Cure for the Middle-aged and Out of Shape

Ryan Butler write about his journey to the strange universe of Planet Fitness where his growing willpower and the Lunk Alarm help him defeat the “winter jelly-roll” demon


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Alarm goes off;  It’s 6:30 a.m.: time to make my attempt at getting my summer body put together. I roll over in my bed.

Alarm goes off; its 6:45 a.m.: time to make my attempt at getting my summer body put together.

Alarm goes off and its 7:00 a.m., this time I mean business. It’s time to get my summer body put together. Tomorrow, I think to myself. I will do it tomorrow. I roll back over and fall back to sleep.

And so it goes for the next few days, time to make a commitment to myself, time to get back into the gym. I can do this; tomorrow.

Alarm goes off; I roll over in my bed, its 6:30 a.m. and today is the day. I slowly rise from my warm comfortable place of security and slumber to instantly get the painful reminder I am less than a year away from 40 and the years of snowboarding haven’t been easy on my knees. I can almost hear the noise they make as I rise; it is the same noise my dad’s old Ford Pinto made when you opened the door on its rusty hinges.

I shuffle sleepily to the coffee pot, fill it with water, start the brew cycle, and turn impulsively finding my way to the bathroom to brush my teeth and dress in my workout attire.

I can do this, I repeat myself. I see them jogging happily in front of my house every morning, and how I hate them, with their pep and self-motivation, but, I’m willing to give it a shot, I need to acquire the habits of the successful, I can change! I walk back into the kitchen to pour myself a cup of that same pep and motivation, when I realize I didn’t fill the filter with coffee grounds and all I have is a pot of steaming water.

Tomorrow, shouts my brain, back to bed for you, you can’t live like this, and you’re not like them. Tomorrow; start tomorrow.

Not this time, I think myself, I can do this! I fill the grounds, press brew and head back into my bedroom to finish getting my gear together.

I’m in need of a new gym membership, being a student isn’t cheap and I don’t have much to budget. I have seen the ten dollars, no contract ads posted around my neighborhood, so I drive to investigate.

I find myself at the Planet Fitness around the corner from my house. As I walk in I am immediately overcome by the overuse purple and yellow, its everywhere, the walls, the equipment, and I find myself thinking, isn’t purple supposed to be a calming color? Since when are we trying to stay calm while we work out?

That’s when I see it: high on the wall for everyone to see, the Lunk Alarm, a purple siren shrouded in the color purple and yellow, with ominous warning signs. No Grunters. No heavy breathers in this sanctuary. This is not your typical gym; it’s a safe place “A Judgment Free Zone” boasts the stickers on all of the workout equipment. But for ten bucks a month, I’m willing to put up with the stares I get from the old and out outdated.

I sign the contracts, and my mind wanders as I read their version of my Miranda Rights regarding the rules of conduct, and attire. I head to the locker room to secure my personals, as I walk out I locate the bank of treadmills. I find the perfect one, not too close to anyone since it’s been a while since my last attempt at cardio. I step up, press start, adjust the speed and begin to jog. I’m trying to find my rhythm, my zone, but the back and forth swishing of my winter jelly roll is a distraction.

My eyes begin wander back and forth along the bank of flat screen TVs looking for something to draw my attention away from myself, when I am overwhelmed with a feeling of desperation. I feel as though I’m being force fed disease and sickness, on one channel there is a lost airplane, the next its allergy season, the next is what the planet will be like after the apocalypse, then who is tweeting who, and “conscious uncoupling” it’s the trendy new word for divorce. The madness of American society is too much for me, but I can’t look away. All I can do is close my eyes and breathe while trying to focus on the rhythm of my feet and my breathing, hoping to restore internal balance and order. I do this for a half hour, but now it’s time to lift.

I step down from the treadmill, and make my way to the weight section. I feel the glare of the pale twenty-something employee, his eyes are scanning the workout floor, like a searchlight scanning a prison yard, and he is hoping to catch somebody breaking the rules. This appears to be his first job with any authority, his hand hovers over the Lunk Alarm the same way a game show contestant waits excitedly to chime in with the right answer. Not this time pal, you’re not going to catch me breaking the rules. I’m far too seasoned to be caught by such a young amateur. I lift my weights, I clean my machines and I do as agreed, not to drawing any attention to myself.

I finish my workout, and walk to the locker room to collect my belongings. Upon leaving I’m looking around the gym at all of the other patrons, they come in all shapes and sizes. I see them sweating, some are reading, others are focused of that bank of death, disease and destruction. I’m wondering if they too go through the literal hell I went through just to get the feeling of accomplishment. As I leave I’m wearing a small grin on my face for today I finishing my first day back at the gym.


3 thoughts on “Cure for the Middle-aged and Out of Shape

  1. Great essay Ryan. I really enjoyed it. Ms. Skoy had talked a lot about it in class so I was hoping I wouldnt be let down. And I wasn’t. Really good descriptions of Planet Fitness. You described it perfectly!

  2. This was one of my favorite essays written by another student in class. I have never been to Planet Fitness but this piece made me want to drop by just to see the Lunk Alarm go off. Ryan’s writing is extremely comical and yet informative and interesting at the same time. Great read, good job Ryan!

  3. I liked this essay because of how Ryan organized and related the paper to real life. I go to Planet Fitness on a regular basis, but I have the same thoughts almost every time “I’ll go tomorrow”. It was nice to read his thoughts and information on the subject. Well done!

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