On the Modern Gym Experience

30 08 2011

With mention of and pleas to various sub-groups of gym members.

For the gladiators working out was not an elective so much as it was “do this or die more quickly”. The Greeks worked out so that they could take home a crown made of deciduous vegetation. (Olympics anyone?) My grandparent’s generation engaged in physical activity if and only if they were in the military or owned a farm.

Something happened in the 1980’s though that changed our cultural perspective. For the last thirty years or so working out has been… well… cool. With a host of fitness and health oriented books, magazines, day-time talk show specials and reality tv shows we are now a culture of gym rats. The fact that 80% of people don’t know what to DO when they are at the gym is irrelevant. There’s always “standing around pretending to be mid-super set” or “getting a drink of water” or “listening to one’s iPod”. As a last ditch effort the confused can find a personal trainer who will guide them through the maze of equipment and activities.

I like to think of myself as part of that elite 20% who a)know what to do to use my gym time well and b) don’t shoot myself in the proverbial foot by eating crap ten minutes after a workout. And, since I’ve been working out and have had access to a personal trainer off and on for the last eight years, I am able to workout while simultaneously observing the idiosyncrasies of fellow gym members. Today during my intervals I composed the following mini letters to different groups of people I see at the gym.

Dear Middle Aged Men,
Way to go! Now is the time to get heart-healthy. Now is the time to learn to love anything from bicycling to kayaking to running. But please, don’t think that your newfound hobbies give you the right to wear spandex. Manly man shorts of appropriate length and volume would greatly enhance your manliness. Trust me.

Dear Overweight Ladies and Men,
Do you know who the most inspirational person in this building is right at this moment? Nope, it’s not that guy over there who was once an Olympic pole vaulter. Nope, not that lady who has been running on the treadmill for an hour without stopping or even breaking a sweat. The most inspirational person here is YOU! You are the one who conquered unknown numbers of insecurities, unhealthy habits, hatred of gym clothes, embarrassments and cruelties. YOU are the one who decided that you wanted to make a change. YOU are the one who SHOWS UP EVERY DAY. Well done! I doff my cap to you and thank you for being so amazing. Keep on keeping on.

Dear Teenage Boys,
Good habits start young. You are off to a good start if you are already making working out a daily part of your life. It will benefit you for years to come. That said, please do your research. Watching you lift improperly day after day after day is painful to me. Not to mention that you’re front-loading your muscles. Your pecs and biceps are admirable but your back is weak and your triceps must feel neglected. Read some books! Get a trainer! LEARN! Also, don’t waste my time. If you aren’t using a piece of equipment GET YOUR ASS OFF OF IT! Some of us have jobs and classes and life to get back to, I don’t have the leisure to watch you watch a football game while sitting on the bench I need. Also, last thing, please do not stare at that girl’s butt so obviously for so long. This is her gym too and she needs to feel safe and comfortable. You leering like she’s the porterhouse steak and you’re the hungry pit bull does not encourage her to spend time here.

Dear Young Women,
First, when you come to the gym make sure that your butt is fully covered and your boobs are contained. I know, I know, the men should not be staring at you in the first place but you are hardly making this easy on them. Feeling cute at the gym is important, I get it. I myself put effort into being both comfortable and cute when I’m going to pump iron. One cannot wear baggy sweats and a sweatshirt at the gym without passing out from heat stroke. But you can work your outfits so that you have maximum comfort with minimum distraction-potential. Oh, and dear dear girl, doing the stair master for an hour six days per week will not make you fit. Cardio alone will not cut it. Do some research and start lifting free weights. It’s the best way to protect your body, build bone density and see results. Just wait until you wake up one day and have triceps! It’s the best feeling ever.

Dear Old People,
I love you. I love your knee-high white socks and black tennis shoes. I love your sweat bands and your treadmill-walks and your awesomeness. Someday I hope to be just as cool as you.

