Text of whole essay is below, after the "Read More" link. Press play on the other link and then read aloud with me, if you don't think that would be too weird.
The Lincoln Square Athletic Club: A Review.
First off, the name sucks. It should be called Lincoln Square Powerlifting. Or better yet, Abe Lincoln’s BLASTHOUSE. Yeah.
You know how the Lincoln Restaurant down the street has a bust of Abe Lincoln on its sign? Well, the BLASTHOUSE would have picture of Honest Abe doing a set of preacher curls. He’s got 375 on the bar and the veins in his biceps pop out like the long blue line Union troops on Cemetery Ridge. In the background is John Wilkes Booth with a 50 lb dumbbell in one hand and a Tec-9 automatic in the other getting ready to do his “Sic semper tyrranis” bit. Looking at this picture you know Honest Abe’s about to catch a slug to the dome, but in this version? You know he died doing what he loved.
The Lincoln Square Athletic Club is the name, and it has no swimming pool. It also lacks a driving range, a track, a boxing ring, a Jacuzzi bar, a water displacement tank to measure volume, volleyball, basketball, racquetball, tennis and squash courts. There is no on-site GNC, which would be nice if you get a sudden jones for some Ultimate Nutrition Muscle Juice, or maybe some IntraPro Advanced Competition Superfood. There isn’t even a place to buy Otomix workout shorts or Harbinger Big Grip II Wrist Wrap weight gloves. I am extremely into x-treme trampoline, but if they had one on the premises it was well-hid, ‘cause I didn’t see it.
Still, the amenities are respectable despite these gaping wholes. They have the latest in Precor cardio gear, from the Elliptical Fitness CrosstrainerTM EFX® 835 to the Treadmill TRM 833 (that’s the one with the Ground Effects® Impact Control System and four horsepower AC motor with IFT). The free weights are exceptional—and I don’t say that lightly. I’m talkin’ Tag G802U Olympic Tri-Grip Ultrathane Plates and Iron Grip Needle Bearing Bars. They have enough Precor strength stations to satisfy every contestant at the N.A.B.B.A. Championships. They got a multi-station Paramount modular system, Tag G827U-HC SDS Professional Ultrathane Dumbells, and upwards of 60 kettlebells, each hand made by a toothless, heavily-tattooed Russian prison inmate deep in the crotch of the Ural Mountains.
So yes, you can bitch about the lack of an artificial kayak stream. That’s bullshit and they need one yesterday—but they make up for it with top-tier fitness equipment.
I arrived at the Lincoln Square Athletic Club at 4662 N. Lincoln this past Monday at 7:30 PM and met with a membership advisor named Emma. The name is pretend. The story is true.
First, Emma went over the prices. No enrollment fee if I sign up before August 25th. After that it’s 150. Just 85 bucks a month for membership, but since she liked the cut of my jib and the spring in my step, she’d drop it to 75 long as I don’t tell nobody. I’d have to lock it down for 12 months, though. She’s looking for commitment, Emma is. Lotta guys come in here saying they want something long-term, but they never mean it. If I wanted to be one of those jerks who cruised in to trample over her treadmills and sweat on the Precor 602 Horizontal Leg Sled—only to walk out in October? WELL! Then I could pay 85 month-to-month.
You know how some people are spiritual but not religious? That’s how I am with exercise. No gym on this planet houses a candle-lit tabernacle before which I’d genuflect. I run a lot, but only outside and have never put two miles on a treadmill. I ride my bike to work each day and find the terms “exercise bike” redundant and “stationary bike” the coarsest of blasphemies. When I want to work my upper body, I find the nearest floor and do push ups. A gym (along with its fraternal twin, nutrition) is one of modernity’s great cons, I feel, which is to specialize that which we once did on our own with nothing more than common sense.
I felt that Emma could detect my skeptical attitude. Perhaps she, an experienced physical trainer, knew that the contours of my pecs and the arc of my triceps came from no gym with walls. I expected her to say at any moment, “This is for some stupid essay you’re gonna read in a bar, isn’t it? Just go upstairs get this over with.”
