Out of Order

There has been a flurry of gym openings in my city recently, a development I approach with a mix of optimism and trepidation. An established gym, by its very existence, discourages competitors from opening nearby; a gym in operation also (tries to) dominate the membership market in a three to five mile radius. Bottom line: If a couple local gyms clutter up their floors with second-rate equipment and stylish contraptions, I am pretty much condemned to years of unsatisfying workouts.

My only other option, currently in practice, is to drive all over the area with a keychain full of gyms’ plastic barcodes. When individual gyms fail to offer an adequate equipment selection, I have to join multiple gyms (or a club with multiple locations) and string together a powerhouse program one machine at a time.

For the record, here are four core pieces of equipment every serious health club should offer (also a good checklist when scouting a new facility):

  • Free standing dip bars, thick enough to remain stiff under the load of weighted dips
  • Seated pulley row machine
  • Decline bench
  • A quality leg press machine

I know this list seems simple enough, close to the assortment you’d find in the basements or garages of many homes. However, between the dozen gyms to which I’ve belonged, and the scores more in which I’ve worked out, I know of exactly one gym, in Fairfax, Co. Virginia, that has implemented this list 4-for-4. Of course, when that gym underwent a renovation a few years ago, they got rid of the dip bars and the leg press – and me.

Although I travel to multiple gyms weekly, I’ve never considered driving to separate gyms for the same workout. I couldn’t imagine starting to exercise in one location, and finding something so deficient that I’d have to finish somewhere else. Well, here we go. Let’s just say that today, I had a lot of bran cereal for breakfast; in the middle of my workout, I found in the men’s locker room this sign taped to the door of both bathroom stalls:

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