Dear Suburban Moms,
I’m impressed. I thought all your people did was take yoga classes and meet your friends for coffee. Nice to see some bicep curls from your group. Come back soon and often!

Dear Me,
Don’t think you know everything. Remember that every person has a story and you don’t get to judge anyone. Ever. Also, do more push-ups. You were slacking today.

Dear People Who Don’t Go to the Gym,
You should. It’s a fascinating place to people watch. Besides which, “Exercise give you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands!” Thank you Elle Woods and thank you gym. It’s been a good day.


Nothing Romantic

12 07 2011

“You know,” I told my Dad earlier today, “There is nothing romantic about a summer rain in Seattle. Rain is only romantic if you live somewhere where it doesn’t rain ALL THE TIME.”
He nodded and grabbed his Snapple. “Yep. Rain is only romantic when it’s in a song about someone else.”

Needless to say, we’re on our third rainstorm today and it’s getting old fast.

In other news, I’m watching parts of “Kill Bill”. It’s pretty much just as weird and bloody as I remember. Suddenly I recall why I never sat through the whole thing in the first place. Also, what’s up with the asian kid in the plaid skirt? Did plaid suddenly become big in Asia? Lots of Scottish people wandering over for really good sticky rice and then forgetting to leave? Also, someone should tell her that her weapon was a poor choice. Things that work on inertia are insanely difficult to control.

In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, this is one of those stream-of-consciousness posts that happen when I’m too awake to sleep but not creative enough to paint.

Just watched a couple of really impressive martial arts movies: Ip Man and Ip Man 2. They’re both on Netflix instant watch if you want to check them out. Best part is that they are based on a true story. Second best part is that they are gloriously sparse on wire work. I detest martial arts movies that rely on wire work. (Another reason not to like Kill Bill). If you are going to make a movie about fighting the fighting should at least APPEAR realistic. Wire work is great for things like Matrix, where you are expected to suspend disbelief. But if the physics looks off in a real martial arts movie I get irritated and stop watching. Note- I’ve always been like this, even before I’d ever taken a Kempo lesson.

(Can someone remind me why Lucy Lui is the bad guy? I’m having trouble figuring out the stare-down that is happening right now…)

I just gave up on Kill Bill. Too boring. (Yes, I said BORING).

Basically my life has devolved (evolved?) into Kempo and painting. Supposedly I still have a job but I haven’t been there in four or five days so work is fading into a dim memory. The blessed haze of forgetfulness has settled over my memories of the box office, the house managing and most of all the lobby attending. Instead of work I work out. Thrice yesterday and a really intense weight day today mean that my body is gloriously gelatinous. Tomorrow I’m getting up and going for an hour long run. Hooray! (Means I get to use my new running watch!)

I’ve been working on some writing stuff lately, too, and lots of drawing. Also, I’m feeling my feelings to the best of my ability. Which is hard, because I have a lot of feelings these days.

Back to drawing. So long and thanks for all the fish!

Adventures in Paradise

23 06 2011

I have found a place where it is constantly 80 degrees and yet one is rarely too hot. Welcome to Maui, where sun shines and trade winds blow and the pool is never far away. Of course, even in paradise one must babysit one’s alabaster skin. It’s a bit of a bother that one can never step outside without first dousing oneself in SPF 2000, and even more of a bother that said sunscreen makes a greasy mess of long hair. Nevertheless it is gorgeous here and we have a well-shaded deck where one can enjoy the sun without being actually touched by it.

Currently I am sitting on aforementioned deck or “lanai” watching kids play in the pool and little birds fight each other for breakfast crumbs left on the floor of the lanai. The surf has been unusually high here due to a recent storm in New Zealand so snorkeling or paddle-boarding had to be abandoned for another day. It’s the first day that I haven’t gone in the water at all, actually. It’s been more of a reading/drawing/hanging out kind of day.

