We small talk...her voice and mannerisms are friendly . . . but not her eyes. Those donít smile. Must have been a rough childhood in Idaho. ? Too many potato dinners?

We sit to do paper work. "Where do you work?" she asks. I think: Why do you need to know Sue? Out loud: I say the name of my magazine.

"What is that? " She asks doubtfully.

I explain to her that itís a national publication in the business-to-business market ( If I were going to lie about working for a magazine Sue, I would probably go with something more elitist like "The Economist," or maybe something fabulous like "Vogue" ).

"What do you do there?" she asks.

( I fry chicken nuggets Sue )I painstakingly explain that I am an assistant to the editorial director there. She smiles. She likes this answer. She looks slightly impressed and comforted. Impressed to know I have a career path comforted to know I have a salary and will pay up each month.

She explains that the gym will keep my check card information and automatically take the money from my account each month. This alarms me. She holds out her hand for my plastic.( Why donít I just hand you my pay check Sue . . . itís right here in my purse...better yet, why donít I have my company send it directly to you? )I pause and silently hand her my checking account card. She is pleased.

She returns with a contract. Basically the contract says I have to keep my gym membership for a year, the only loopholes are a) moving out of the area or b) dying. Iím pretty sure Sue Ellen would want to make sure I didnít fake a death to get out of that contract. If she heard of such news about me on a chilly winter night, she would probably opt to wrap her freakishly long hair around her for warmth (instead of using a jacket), and come to the hospital and check my pulse herself.

The contract has so many places to sign; it makes me feel like Iím making Sue Ellen a joint holder on my checking account. I sign in 4 places. My stomach sinks lower with each squiggle.

Are you working out tonight?" Sue asks.

I say no . . . . what is my excuse though? I moonlight as a doctor and have to fly to Iraq tonight to save a solider with gangrene? No . . . I will tell the truth. I explain that I am giving myself a break since itís the last night I will be a gym-free woman. She looks disapproving. She is judging me. I can read her thoughts . . . they say: As long as you havenít zapped away all your body fat like I have, you shouldnít get a "break." She has labeled me a quitter . . . the girl who quits going to the gym on the first day she joins.

Unlike you Sue, I am not a work out machine. I am human. I laugh, cry, and eat pizza.

We get two free trainer sessions with the gym membership. "Iíll sign you up for those sessions this week." Sue Ellen tells me.

I know the drill . . . you get a trainer who works you to the ground, he makes you cry "UNCLE," and suddenly you feel like you canít succeed in any area of your life without him barking out orders to you. He promises you the body of Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, or Carrot Top (to each his own) and you foolishly believe him and continue paying him additional money (on top of your gym membership) to achieve this ridiculous result.

I am not falling for that.

Who goes to a trainer when they havenít had time to get fit beforehand? You donít go to a trainer to get fit . . . . you get fit so you can go to a trainer. You work out obsessively for weeks and weeks before you use your free trainer sessions so when the trainer yells, "Lift this 250 pound cement block for an hour!" you look him in the eye, chuckle, and lift the cement block . . . with just your pinky . . . for 3 hours.

I tell her I will wait a month. Sue will not make me do anything I donít want to do (aside from paying hundreds of dollars to her gym each year). She agrees but I get the feeling she will fight this battle again with me sometime soon . . . and probably win.

I crack a joke that isnít funny. Sue laughs because she is supposed to. She says bye to me as I stand up. But I know she had already said bye to me once I signed the contract.

I walk out the gym and decide to eat something fried in Sueís honor.

Take that Sue. I do what I want.

(Unless Sue instructs me to do something else and then Iíll do that instead . . . but itís not like she is the boss of me though . . . .)

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