Goin’ Back to Bally

I happened to get on a bathroom scale a few weeks ago, and the scale said some hurtful, offensive things to me. I don’t want to get into exactly what was said, but it started with a “2,” I’ll tell you that much. And nothing good ever comes from a conversation with a scale that starts with “2.”

Yes, I had finally cracked 200 pounds. Just barely, but still. There’s no reason for a guy who’s only 5-foot-10 to weigh 200 pounds, unless — and this is the one loophole — he’s a fat guy.

But I don’t want to be a fat guy. I have enough things working against me in life without adding chubbiness. And I had already noticed some of the tell-tale signs: making fat-guy noises when getting in and out of low-riding automobiles; labored breathing from walking outside to get the paper, and more fat-guy noises when bending over to pick it up; being told at the Red Cross that I was an unfit donor because my blood had too much gravy in it; stretch marks on my fingers; etc.

And so I found it necessary, after a three-year hiatus, to go on a diet and head back to the gym. My diet plan of choice is the crazy insane impossible fad diet where you — follow closely here — only eat foods that are low in calories and fat. I know, I know, I should be eating only red foods, or eating unlimited amounts of meat on alternating days, or drinking special powders in conjunction with a steady diet of celery, egg whites and fudge. But I’m sticking with the low-fat-and-calorie diet instead. My gym of choice is 24 Hour Fitness, because sometimes I like working out at 2 a.m., but since there is not one near me, I wound up at Bally Total Fitness.

The “Total” in the name is misleading. Bally does not offer programs to aid in one’s psychological or academic fitness, for example. Nonetheless, the club is spacious and uncrowded and has that comforting smell that all gyms have, a humid combination of sweat and feet. It’s a smell that tells you people have been getting their fat butts in shape there.

Bally offers new members their first month free, and by “free” they mean “19 dollars.” They have to charge for entering your name into a computer, of course, and also for printing a plastic card with your name and picture on it. Nineteen dollars is actually quite a bargain. They’re probably losing money on the deal.

So I’ve been going regularly the last couple weeks, and it’s fine so far. I had to get used to being sore all the time again, and of course the time spent at the gym is time I cannot spend watching TV, which is an unfortunate side effect.

But perhaps the most jarring thing about rejoining the gym world was reacquainting myself with the issue of locker room nudity.

It is my understanding that women, despite being touchy-feely-huggy-cuddly normally, go to great lengths to avoid being naked in front of each other, even in locker rooms. Men, on the other hand, who have become so phobic of man-on-man physical contact that they’ve started pounding fists instead of shaking hands — apparently the act of interlocking your hand with that of another man was just too intimate — have no problem being naked around each other. Yet the fact that they have no problem with it, if they think about it, is a problem. So they try not to think about it.

In the locker room, though, you have to think about it. When you’re naked, no matter what else you try to think about, it always comes back to the fact that you’re naked. Consider the mind of the average man as he contemplates locker room nudity. It is a whirl of conflicting thoughts and objectives:

– He doesn’t want to seem too shy about being naked, putting his underwear on underneath his towel and so forth, because dude, chill out, we’re all guys here.
– He doesn’t want to seem too eager to be naked, either, because that’s weird.
– He doesn’t want other guys to think that he wants them to see him naked.
– He doesn’t want other guys to think that he doesn’t want them to see him naked.
– He wants the other guys to not even notice that he’s naked.
– He wants the other guys to notice that he’s naked enough so that they don’t stand too close to him.
– He doesn’t want the other guys to stay TOO far away from him, because what, you’ve never seen a naked man before? What, is there something WRONG with me?!

As you can see, it’s a daunting, confusing time. I say eff that. I have opted to join the select group of men whose philosophy is this:

– I am naked and I don’t care and I will remain naked until I feel like putting something on.

This attitude is much less stressful. There are far fewer decisions to make. For example, after showering, it’s common to weigh oneself on the scale at the end of the row of lockers. You can see men being hesitant over what they should do. Should they remain clad in their post-shower towel and weigh themselves that way? Or do they walk over in the towel, then drop it before getting on the scale?

Men in my camp don’t bother with such detailed plans. We drop the towel at our locker, then walk over to the scale au naturale (French for “to the horror of bystanders”). I don’t want to know how much my towel weighs with me in it; I want to know how much I weigh. And it’s usually no more than 20 feet from my locker to the scale. Twenty feet is not such a great distance that it cannot be traveled in the buff.

I do try not to take it to extremes. The man I saw straddling a bench buck naked with one leg up so he could clip his toenails: excessive. In fact, I’d say it is best not to straddle anything in a locker room, clothed or not.

Admittedly, most of the men who adhere to my philosophy of nonchalance are old. This is because the older you get, the less you care about the accepted way of doing things. That is why old people think they are allowed to talk during movies and drive 40 mph on the freeway. And walk around locker rooms in the buff. What can I say? If I’m going to be fat, I might as well be old, too.

This is, what, the 1,000th column I've written about dieting and/or getting in shape? It's one of the recurring themes throughout the nine-year history of "Snide Remarks," and will probably continue to be for years to come. (Also on the subject, this column is pretty good, and this one was actually published, in slightly different form, in Muscle & Fitness magazine, if you can believe that.)

I had a couple paragraphs about the free hour with a personal trainer that I got for joining Bally, but eh, they weren't doin' much for me, so they got cut. See, I DO self-edit sometimes.