Yesterday we braved aforementioned high surf and went up to Napili to play in the waves. My five Mansours and the other six Mansours trooped out of our condo complex looking like nothing so much as a colorful cattle drive. Twelve of us make almost a parade with our brightly coloured swimsuit cover-ups and board shorts. It’s just a short trip to the beach, maybe five minutes on foot.

Let me tell you, when locals say “high surf” they ain’t kidding. The waves on Napili (previously sedate, friendly and un-impressive)  were sweeping up to the shrubberies and above the heads of the swimmers. Lynn, the youngest of the other Mansours and I walked down to the sheltered area of the beach and floated around. And I would have been fine if I’d stayed there. Instead, foolishly, I walked back toward the center of the beach and came across Barry who invited me to “dive into the waves”.

I know. I’m an idiot.  Read the rest of this entry »

Indiana Jones, Butt-Cracks, and How to Climb a Banyan Tree

18 06 2011

We won’t say who but SOMEONE had the brilliant idea to drive the Hana Highway yesterday. Honestly I was non-plussed about the idea but phrases like “The Garden of Eden” and “Once in a Lifetime” and “Not to be Missed!” were bandied about with such extraordinary enthusiasm that I became convinced. How bad could a road trip in Hawaii be, even if it did take “all day”?

Oh. Oh how unimaginative I was, that younger and more foolish version of myself.

The day started at 5:30 am. I woke up and dragged myself down to the kitchen where I scrambled two eggs and downed an enormous glass of juice. Mostly to offset the intense dizziness that I’d been battling all night. We were on the road by 6:45 and made a quick stop at Starbucks/Safeway for water and snacks.

Now, it was early decided that we would take both Barry’s convertible jeep and my Nissan Sentra. To all fit in the jeep one of us would have had to sit in the way back and my porcelein skin would not have survived all day exposure to the sun.

The sun that, it may be noted, rarely made an appearance.

So there we were, me driving my “Gray Ducky of Doom” following Captain Speedy in his black jeep. Let it also be noted that all three of the kids opted to ride with me. Turns out they were wiser than they could have known. About fifteen minutes into the drive the rain started so we all pulled over and I sat in the Ducky and watched Barry and Lynn scramble to get the top on the jeep. It’s a sight that we were able to enjoy at least fourteen times throughout the day as Barry took off then replaced the top sporadically.

Somewhere in the middle of Maui we were treated to a double rainbow and somewhere farther along we got to see some Eucalyptus trees. They are WORTH pulling over to enjoy.

And then it started…. three hours of single-lane switchbacks through mountainous, ravine-laced mountains. I’m told that this portion of the drive was the “Garden of Eden” that I’d heard tell of, and it may well have been. You don’t get to enjoy much of Eden when you’re focused on keeping on the road and staying close to the ass-end of the lead vehicle. Never mind the fact that I had a car FULL of nausea-prone young people who were also growing hungry. Hungry Mansours are no joke, let me tell you.  Indiana Jones would have wet himself. (Meghan’s are naturally bold and fearless, though, so I was cranky but undaunted!) Read the rest of this entry »

Of Snorkeling, Scissor-Sweeps and Sunshine

15 06 2011

For those of you who did not know, I am spending a couple of weeks vacationing in Maui. The timing could not have been better. The past two weeks have been incredibly intense work-wise. Intense to the point that I wasn’t really eating whole meals for days at a time. And to top it off, last Saturday I had my very first karate test.

In fact, let’s lead off with the karate test story.

Part of the Kempo culture is that you NEVER tell a white belt anything about testing. You tell them to drink water and show up and nothing else. So, like the dutiful Padawan, I drank a ton of water, ate a protein bar, cleaned my gi and showed up. Now, let me state once again for the record that I’m in good shape. Not fantastic shape- I’m no Olympian- but I can run for an hour and do a decent number of push-ups etc. Also, I used to dance three and four times a week and have a personal trainer. And in all my experience I have never had a workout as difficult as my yellow belt test. To be fair, part of the difficulty was in the emotional strain of a testing environment. They didn’t shred me completely but the Senseis certainly pounded me into a pulp.  Read the rest of this entry »

No Story Ends in Sadness

3 05 2011

Last Sunday I had the very rare pleasure of going to church on a Sunday. (Rare more that it was a ‘pleasure’ than rare in occurrence). My friend Matthew Wolfe has a home church at his place in Wallingford, “two doors down from Archie McPhees”. If you know anything about Seattle culture you can picture the awesomeness inherent in church twenty feet from the world’s best joke shop. Combine the fact that it was a sunny day and Rachel joined me on my adventure and you have the perfect morning.

