Weeklyish Challengey Thingie: Go To the Gym

March 23, 2012

One of my many New Year’s resolutions this year is to get back in shape. (I know. I’m sure you’ve never heard of that as a New Year’s resolution before. I’m really breaking some new ground here, aren’t I?)

To help me achieve this goal, I’ve even posted a workout chart on my fridge. To go with the to-do list of challenges I have taped on my wall. Because I’m the kind of person who won’t do anything unless I get to check things off a list or fill out a chart or something.

What? I have to get off my couch? Only if I get to fill out a chart.

I’ve managed to stick to a pretty regular running schedule much to my surprise (and, I’m sure, yours). Even though this involves my having to wake up really early and leave my apartment. Even on Saturdays and other days when I’m not technically required to leave my apartment.

My new found running success is mostly because I’ve managed to coerce one of my coworkers into being my running partner. Well, in all honesty, we’re more like running-plodding partners. She runs ahead, while I kind of plod behind her. But it’s really nice knowing that someone else is undergoing the torture with me. Even though she tends to look a lot less tortured than me.

Unfortunately, I’m not having nearly as much luck getting myself to the gym.

My gym, Joyland Fitness Club. I'm still waiting for the joy part to kick in.

I haven’t been successful in suckering any of my friends into joining my gym, so I’m pretty much left to my own devices. Which means I hardly ever go.

Mind you, I dutifully pack my gym bag a couple times a week and haul it with me to work with the intention of stopping off at the gym on my way home. Even though the gym is at least a five-minute bike ride out of my way.

But this weird thing happens on my bike ride back from work. Instead of turning towards the gym, my bike somehow ends up going straight home.

It’s not my fault.

I swear.

I think there might be something wrong with my bike.

My bike. Obviously not a fan of gyms. Or low-carb diets.

Besides, whose bright idea was it to build a gym that’s not technically even on my way home? I have to leave campus and cross at least two streets to get there. I mean, they might as well have built an obstacle course in front of the place.

Plus, I’m the kind of person who needs a special incentive to go to the gym.

And, let’s just say, being able to fit back into my pants is really not incentive enough for me. After all, who needs pants with waistbands? I live in China where pajamas are considered appropriate going out attire.

Looking good, ladies.

In Japan, I would go to the gym solely so I could use the locker room after my workout. I’m telling you the locker rooms in Japanese gyms are like spas – only nicer. One gym I went to had a bank of massage chairs and these makeup tables tricked out with fancy lights and mysterious lotions and potions. Another gym had seven different hot tubs. Because anything less than seven hot tubs is just slumming it.

In Brazil, my major incentive to visit the gym was this hottie personal trainer, who had taken it upon himself to whip me into shape. He would regularly measure my thighs and then point out the different exercises I should do so I could get, what he called, “a nice horse’s ass.” (Apparently, that’s considered a good thing in Brazil. If only this was considered a good thing everywhere. Because I’m pretty sure after all the dumplings I’ve been eating since I moved to China, my rear-end has definitely reached horse-like proportions.)

But my gym here in China is kind of lacking in the incentives department.

There isn’t even a single hot tub. The closest thing they have is this hot water dispenser.

Because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the middle of a workout and I’ve thought, “You know what I could go for right now? A bottle of piping hot water!”

And, while there are a number of cute trainers at my gym, none of them have taken a personal interest in my thighs.

Not that my gym is all that bad or anything.

Despite its exuberant name, it’s just your typical gym.

There’s your usual assortment of treadmills, elliptical trainers, stationary bikes, weight machines and free weights.

There’s also your usual assortment of classes.

The schedule of classes. Complete with dancing hippo graphic.

I keep on meaning to take one of the classes if only because I’m intrigued by the English names of the instructors. I mean, who wouldn’t want to take a belly dancing class with someone named Purple? Or maybe Power Step (A) with the lovely Fang? And who better to teach Latin dance than Raining? Seriously.

Oh, and there’s a smoking lounge. Because, let’s not forget, this is still China.

