About 5 years ago, after the water heater at our apartment complex went out AGAIN, mice appeared, and gunshots rang out close enough to smell the powder, we decided to move. And in apartment-hunting, we had requirements like location, parking, and space, but we discovered a lot of places in our price range had certain amenities that would be awesome. One of these was an on-site fitness center. We were lucky to find an amazing deal on our new place that had this awesome bonus, so I got rid of my aging, squeaky Wal-Mart elliptical and we settled in.
This is the story of five years of shared apartment building fitness room fun.
There are clear pros to choosing a residence with this amenity. Obviously, it’s built into your rent, so it’s pretty much free. You never have to travel to get to it. You get to use your own shower. You don’t clog up your place of living with a bunch of equipment, never mind the cost to acquire that equipment. And you don’t have to maintain it, either.
Then there are the cons, which is pretty much the rest of the article.
Don’t get me wrong — I LOVE having this fitness room available. When we decide to move on from this place, there WILL be exercise equipment needs to take into consideration, and I certainly won’t move to another apartment or condo that doesn’t have something available. I have no desire to join a gym — I’ll either live in a building like this or I’ll move into a home where I can build my own fitness room.
However, when nobody is paying for membership, and management doesn’t need to keep people clinging to a membership, things get sketchy quite easily. This is amplified when your place of living is obviously above the low-income level but not nearly to the doorman level. Such is what I have lived with for quite some time.
PART 1: THE EARLY YEARS
I actually didn’t use the fitness room much for the first couple of years we lived here. I was in that little slacker pause that I had for a few years after getting married. However, I honestly wasn’t missing out on much; there was no treadmill, and the only weights available were some barbells on the floor and a really pathetically ancient stack-weight machine. Two ellipticals (one kind of crappy), a few gimmicky As Seen On TV types of things, a sad exercise bike, a mini-trampoline, and a few other odds and ends.
In other words, it’s not big. It’s not diverse. This isn’t like having a gym membership, not even close. It’s a sacrifice in exchange for convenience and whatnot.
There were a lot of requests to management to get a treadmill. It seemed like it took forever, but we finally did get one. With that, we move on to…
PART 2: THE MEDIUM-STYLE YEARS
This would be the point where I started to use the exercise room. At first I used the bike, but soon I was dedicated to the non-crappy elliptical, which was actually pro-quality. I usually didn’t have to worry about someone using it because (a) not many people in our building used the fitness room anyway, and (b) most people wanted the treadmill. Still, if the treadmill and MY BABY were in use, I’d usually turn around and go back to my apartment.
At some point, the pathetic stack-weight machine died, and it was hauled away to be replaced with a big, shiny, new stack-weight machine. This brought me much joy. Additionally, some of the crappier equipment was disposed of. Still, that’s about it for the changes to the fitness room for the last 5 years.
PART 3: THE “I’M TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT” YEARS
Now I’m older and jaded, having been in this building for ages, seeing many people come and go. I have many tales of ridiculous things I’ve seen when you leave a building full of people around heavy things that they don’t know how to use. I do enjoy the entertainment value, don’t get me wrong, although I’d be more than happy to help anyone who asked me for assistance (which has only ever happened twice). I mean, I’m a fixture in that room. Anyone who lives here for any amount of time comes to realize that. There are several other regulars, too, but I stick out from the crowd in the first place.
One of the bigger headaches happens when you have people who would never pay money to join a gym or buy their own equipment, yet feel they could find some worth in the piddly fitness room. They frequently diddle around, not doing anything terribly serious, often doing more harm to themselves than good. However, what’s worse is that they usually have zero knowledge of gym etiquette; the elliptical they’re not using becomes a place to set their water jug, they’ll move things around and not put them back, they’ll bring their kids along (and they will horse around). It’s rage-inducing, to say the very least.
And then… then, well, there’s just shit you don’t feel like putting up with, but it happens thanks to cheaping out on your place of fitness.
It’s winter. It’s 29 degrees outside. The heat is on. I come down to the fitness room, and the door is closed, but there is a woman (in long pants and a scarf) walking on the treadmill. I open the door to find that she hasn’t turned on the giant fan, but she has the wall air conditioner unit turned on. Yes, the heat can be turned off. Yes, there are giant windows. Yes, they open. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THIS PERSON?
I once found someone who had brought down her cat. Someone else brought along their BIRD IN ITS GIANT CAGE. And one morning, I found myself bathed in the sunshine of the Lord, as someone had brought down a boom box to crank gospel music for their Saturday AM weight lifting.
These things don’t happen in a regular fitness centers. These things probably make many of you very happy for your gym membership.
Yet, look at me. I still live here. I still use the fitness room, and I still don’t have a gym membership. I have gotten some strength training equipment for workouts that I do in my own apartment due to the lack of variety in the exercise area, but all that does is reinforce my reliance on the fitness room to keep up the other half of stuff that I use. Have I made peace with with all the cons, or did I build myself a giant trap?
Such is the communal fitness room. You get what you pay for, I guess.