Also, there was food.

I won’t go into a ton of detail about the service. Suffice it to say that I had a wonderful time and plan on making a habit out of it. One of the things we talked about, though, was sitting down with Jesus and asking Him to show you where He was in your moments of deepest pain. The idea being that we don’t know all of our own story and sometimes all we can see is the sadness and not the glory that was so close. My brain was going a thousand miles a minute- it’s been a pain-full couple of weeks- but my one observation was that “with Him, no story ends in tragedy”. The sadness, the pain, the disappointment and discouragement are just beginnings.

Granted, sometimes they are beginnings that we would gladly skip, but that’s not what the journey is about.

And, on the flip side of some serious disappointment and pain, I can honestly say that one lesson that I have learned is to hold people lightly. Of course, I have yet to learn how not to get frustrated when people repeat the old fashioned “it will all work out” platitude to me. If I didn’t know that it would all work out then I would have flown to New York and jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge before now. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, people, and telling the heartsick to be hopeful is decidedly unhelpful. You just have to let girls cry.

But I don’t live out of my pain. My joy is ten times more powerful and life, when all is said and done, is FUN.

Excuse me, I have karate to practice.


10 04 2011

The number of hours in one Terran day.

That one show I can’t watch because they never stop yelling and almost-dying and jumping off of things.

My new approximate age. Really I think it’s more like 24 years, 3 days and 34 minutes as I write this post.

I had a lovely birthday. Probably the best one in years. (Even if Jennifer was not able to swing it so that people at work sang to me.) Instead I got serenaded with my favorite song by my wonderful friends Lynn and Carina. If you’ve never heard Lynn and Carina sing Steve Miller Band’s “Dance Dance Dance” you have not yet lived.

Mom and Dad bought me a gorgeous dress from Anthropologie and my grandparents bought me another fun dress and the happiest green shirt I have ever seen. I went out to lunch with my extended family (except my little bro who got deserted in a lab at Microsoft and so was not able to come). My best friend sang me happy birthday in Dutch, my Jewish mom gave me some gorgeous bracelets and a chocolate and I finished the day eating Cheetos and chatting on facebook.

Aren’t you all glad that my tendency to stretch the bounds of the English language has not been affected by the aging process?

Since my birthday I have spent the majority of my time at work. This has been glorious for two reasons. First, I’m House Managing which is infinitely more entertaining than Lobby Attending and second, two words- tap dancing. For the last two days I’ve been foot-serenaded with tap dancing.


Don’t get me wrong. I’m b.e.a.t. For an introvert to spend most of every day interacting with people is intense, to say the least. I woke up this morning with a pounding headache and the deep desire to cry. Not for any particular reason, at least nothing that can be shared via the internet, but just because I’ve been “on” for three days straight. I’m looking forward to tomorrow because I will be able to go to karate and beat something up. If there’s no beating things up then there will AT LEAST be sweat. And, as we all know “the cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea”.

I’m liking 24 so far. There has been a definite shift in the “Hi I’m Meghan and I’m invisible” trend that I’ve been living with for the last four or five years. I feel a little as though someone has handed me a puppy, a lion, three oranges and a kite and said “juggle these and whistle while you do it”. It’s really a foreign world I’ve fallen into and I’m doing my damnedest to handle it all with grace and without selfishness. (It’s harder than you’d think to be unselfish with other people’s hearts).

24 is going to be fun.