For your post-workout cigarette. Or your pre-workout cigarette. Or, hey, why not skip the workout and just start smoking?

Probably the best part about my gym is the super sweet membership card.

I always knew I was a VIP, but now I have the card to prove it.

And, well, there is some prime people-watching to be done there.

You see, every time I go to the gym there’s always someone doing something so incredibly incomprehensible with either their body or their wardrobe (usually both) that I totally forget what I’m doing because I’m too busy staring at them. Then I realize that I’ve been doing leg presses for twenty minutes, and I can no longer feel my knees.

Once, I watched a woman doing lunges down the length of the free weight room. Which, in itself, wasn’t anything too spectacular. But then you factor in the fact that she was wearing a denim mini-skirt and platform heels, and, well, you’ve got yourself a show.

And there was the time a woman swished into the gym in a baby pink, full-body snowsuit. As she was running on the treadmill, her legs were causing so much friction, I was, honestly, worried she was going to set herself on fire.

Sadly, I have no photos of Snowsuit Lady. But feel free to imagine her on the second treadmill from the left.

Earlier this week, I sat riveted while I watched this massive, middle-aged man lie down on one of the weight-lifting benches and proceed to wave his arms and legs in the air like a tiny, helpless, baby bird.

This was almost as exciting as the time I got to see a toddler doing crunches. Seriously, guys, there was a toddler on one of those ab crunching benches doing crunches. Granted, she was getting a little help from her mom. But, still, that two-year old must have had some serious core strength.

Also, sadly no photos of the Abs of Steel Two-Year-Old. Because I feel creepy taking photos of people working out... especially when those people are toddlers.

And then, last night at the gym, I watched a woman work out for thirty minutes with her cell phone pressed against her ear the entire time. It was impressive. She even managed to lift weights while holding her phone. I should probably also mention she was wearing Uggs and a sweater jacket. And she was doing that thing where she was wearing tights instead of pants. Because, apparently, there is one thing she can’t do while holding her cell phone – put on any pants.

(Mind you, I’m sure these people think I’m the total freak and go home and talk about me with all their friends and family members. Like, “You should have seen this foreign girl at the gym. She was staring at me so long you’d think she never saw someone work out at the gym in her snowsuit before. Sheez. What a weirdo.”)

Really, given all the prime people-watching at my gym, I don’t know why I don’t go more often.

I mean, this stuff is almost as good as Youtube. Except without the kittens. (I’m sure it’s only a matter of time, though. I mean, if women are making their toddlers do crunches, I can’t imagine their pets are too far behind.)

So as an incentive to get myself to the gym more often, I’ve come up with a new chart to put on my fridge.

Genius, right? I really think this one is going to work.

How do you inspire yourself to go to the gym? Or are you one of those people who actually likes going to the gym, like, on purpose and stuff?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On March 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm Rebecca Adler said:

    I just moved to China about three weeks ago. My friend talked me into going to her gym with her (despite the fact that our university gym is ON CAMPUS and FREE) and it was quite the experience. Smoking room, check. Girls in mini-skirts “working out,” check. And then, there was this dude taking photos of the gym for advertisements (it’s a new gym) and he basically stalked my friend and I as we worked out and took photos of us. I’m pretty sure we’re going to be on a banner outside the gym any day now.

    But I’m sticking with the gym on campus because there’s a trainer there that has taken a personal interest in making sure I learn to lift weights properly. And he’s pretty much the only man who has talked to me since I’ve arrived in China, so there we are.

    Um, so sorry for the long an rambling comment. Just saying, I’m with you on the gyms in China thing. It’s hard to make myself go and I AM one of those people who (normally) enjoys going to the gym and working out regularly. Just not so much in China (so far).

