Friday, January 18, 2013

"An Hour a Day": A criticism of the 24-Hour Super-Gym

There is something truly grotesque about America's fascination with the 24-hour super-gym; a culture that has slipped from its religious foundations into a seemingly similar institution of proselytizing. By many standards they are still peddling the same "eternal life" argument that has been debunked by the educated the world over; this time trading the pew for a set of pedals, and the pulpit for a bank of televisions. It's almost surprising that they don't pass around a collection plate, though why switch to a less efficient method... had the church found a way to automatically take money out of your wallet each month, there is no doubt it would have. 

I do not mean to belittle the quest for "health", for in truth the amount of bloated quivering whales of people in this world is staggering. But if "health" is the ultimate goal of such places, where I ask are all the "healthy" people? 

Looking around such an institution one sees instead a sea of hopeless, downtrodden plebeians who appear to be desperately trying to pedal their way to no place in particular. This frenzy is fueled by the unsupported notion that simply "one hour on this magnificent machine" will completely turn your life around. However, much like the hour spent in church, the hour playing slave to a treadmill does little good to offset the other 23 hours spent on your ass, letting advertisers stroke your ego in lieu of your erection.

So the hour spent at the gym is a misnomer, a balm for the guilt of living in such a consumerist culture; the grandfather of all placebos. A pint of double-fudge ice cream has never tasted so good as after an hour at the gym. 

Critics of my particular method of rhetoric might say, "How dare you talk down to people trying to better themselves, have you no soul?" And to that end, I reply: The realization that you, as an individual are flawed and have room to improve, is one of the most difficult and valuable epiphanies one can have.  Yet I have to question the reasoning of trusting the change you want to see in yourself, to an organization whose business model works best when taking your money, and keeping you fat on your couch at home. (As for the topic of my soul, many would argue it's currently accruing interest around the eighth circle.)

To that end it would be drastically irresponsible to say that I have never seen a "healthy" person at the gym. Every once in a while you come across the occasional "bastion of fitness", but if you were to peel away that muscular veneer via stimulating conversation, (as I have on many an occasion) it becomes readily apparent that underneath is just a shadow of a human being; the drive to create (arguably what makes us human), replaced by the mask of Narcissus.(Just consider how many times one is haunted by a reflection in these temples to physical fitness.) Their contribution to society is muted by counting calories and reps. These "lucky" few, envied by the pedaling plebs below, operate in a near constant fear of losing what they strove so hard to obtain; one misstep and they could find themselves back on the couch with the other poor bastards. It begs one to wonder exactly what is so "healthy" about this particular lifestyle.

In many ways I see the super-gym as the canary in our proverbial coal mine, a barometer of the times in which we live. The fact this building exists at all, is worrisome. If I wanted to throw away money to be lied to and lie to myself, solely for the purpose of making myself feel better, I would go back to church. Hell, why not simply combine the two; tear out the wooden benches and communion rails of our grand cathedrals and replace them with legions of rowing machines; swap the communion wafers for energy bars and wine for protein shakes; but leave the thin man with the six-pack fastened up front, because don't we all deserve an excuse to feel sorry for ourselves.


  1. It is precisely this sort of inane, over-worded rhetoric that is the problem in this country! You have no right to criticize people's personal practices, religious or otherwise. Why don't you use that "soapbox" of yours for something productive and stand on it to hang yourself.