The Gym (in China)

I went to the gym this morning and I was impressed to have lasted more than a half hour. Apparently the management of this gym is incredibly cheap (something I know from my flatmate who teaches pole dancing their), and they thus refuse to turn the air conditioning on to keep the expenses low. I have heard it joked that the perfect customers for these gyms is the one who never turns up, but this tactic of actively disincentivizing their customer base seems a bit excessive, at least to me.

I need to go to the gym. It isn’t just that I enjoy it (which I do), but it helps keep the depression from overtaking me.  But here in China it is an increasingly difficult habit to keep up. That’s because the gyms here are all terrible. The one I at first frequent had 9:00-8:00 as their posted hours, but in reality it was much closer to 11:00- 8:00, making them pretty much only open when I was at work. That location was also hard at work constructing an indoor swimming pool, so you had to walk through a construction zone, conveniently located between the changing rooms and the actual gym itself. I didn’t last too long at that gym.

When I changed apartment I found that all my flatmates went to the gym regularly, so I asked all of them if their respective gyms (apparently no one goes to the same gym) opened at a reasonable hour in the morning and found that one of them attended and worked at a gym that opens at an astonishing 8am. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined such a thing possible in China, so I was particularly shocked to find out that it was true. This set my expectations for the gym rather high, and it failed me magnificently.

My first day at the gym I noticed that not all the showers had shower heads. Those that did have shower heads weren’t attached to hot water heaters, so one had to make a choice between not having hot water or not having water pressure. I would choose to remain sweaty and walk home to shower in a bathroom that did not have a functioning light, though it did have a functioning heat lamp that does the job if needs be. By the end of my first month attending the gym I had gotten used to bathing under a running faucet, gotten used to the half-smoked cigarettes that clogged every drain, and had gotten used to the bathroom janitor who insisted on coming in scrub the shower floors every time I was finished working out. He was one of those elderly Chinese gentlemen who insists on speaking to us foreigners.

And then, the gym shut the men’s shower room down for about two months. On the bright side, when the massive inconvenience was over, all the showers were attached to a centralized water heater and had shower heads.

Nowhere in the changing room is there a number 4. Number 4 is considered an unlucky number in China, and so the lockers in the changing room are numbered without 4, 14, 24, etc. The gym itself, is on the fourth floor.

All of those complaints are pretty superficial though. The important thing is that the equipment is pretty sound and there are not too many people in my way. On these accounts, the gym is fine. The one really lasting problem in the facility itself – or at least the only problem before the summer rolled in and I realized how much of a problem it was that the administration refuses to turn on the AC – is that the Chinese do not clean up after themselves. I have seen this to be the case in my own school, but in the gym the section where you can use free weight is littered with discarded weights and dumbbells You trip of the former while hunting down the missing half of the latter.

Well, it gets the job done.

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