    • On March 23, 2012 at 1:38 pm Sally said:

      Wow, a FREE gym ON CAMPUS with a personal trainer who has taken a personal interest in you. I think I need to go work at your university. 🙂

      • On March 24, 2012 at 2:27 am Rebecca Adler said:

        Heh. Well, it’s not a fancy gym or anything but it has treadmills and weights so it counts. I think he’s taken a personal interest in me because I’m the only person who’s ever in there. 🙂

  2. On March 23, 2012 at 12:33 pm MaryAnne said:

    I have a gym membership but, um, I haven’t been back since last September. And it’s just 2 blocks from our flat. But it’s SO FREAKING TEDIOUS! When we were in, say, Burma, I happily hiked- nay, trotted!- up a freaking holy mountain for hours with a smile on my face, asked a monk at the top for a cup of water then trotted back down again. My pedometer read something absurd like 30,000 steps. And I liked it! And in Istanbul, where everything is either steeply uphill or painfully downhill (you need good tread on your shoes to not do a Jack ‘n Jill death tumble), my thighs were awesome for 4 whole years.

    But gyms? After 3 minutes on a treadmill or bike I’m checking my watch and wanting to go home and drink cocktails and read cheap and tawdry chick magazines.

    I should probably go back at least once before my membership expires in June. Or not.
    MaryAnne recently posted..Confessions of a Fauxmad: Notes on Really, Really Wanting a Home

    • On March 23, 2012 at 1:37 pm Sally said:

      Yeah, I think that’s my problem, too. Aside from the entertainment that I get from staring at everyone, I get really bored at the gym and just want to leave. Whereas when I’m running or doing something outside, I don’t get bored at all. I need to find some way to get a weight workout while outside… maybe start lifting babies in the park or something?

  3. On March 23, 2012 at 12:36 pm Stephanie - The Travel Chica said:

    I was always amused by the workout attire of the women at my gym in Buenos Aires. You need to start snapping some pics for us.

    A smoking lounge! Seriously!?
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Foto of the Week from … Valparaíso – Silhouette in a Prison

    • On March 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm Sally said:

      Ha ha. Yep! And by 7 PM, all the smoke filters up into the second floor above the smoking lounge where all the treadmills are. So if you’re on a treadmill it feels like you’re smoking, too. It’s really lovely.

  4. On March 23, 2012 at 12:37 pm Eleven - The Unframed World said:

    There’s nothing that makes me feel the burn better than a snowsuit 🙂
    Eleven – The Unframed World recently posted..The Double Life of Karen Hutton – Photographer and Voiceover Professional

  5. On March 23, 2012 at 12:51 pm Sid said:

    Ugh hate the gym. Went the once for a month. And never went back. One think I do remember about the gym was that one time the bathroom floor was soaked. About an inch of “water”. Turns out that the drains and toilets were blocked.
    Girl climbing out the shower: Oh the floor is wet too. I’m not wearing my glasses at the moment, but I swear I saw something brown floating around the shower.
    Me: Erm, the toilet is blocked …
    Sid recently posted..Skinny love and running goals

  6. On March 23, 2012 at 1:44 pm David S. Wills said:

    I was under the impression that gyms in China are only for playing pool. My students go there every day and are horribly out of shape. They just stand around playing pool and smoking.
    David S. Wills recently posted..Boppy

  7. On March 23, 2012 at 2:42 pm EJ said:

    Hi Sally, I love reading your blog. I just moved to Haikou, Hainan, China a couple of months ago and have yet to check out a gym. And now that you mention there are smoking lounges in gyms, I’ll probably scratch that off my own to-do list. 🙂 I’m still getting used to all the smoking here. I run outdoors and get so many strange looks and comments since there don’t seem to be a lot of foreigners here, so I try to run during the less populated times of day and the times of day where it’s less than 100 degrees, like 5am, ouch. Good luck with sticking to the gym, and can’t wait to see what other strange things you find there 🙂
    EJ recently posted..Mahjong Mystery

    • On March 26, 2012 at 5:06 am Sally said:

      I run outside a lot too and get tons of stares (especially now that I do it with another foreigner — double the freak show!). But I also love it how supportive people are. There are regular people that I see in my gym who will cheer me on when they see me (or at least I THINK they’re cheering me on). So I guess it helps to stand out — I have my very own personal cheer leading squad!

