Even as I drove to Gold’s Gym on Pawtucket Avenue, I knew something was wrong. The exhaustion from a late night before, skipping breakfast, no water bottle – the signs of what was to come were smeared across my windshield: I was unprepared. But still high from completing 900 consecutive miles of the Appalachian Trail earlier this year, I thought myself an athlete ready for the gym’s one-hour weight lifting class, Group Power, an intense barbell-based program that strengthens all major muscle groups.
The class had already started by the time my disheveled, unshowered 20-something self arrived, so I saddled up to an empty spot between two middle-aged women. It felt as if I missed a crucial bro-mo (the male memo, of course).
Thankfully Coach Mike, who was fit enough to punch a shark in the nose, helped balance the odds. He stood on a raised platform at the front of the class and let loose a barrage of exercise commands in his face microphone. He wanted us to move and we did.
We began with back squats coordinated to the music. One, two, three – feel the burn – four, five, six – bring it on, Coach Mike. Every few seconds he altered the tempo of our exercises, or encouraged us to add more weight to our barbells. “One-to-one, keep it up, a few more, now seven-to-one, seven seconds down and one up, you got this.” And I thought I did. I seriously thought I had it.
Through the back squats, presses, deadlifts, tricep stretches, bicep curls, I was all over that ish. I was there with you, Coach Mike, I swear. I was there. But somewhere during the bicep curls my heart faltered and I felt my vision tilt. The ship was sinking. And as the captain, I foresaw only two options: 1) pass out in the middle of an assignment surrounded by women and the man-beast, or 2) take the long walk of shame. I opted for the second option.
As if by some miracle, at that moment the music cut off and I fell to a sitting position. “No sitting, no sitting, stand up, no sitting,” shouted Coach Mike. But he must have seen the utter lack of masculinity left within this writer’s deadened, lightheaded eyes, because he pointed at the doors and said, “Whoa, hey, water’s outside, man.”
So outside the room I sat like a work-out wallflower, watching a dozen or so women having a great time. And my aura of shame at picking such a strenuous class for my first time out must have felt strong, because Gold’s Gym’s trainers flocked to me like bees to honey. (Seriously, much thanks to those trainers.)
Soon after, Coach Mike himself put the class on hold and came to find me. Sweating, smiling, about as chipper as anyone whose career is spent high on endorphins, he beamed a wicked smile and said, “Maybe you shouldn’t continue the class. Go get a Gatorade - on me.”
So congratulations, Gold’s Gym. I can spend three months living in the woods and hauling a 40-pound-plus backpack up and down mountains, but I couldn’t last even an hour in your Group Power. It quite frankly proved too powerful - an exercise routine worthy of respect and proper preparation. Well done.