It’s Not Fitness

By Charlie Haas

It’s Not Fitness. It’s Life.

—Advertisement for the Equinox gym


I’m already running late when I get to the gym, and right away I can see it’s a mob scene. The marital-discord simulator’s tied up, most of the people doing cardiac haven’t infarcted yet, and some woman in a red leotard is at the Googling-old-flames station (and you can tell she’s going to be there all morning).

I go over to the mirror and do some balding to warm up.

I haven’t pressed anything all week, so I find an empty bench and start pressing my luck. Right away I see people looking at me like, “It’s so little luck–what kind of benefit is he going to get?” so I stop. I start to pick up a medicine ball, but I get a look at the co-pay and I’m like, Screw that.

There’s the treadmill, of course. There’s always the treadmill.

I wait around for this guy to get off the elliptical reasoning machine, and I’m able to knock off a few cycles —”There’s enough in checking if I don’t get fired, but really part of me wants to get fired, but not if they put that Melanie near me, but if the banks collapse, it all doesn’t matter”—so at least I can say I’ve worked out.

But now I look at my watch and it’s already time to get out of there. I don’t even get a chance to work on my abs, which is terrible, because they all need toning—my abject dread, my absentmindedness, my abhorrence of genuine feeling—pretty much every ab I’ve got. By the time I leave, I’m running even later than when I came in.

Waiting around and running late—sometimes it seems like that’s the whole gym experience, right there.

Charlie Haas’s writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Threepenny Review, and Narrative Magazine. His novel “The Enthusiast”  is published by Harper Perennial.

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