  8. On March 23, 2012 at 2:45 pm Sabrina said:

    Love the chart with the weird things at the gym 🙂 You know what my gym does to motivate people to go to fitness classes? You get a stamp from the instructor after the class and for every ten stamps you get something. It’s like kindergarten and gold starts all over again. But you know what? I really want those stamps and that stupid key-chain-band I will never ever use. Maybe you need to create a stamp card for yourself and get rewards every ten stamps…. like Uggs? Or a snow suit, so you don’t stick out as much?
    Sabrina recently posted..Cool Plane Shadow Picture

  9. On March 23, 2012 at 3:18 pm Dyanne@TravelnLass said:

    As I sit here in Saigon (ironically, still in my work out clothes) the Friday evening of my professed M/W/F gym schedule…

    Uh, likewise curiously having avoided said gym today (and I don’t even have a bike to blame!)

    I guess you could say I can relate.

    I honestly don’t get it. I ADORE my dear little (local, very “Vietnamese”, just the basics, no-frills, nary a single “class” and nuthin’ spiffy/Western about it) gym.

    And I love the sweet feeling of tender muscles that tell me I’m not a couch potato. I feel relaxed, energized and GOOD after a work out.

    I LOVE my gym… once. I’m. there.

    Shoot, I even wrangled a deal with the trainer: English lessons in exchange for/whilst he’s… giving me a fantastic massage right there on the floor next to the treadmill.

    Heck, I even have a good Vietnamese pal to go to the gym with.

    So WHY do I only go a time or three, and then drift away for weeks on end? Why can’t I get in the groove and go regularly?

    It’s a mystery I tell, ya. A complete enigma.
    Dyanne@TravelnLass recently posted..Just when I think that I can’t take it another minute!

    • On March 26, 2012 at 5:03 am Sally said:

      I know. I honestly don’t mind the gym that much once I get there… and generally find it rather entertaining. It’s just getting there. I think I need a personal trainer to follow me from work straight to the gym and not give me the option of going home.

  10. On March 23, 2012 at 4:21 pm Ali said:

    This is awesome! I can’t believe the gym has a smokers lounge, that’s insane. I think your plan for motivating yourself to get to the gym is great. I think we’d all love regular updates on what/who you see there. Laughed my (hopefully non-horse) ass off reading this.
    Ali recently posted..The Great Ocean Road and a Bit of Parrot Poo

  11. On March 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm Mira said:

    I joined a gym in January too (New Year’s resos and all) and I also love the people-watching! Kids, high heels, uggs? Check, check, check.

    I highly recommend trying one of the classes: having 20 people turn around and stare at the only laowai in the room while you’re beet-red in the face and bending over really teaches you not to care about what people think! 🙂
    Mira recently posted..Suzhou Part 3: Touristy Stuff.

    • On March 26, 2012 at 5:00 am Sally said:

      Unfortunately, the classes at my gym are all pretty late in the evening. By then I’m ready to gnaw off my hand from hunger, so I never stick around to take one of them. One of these days… maybe.

  12. On March 23, 2012 at 5:16 pm James in Saigon said:

    My gym experience is long and sad. Well, actually, not that long, but definitely sad. I had a whole 3 months in Bangkok with tons of time. Joined a gym with a great pool the first week, despite the receptionist discouraging me telling me it was too cold to swim outdoors. C’mon. It’s friggin’ THAILAND. It’s like 110 degrees outside. But you know what? She was right. After swimming religiously every day for a week, I promptly caught a cold and never went back again. I still have a towel I somehow forgot to return. That is one expensive towel, considering I used 6 days out of a month’s membership. I’m about to sign a contract for a way too expensive apartment tomorrow in a fancy schmancy high rise in Saigon. With a pool. That is totally unused during the week. So if the pool is literally two floors below me and I can actually SEE it once I step out of my new apartment, I should be totally using it every day right? One would think… SIGH
    James in Saigon recently posted..Cast Away on the Similan Islands

    • On March 26, 2012 at 4:58 am Sally said:

      Yeah, I always meant to join the gym when I was in Thailand too. Or at least use the pool in my apartment complex. That never happened. But I often looked at the pool… that’s close enough, right?

