My New Year’s Resolution was to join a gym and get back into shape after years of being a worthless couch potato. I know that’s a cliché, but I was very, very determined not to be one of those ninety percent of people who make a pledge on January 1st to get fit and then turn back into fat slobs before Valentine’s Day. I was more focused on my goal than on anything else in my whole life.
I would show up there every day, taking a tour of all the weight machines and making sure I was working every major body part, even the parts that only human biologists and sex perverts know about. I wouldn’t leave until I was drenched in sweat. I tried hard to monitor my progress and make sure I was doing more reps every day, moving up the weight once it got to be too easy to do more than twelve.
There were always a lot of people there, which I didn’t really like. I wasn’t there to make friends or meet anyone. My goal was simply to get in better shape so I would feel better about myself and maybe get a girlfriend. There were some cute girls there, but I knew how much women hate it when guys try to hit on them at the gym, so I made it a policy not to even approach any of them.
That policy wasn’t exactly exclusive to the gym. My last serious relationship was three years ago, and it ended horribly. Basically, she wanted to get married, and I didn’t want her to. I’ve been mostly alone ever since.
I wasn’t the stellar athlete I was in high school either. In my late twenties I was injured in a bad car on-purpose (I won’t call it an accident because I swear that fucker hit me intentionally), and couldn’t do any serious exercise for months. It really set my body back and I got lazy, refusing to work out even after I healed. The football and hockey I reveled in for decades was limited to my TV screen, and for years I never felt any impetus to change.
But one morning in December, I looked at myself in the mirror and nearly burst into tears at the sight of the thirty-four-year-old single man with the scruffy face, receding hairline and ugly-ass fat chin. I just could not abide by that anymore. So off it was to the world of kettlebells and leg presses.
By the third week of my gym regimen, I was starting to get into the swing of everything; focusing on my exercises, improving my form, and ignoring everything and everyone else. But that was when I spotted this one person there who was impossible to ignore. She was, quite simply, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life.
She was tall, with long and very well-toned arms and legs. Her hair was dark brown, long and wavy, though she usually wore it in a ponytail. Whenever I saw her face my heart skipped a beat because it was just so perfect-looking: high rosy cheeks, a small pointy nose, and large round eyes. I always felt guilty about enjoying such a gorgeous sight, so I usually darted my head away when I saw her. I knew it was the right thing to do, but man was it hard.
There was no chance in hell I would go and talk to her. A woman like her, so exquisite-looking and so athletic and toned, would never go for a flabby slob like me. There were tons of sporty guys in that building whom she could have. Plus, in my experience buff women weren’t the nicest people – they were so self-absorbed and arrogant. If she was anything like that she was not worth my time or my misery. When I saw her I would allow myself to enjoy the sight of her for a nanosecond, then try to forget about her and focus on my training. Cute girl, don’t care, gotta get another set of tricep presses in, get my blood flowing, no no, not down to that place…
* * *
“Hey gorgeous, can you help spot me while I bench this?”
“I can spot you, but don’t call me that.”
“Geez girl, it was a compliment. Don’t get a rod up your butt.”
“Nope, not doing this. Get yourself another spotter.”
I walked away from the man before he could bother me anymore. There weren’t a lot of people at the rowing machines, so I ran over and grabbed one of those, putting my earphones back in so I could hear Pat Benatar instead of some misogynist moron.
I enjoyed working out at the gym. I worked a pretty demanding job as a sports photographer, so exercise was my daily release. But a lot of the guys at the gym really did bug me. At least once or twice a week some guy tried to hit on me or leered at me or made inappropriate comments. I got that I was attractive, but these muscleheads really didn’t do it for me anymore. Since I was a star track athlete in high school I had pretty much only dated jocks, and after more than a decade of that I was just done with the whole macho man scene.
I often wondered if maybe I should change careers and start snapping photos of less filthy and obnoxious subjects, like sewer rats, or even politicians. But I would never give up my exercise or my gym membership. I lived for physical fitness.
“We are strong…” Benatar crooned in my ear, “No one can tell us we’re wrong!” I pulled the handles of the rowing machine even harder, juiced up by her classic refrain. “Love is a battlefield…”
Some of the people at the gym were nice. Most of the personal trainers who worked there were pretty friendly, and Dave even gave me rides home when the weather was too bad for me to walk. The other members were mostly pretty considerate and they didn’t often hog the free weights or not wipe their sweat off the machines.
