Although I’ve clearly taken sides in the ongoing conflict of gym vs. member, the strategies on both sides deserve recognition.
Gyms have the home field advantage, of course, forcing members to devise engineering marvels just to get in a decent workout. At one gym, I came across an ingenious solution to the inexcusable lack of a pull-up station. Some members had laid a barbell across the top of a squat cage and used lifting straps to fasten the bar to the frame. At a different gym, I watched a guy approach the squat rack at the beginning of his leg routine, only to find that the j-hooks had mysteriously disappeared. He moved the safety bars to shoulder height and flipped them upside-down, creating makeshift arms on the outside of the cage to prevent the bar from rolling off.
Members aren’t just suffering these humiliations sitting down, however. In the sauna, I was recently stunned as one gentleman got up from the bench and poured his half-finished water bottle all over the top of the electric heating unit. I don’t know if he confused the geothermal rocks in an authentic Swedish sauna with the expensive box plugged into this sauna. Regardless, while everyone else looked on approvingly, I got the hell out of there.
Although members do score the occasional victory, gyms continue to innovate around crushing the spirit of their clientele. This morning, I stopped at my gym’s entrance to take in a new poster touting improvements coming soon. My muscles tingled at the thought of a better leg press, a replacement for that clunker of a calf-machine, and new treadmills that don’t malfunction mid-run. But then I read the details of the planned upgrades: More kettlebells, a coat of paint for the cardio room, and a renovation of the smoothie bar. Well played, indeed.