  13. On March 23, 2012 at 6:15 pm Ceri said:

    Sally, you traitor! The gym? Just when I’ve spent a week doing nothing but lying on my couch and not actually getting out of the apartment?

    I knew I’d been putting off finding a gym for some time but now I guess I have to go because I don’t have a fellow ‘couch sister’ anymore. 😛
    Ceri recently posted..Palenque Ruins

  14. On March 23, 2012 at 7:36 pm Katherina said:

    That’s a great way for motivation!!! I can’t seem to find any weird people in my gym. in the contrary, they are all super fit healthy high performance people. actually (not kidding) my gym has a high performance area that basically prepares yu to walk, run or cycle in high altitudes… and it really seems as if most londoners are planning on runnig up the Everest!! The only activities that motivate me are a) pole dancing (its in a glass room so you can basically watch all the hotties staring up at you) and climbing (the instructor is really a cutie!).
    Katherina recently posted..Am I a Cat or a Dog? (Or Why It Might Be Time to Reset My Priorities)

    • On March 26, 2012 at 4:57 am Sally said:

      Ewww, remind me not to go to a gym in London. I think all those super fit people would make me cry. I need a few wackos at my gym just so I can feel normal.

  15. On March 24, 2012 at 12:49 am Andi of My Beautiful Adventures said:

    I can’t get past the fact that they have a place to smoke…wtf!?!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..My Wedding & Honeymoon: Day 18 (Part 1)

  16. On March 24, 2012 at 12:56 am Ross said:

    Better get your bike fixed. Your gym sounds interesting or at least amusing. I have at least found some good motivation to go to the gym. There is a small gym where I work and we have great trainer that leads a few classes everyday. So I sit at work thinking “Work or workout?” and am motivated to workout nearly every time. I just can’t stare at the weirdoes there.
    Ross recently posted..Jianchuan Photoshopped – Part 2

    • On March 26, 2012 at 4:56 am Sally said:

      Wow, when you choose the workout over other options, you know you have a good gym on your hands. I’d do the same in Japan because I loved the locker room so much. I would even walk out of my way to go there. Sigh. Those were the good old days… back when I could fit into my pants.

  17. On March 24, 2012 at 4:10 am Kieu ~ GQ trippin said:

    HAHAHA! I love that you created your own incentive to go to the gym. Curious to see that finished list of weird stuffs you see. LOL. And.. a smoking lounge? Really?! At the gym?
    Kieu ~ GQ trippin recently posted..4 Cheap Asian Eats in Sydney

    • On March 26, 2012 at 4:55 am Sally said:

      I think maybe the smoking lounge originally started as a juice bar… but, seeing as nobody really drinks juice (and they don’t even have any to sell), it’s become the smoking lounge.

  18. On March 24, 2012 at 6:21 am Waegook Tom said:

    This made me laugh out loud hahaha! My gyms in Korea have all had incentives – we’re talking about beautiful Korean men working out. And walking around the locker rooms completely naked….and occasionally having to blow dry their pubic hair.

    I vote for a future photo post where we see pictures of said gym weirdness. I, for one, want a video of leg-lunging mini-skirt lady and massive flailing bird guy.
    Waegook Tom recently posted..Hiding in Korea

    • On March 26, 2012 at 4:53 am Sally said:

      I don’t have a camera phone so I had to smuggle in my camera and take some covert photos while hiding myself behind various machines. I felt like a total creeper for taking the few photos that I took, so I don’t know if I don’t think I could video tape anyone. But if I wasn’t such a wuss, I’m pretty sure I’d have a Youtube hit on my hands!

  19. On March 24, 2012 at 9:44 am Matt said:

    Simply awesome. What was the second toddler doing at the gym? Please keep us posted on the antics of your fellow workout enthusiasts.
    Matt recently posted..Kobe Beef

  20. On March 24, 2012 at 11:06 am Karen McCann said:

    I do go to the gym regularly, because sadly, here in Seville, pajamas are not worn on the street. In fact, they favor skin tight pants, and skin tight tights that make it look like they forgot their pants. I am really embarrassed for them. I refuse to go that far to fit in with local sartorial standards. I don’t care what that gym instructor in Brazil says, my goal is NOT to look like a horse’s ass.