I noticed some of the ones who came in regularly. A lot of the guys weren’t stereotypical macho bodybuilders; they looked like regular nice guys and I felt like I could be attracted to some of them. There were two of them, very similar-looking blonde guys who worked out with the pilates every morning, whom I sometimes though about talking to but I was pretty sure they were a couple. From how affectionate they were toward each other, I hoped to God they weren’t brothers.
There was another guy I saw pretty regularly, because ever since the beginning of the month it seemed like he was always there. He looked to be in his mid-thirties and pretty jock-like, with a receding hairline and a rough-looking face. Yeah, no thanks; I’d had enough Arnold contestants in my lifetime. Enjoy your endless tricep presses, tough guy.
Once I felt like my arms were going to fall off, I got off the machine, wiped it off, then looked to see if any of the elliptical machines were available. Nope, all of them were full. Dammit. I marched over to the area with the dumbbells, hoping to at least get some good bicep curls in before hitting the showers.
* * *
I had been working out for more than a month and I was starting to get frustrated with my progress. At first I had been moving up in number of reps performed and amount of weight used, but then I started to plateau. I was barely improving in my performance or strength anymore, which was discouraging because I didn’t think that would happen so early on. So when I came in one cold Saturday afternoon I marched to the weight machines ready for battle. I was not going to let myself off of any apparatus until I had done more reps than I had done before.
I started with the shoulder pulls. I concentrated on form and made sure I did them correctly, but still was only able to do my usual nine reps before fatigue set in. My delts and traps both screamed for me to let up, but I told them to shut the fuck up and continue to pull. They didn’t listen. I was barely able to do a tenth very crappy rep before I released the bar and it flew back up to its starting position faster than my hair was leaving my head. I held my head down, very pissed off.
I moved over to another exercise – the abdominator. This time I was really furious about improving. I pushed my abs to go beyond what I could do before, but once again it proved futile. I stopped, grunted in frustration, and got up before I gave myself a double hernia.
The next few exercises didn’t go any better. Exhausted, sweaty and furious, I glanced around the somewhat-busy gym. Maybe there was a trainer around who could show me what I was doing wrong? Maybe even Ms. Gorgeous? Nah. I had to figure this out for myself.
On the other side of the room I spotted the area with the free weights. I had usually avoided it because of those stupid large mirrors on the walls. But now was the time to try something new. I walked over to the weight rack, grabbed two of the fifteen-pound dumbbells, and started pumping out shoulder presses.
Nope, fifteen pounds was way too light. I needed something heavier. I eyed the twenty-five pound weights and soon I was doing the same exercise with those, telling my muscles to shut the hell up and just lift the weights I told them to.
* * *
It was a fricking cold Saturday in February, and against my better instincts I had braved the frosty wind to walk to the gym. I was too full of energy to stay in my apartment watching Netflix, and felt some good cardio would be in order before going out with friends that evening. When I would inevitably hear them brag about their impending nuptials or buns in the oven, I didn’t want to have my only accomplishment that day to be that I finally found out what happened to Kimmy Schmidt at the end of season three.
Cruising on the elliptical to Alanis Morrissette and Coldplay was a good time, and I was getting a good sweat going. Best of all, none of the guys there were being assholes to me. When I was finished with the elliptical I decided to do some lower body workouts – tone that butt a bit better. Leg presses were tough that day, but I squeezed out more reps than ever and that made me feel good. I smiled as I got off the machine and headed for the free weights area for some deep knee bends.
As I walked over there I noticed that my leggings were getting a little tighter around my thighs and pelvis. Hmm, was I getting more muscle down there? I really hoped so. I looked down and couldn’t help but admire my form. I loved having such a fit figure. I knew that it was attractive to guys, but why did it always seem to entice the most repulsive ones? Why couldn’t an actual nice guy dig this booty for once?
Well I knew it wouldn’t happen that day. When I reached the free weight area there was only Mr. Tricep Press present, doing shoulder presses with some pretty heavy dumbbells. His face was beet-red and it looked like he was struggling with the weights. Yeesh boy, don’t pop a blood vessel. You kinda need those…
* * *
The free weights were not doing much more for me than the cables and pulleys were. I hated them for not going up like I wanted them to. Eventually I could not lift them even an inch more, and was forced to bring them down onto the padded mat. My ass followed them down soon after. This was horrendous.