But she didn’t. She was friendly and professional. She gave me a brief tour and then let me blast in the facilities, free of charge.
First floor has the lobby, two group exercise rooms, and a Spinning room. Here, the room was full, the door was closed and the lights were dim. Very dim. A spin instructor screamed at her class, partly to up the intensity and partly to raise her voice over Radiohead’s “Creep,” then playing at eleven. Emma and I stood outside during the refrain:
I’m a creep.
I’m a loser.
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.
No! You don’t! You should be out on the fucking street on a real bike.
To peer into a Spin room is to glimpse hell itself: a bunch of sweaty, tired souls silently toil in the dark while loud, discordant music blares in their ears. They try to propel motionless machines as a fiend taunts them to work ever harder. Here I was Dante, and Emma, my Virgil. I touched her lightly on the arm and whispered, “Get us out of here!”
All the real blasting takes place on the second floor. The south room is all cardio, all the time. Each cardio machine has a TV set. I was the only person who did not watch TV while cardioblasting all night. I was also the only one without a pair of ivory wires streaming out of my ears. “Be in the Now” is clearly not the motto of the Lincoln Square Athletic Club.
You know what the motto of Abe Lincoln’s BLASTHOUSE would be? “A house divided against itself cannot blast.”
The southern cardio room was tagged on either wall with graffiti art, because nothing says gangsta like watching the Discovery Channel on a recumbent stationary bike.
The middle room is multipurpose, with spacious hardwood floors upon which to do Turbo Pilates, or, Post-natal Ashtanga Power Yoga. It has about a dozen Precor muscle-specific strength machines, an intricate pull up bar jungle-gym thingy, and a menagerie of kettlebells. Here I saw a man lifting a 22 kilogram kettlebell over his head… wearing jeans. I almost kicked his ass on the spot. Lucky for him I was a guest.
Lastly, the north room was a mix of cardio and honest to God free-weights.
First thing I did after the tour was hit the locker room and weigh myself. It was very, very important that I do this. In my high school the first and final measure of a man was his ability to bench his own weight. I believe that still. At fifteen I weighed 95 lbs and could put up 130.5. This being the first time I had lifted a weight since, I was determined—some say destined—to come to this rendezvous with myself on that barren plain known as The Weight Bench. I stripped to my shorts. The scale said, “137.0 pounds.” It did not say if I were a man. Was I? I would soon find out.
First, I sampled the cardio machines. Here’s the breakdown: the treadmill sucks. I ran 1.3 miles and loathed every second. It was both 100 times easier than running outside and 100 times more boring. Since my TV set was off I had to stare at a reflection of me own face the entire time, which was creepy even with my mug. I used the Stairmaster for not a minute before wishing it ill. The elliptical was actually all right. I could really feel the burn in my calves. I used the recumbent stationary bike for only three minutes, and in that short time grew a pony-tail, a goatee, and an airtight sense of entitlement.
Sufficiently warmed up, I approached the bench. With steely resolve and sweaty palms, I put 145 on the cradle and then meekly asked one of the gym rats to spot me.
I selected a slim man with a placid demeanor and alpine biceps. He consented with a silent nod and followed me to my bench like a retainer. I laid down, closed my eyes, said a quick decade of the rosary, and then…
I blasted it. I was a real man, and I had a witness to prove it. (The next morning I announced this feat to the world via my Facebook account. My friend Dan commented, “Congrats, D. You’re officially half as strong as a strong person.”)
Before I hit the showers (which is just an expression; I’m more of a bath man) I yanked 145 on the Paramount multi-station modular system’s lat pull. I tried to curl a 22 kilogram kettlebell, but I think it was broken. I did ten pull ups without a break, and it was no thang. Believe me. I set the Precor curl station to 70 pounds, and… it’s a stupid exercise. Besides, my arms couldn’t really reach the bar.
When I got home I did what any sane person would do. I carried my cooking scale into my bedroom and stripped down naked. Then, I weighed my running shorts. Four and a quarter ounces. What does this mean? It means that, at 136.75 pounds, I can bench 8.25 pounds more than I weigh.
[Stage note: Close essay by staring at audience for several minutes.]