  21. On March 24, 2012 at 5:40 pm Expat Alien said:

    I don’t go to the gym, I actually go to Jazzercise… how retro… not much weirdness but plenty of gossip.
    I also love the smoking lounge. It sounds like a perfect ending to a great work out. Wish I could have seen the pink snowsuit! Sounds like the people should motivate you to go. Keep it up!

  22. On March 25, 2012 at 10:04 pm Priya said:

    There’s a smoking lounge? That’s insane! Your gym sounds very interesting, Sally. I’m not sure if anything really inspires me to go to the gym right now. I had a favorite instructor last year but they let get her go ( which almost made me want to quit). I had a lesbian stalker for awhile ( or at least that was my nickname for her) but i think she quit after they let go my fave instructor. It’s a off and on again game I play with myself. Some days if I really don’t want to go, I’ll just try to go for at least half an hour.. or um, not go at all and take a name instead. Good job going to the gym! I’m sure you’ll met or notice more interesting people!
    Priya recently posted..How I Accidentally Went On A Date

    • On March 26, 2012 at 4:49 am Sally said:

      I love how everyone is shocked by the smoking lounge. I didn’t even really think about it, until after I mentioned it to friends in Japan and they were like, “What? There’s a smoking lounge in your gym?” I guess maybe I’ve been in China too long?

  23. On March 26, 2012 at 11:43 am furio said:

    Nice post Sally!

    I would love my gym to have a smoking lounge. In my (Chinese) gym is still missing so that the guys like to smoke their post-workout cigarette on the locker room…

    • On March 27, 2012 at 12:34 am Sally said:

      I’ve heard that the guys smoke in the locker room at my gym, too… even though the smoking lounge is literally right outside of the locker room. I guess sometimes you just HAVE to have a cigarette. I’m just waiting for them to start smoking in the workout room.

  24. On March 28, 2012 at 2:23 am ChinaMatt said:

    I love that you have a “weird stuff I’ve spotted at the gym” board. China definitely hasn’t figured out what to do with gyms yet. They seem to be for wealthy people to show off that they have a gym membership. I went to one once. It was hot and humid and they had no air conditioning.
    ChinaMatt recently posted..Appreciating Spiders and Such

  25. On March 28, 2012 at 8:44 am choi kum fook said:

    Miss Sally, Are you out of shape? From the photos recently taken,You are more slimmer than the time working at the farm! Apparently, you look more cheerful and smart, may be life in China is more suitable for you or just fall in love!? The gyn room is nothing related with me because I have free of charge exercise in the farm, I have to walk more than ten miles everyday in the farm.Actually, sometime as I think, I am over exercise! Ha! Ha! Anyhow, Gyn room is suitable for those people are working in the office, with allday sitting on chair. Do you think so? Sally!

  26. On March 28, 2012 at 3:57 pm Maria said:

    Once again, you have me in stitches. Meet you in the smoking lounge!
    Maria recently posted..When a Stranger Calls

  27. On May 22, 2012 at 9:00 am Eugene said:

    Hey, just happened onto your blog – you’re funny! And for a guy from South Africa your gym sounds really weird! lol. I go to my local Virgin Active (remember Richard Branson?) about 6 days a week. I like your list of weird things you have seen – I should make a list of the weird things I’ve seen – especially in the men’s showers! lmao. My gym is not too boring since we have Sport TV on almost every machine! I wish I could see inside your gym! Have fun!

    • On May 25, 2012 at 11:29 am Sally said:

      Yeah, I didn’t even include the weird stuff I’ve seen in the locker room. If only because I try to spend as little time there as possible. I’m pretty sure there was a guy in there the other day. Either that or the most masculine looking Chinese lady I’d ever seen.


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