I allowed myself to catch a breath while seated, then got up and returned the dumbbells to the rack. I looked at the thirty-pound dumbbell seated right next to them, and picked it up. I remembered tricep extensions and started doing those, situating the weight behind my head and using both arms to pull it up above me. I moved it slowly, making sure I was keeping the rest of my body straight and still. Maybe this exercise could work.
Or not. As I completed my fifth rep, lowering the weight to the back of my neck and beginning to lift for a sixth rep, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my right shoulder. I tried to lift anyway, but it flared even more intensely and I dropped the dumbbell behind me, screaming in agony.
“Yeeoowww!!!” I reached over with my left hand and began massaging the painful area, collapsing onto the floor with tears running from my eyes.
As I sat there writhing, I could feel someone’s hands touching my hurt shoulder. They felt cold but soft. “Are you okay?” I heard a woman say to me.
I looked up and soon almost had another medical problem – a heart attack, caused by the beautiful woman’s face staring right at me with a concerned look.
“Buddy, are you okay?” She asked again, this time with a softer tone.
“Well, not really. I think I just threw my shoulder out.”
“Let’s hope not. Just get some good blood flow to the area.” She started rubbing it with her strong hands, and like magic, the pain melted away quickly. Either she was really good at treating muscle pulls, or I was just distracted by the fact that she was actually touching me.
“Wow, that actually feels better already. Thank you so much.”
“You really should be careful with those heavy weights.” She stopped rubbing and got up, taking my hand and pulling me up. “Form is really important, otherwise you can seriously injure yourself.”
“Yeah I know, I just haven’t really worked out for a while, and I think I got a little too eager to move up the weight.”
“Hmm, that surprises me. You seem to be in here all the time.”
I gaped internally. She actually had noticed me before! “You do too. You look like you practically live in the gym.”
She grinned, pulling her hair up into a ponytail. I got a glimpse of her toned biceps as she adjusted her hair, and I immediately got hard. Oh God, what if she saw it? It was like being called to the blackboard in seventh grade math class all over again.
“I wouldn’t say I live here,” she told me, “But I do like to work out. It’s such a great release for me, you know?”
“For me, it’s more about just getting back into shape, cuz I really let my body go for the last few years after getting into a car accident.”
Her mouth hung open. “Oh, that’s awful! But it’s great that you’re trying to exercise again. You know, if you ever want some assistance with lifting weights safely, the trainers here are very helpful and friendly.”
I was getting a good vibe from her, so I risked some flirting. “Any chance you could be the one to help me?”
She shrugged, her smile not disappearing. “Sure, I guess. But I’ve never really done that before. I actually haven’t been interacting with the other members here that much. You’re the only one I’ve really talked to except for those two identical blonde guys who are always doing pilates.”
“Wait, you mean the twincest brothers? When are they gonna get their own room?”
She doubled over laughing. “The twincest brothers? Wow, that’s so wrong, but so funny.” She regained her composure, stood up straight and outstretched her hand. “I’m Lindsay, by the way.”
“Kyle,” I shook her hand vigorously. I wasn’t over the moon at this point; I was over the freaking Milky Way. I looked into her beautiful, smiling face, and, as if on autopilot, blurted out a big question. “Say, would you like to maybe get a drink or something sometime?”
She grinned, tilting her head to the side. “Sure. We can exchange numbers after a set of very carefully-done bicep curls.”
As I watched her grab two fifteen-pound dumbbells, I had never in my whole life felt so glad to hurt myself exercising.
* * *
Danielle and Kayla were looking straight at me from across the table, but all I could look at was the sparkling ring on my left hand. I had acquired it three days earlier but it was still a thrill to see it.
“Have you two set a date yet, Lindsay?”
“Kyle and I are thinking next October,” I proudly announced, holding my hands in front of my face so I could still see the princess-cut diamond on my finger.
“I always love that story of how you guys met in the gym!” Kayla practically spilled her daiquiri in excitement.
I sighed contently. “I’ll admit It wasn’t exactly love at first sight, but since then he and I have both really reexamined our ways of looking at things.”
“I just hope his shoulder has healed since then.”
“It was over a year ago Dani. His shoulder is fine, and he’s in much better shape than before.” I chuckled. “Though I still always remind him to be careful when lifting heavy things, lest he injure himself again and meet another beautiful woman.”