The other day I saw a woman with a brand new gym bag heading up the street in the general direction of our local exercise establishment. Then she crossed the street to the subway station, so I figured she was going to another location that was closer to work or had more amenities or a better start time for the spinning class. I continued down the street and at the following intersection I saw the same woman again, just exiting from the next subway station and making her way into the gym. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the person in question took the subway one stop, probably to save her energy for the treadmill.
So here it is January and time for the annual rush to physical fitness venues. And we all know how that usually works out. By the end of February, the only vestige of a relationship with the gym is the line item on the credit card statement. But maybe that’s not entirely their fault. Maybe it’s really because much like any foreign land, gym culture is not immediately welcoming to those from away.
This starts with the interrogation at the front door, where you are asked to present your photo membership ID, enter your membership number, scan your iris and step on a weigh scale with a huge readout on a scoreboard on the wall (I’m kidding about the last one). I think it was Jerry Seinfeld who observed that it seems very silly for gyms go to a lot of trouble to validate your identity, because who would be trying to steal fitness when the people who pay money to join don’t even go.
There are, of course, only slim and well muscled people at the gym (except for the first two weeks of the year, but no one who belongs to the gym would be caught dead there during the height of the resolution rush so the skinny people actually never see anyone outside of their own demographic). This is kind of a weird fact. Perhaps one of the biggest mysteries of the gym is how people get into shape in order to be fit enough to be admitted to the club. I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.
Newcomers to the gym also need to be aware of the territorial nature of the premises. It may look like there are enough elliptical machines, weight benches and spinning cycles to go around, but in reality the gym is an environment of artificial scarcity, or the “perceived scarcity of items even though the technology and production capacity exists to create an abundance”. This applies only to non-rival resources that do not diminish due to one person’s use, and if that’s not the definition of a kettlebell I don’t know what is. Inefficiency associated with artificial scarcity is formally known as a deadweight loss, but perhaps what they really mean is more weight is lost sprinting to snag the treadmill, lunging for the recently vacated weight bench and stretching to claim as much aerobics studio floor space as possible, than due to all other gym activities combined. Something tells me gym management has already figured that out.