I, Gym-Rat Tribute

I’m a jaundiced consumer of marketing messages. Sales don’t impress me, corporate incentive programs rarely catch my eye, and I save money when shopping by not buying anything–I can swing through Macy’s or a mall and enjoy the shopping experience without actually buying stuff to clutter my life. But a marketing pitch that combines simplicity and cleverness can grab my attention. And even inspire a blog post.

So here I am, gazing with fevered curiosity at a program that I picked up at the Westport branch of the New York Spots Club yesterday. Do I have what it takes to “TRAIN LIKE A TRIBUTE-CAN YOU SURVIVE THE GAMES?”┬áToday’s the deadline! Order now at the low, low price of $105 for four one-hour sessions! Should I?

NYSC, employing nothing more advanced than a black-and-white printer, caught my eye with a deal for a fitness program geared to The Hunger Games. As fate would have it, I read the book about six weeks ago and greatly enjoyed it. Now, here’s the NYSC rolling out a program, “limited to 12 members one for each district,” mimicking the skills used to deadly effect in the book by survivor Katniss Everdeen.

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To train like a tribute, the NYSC mixes traditional fitness-class moves with some Hunger Games specialties: You get archery (ka-zinggg!), tree climbing simulation, speed work, strength training, and high-intensity cardio with weight-lifting exercises. Given my age, I’d probably keel over before I reached tribute-level fitness level, but, still, I’m curious. If the sale continues past today, heck, I may do it. I could use some diversity in my workout routine, which mostly centers on hand weights with a focus of not overdoing anything that would result in a yanked muscle or tendon.

Thirty years ago, I would have laughed if anybody had suggested I sign up for a fitness class, let alone join a fancy-pants place like the NY Sports Club (fancy only in my imagination, given that my previous gym experience was limited to the weight room at the PE center of Mission High School). I disdained gyms in favor of relentless walking around New York and Brooklyn. If I wanted to push myself, I’d jog along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, starting around the fabled Brooklyn House of Detention and plodding along to the intersection with fabled Flatbush Avenue. I’d stagger back home and collapse, waiting for any twinge in my knee to blossom in to a full-blown health crisis. It never did, but I never became a regular jogger.

My attitude changed once I moved to suburban Connecticut and eventually became a commuter in 1996, on the train daily from Westport to Grand Central Terminal, and then on to blue-chip accounting firm Price Waterhouse on Avenue of the Americas. Soon after I started this job,after a year of unemployment, I heard about the employee discount program for memberships at the NYSC. Somehow, the idea that I needed to take better care of myself as a new father penetrated my sometimes-thick skull, and I became a member.

Except for a four-year period between 2002 and 2006–when I dropped my membership due to post-divorce financial reasons, then joined the Jewish Community Center with its own fitness center in Stamford–I’ve been a member ever since.

I’m the most surprised person in the world at this evolution from sluggard to gym rat. In the early years I mixed treadmill workouts (timed to coincide with watching the soap opera Days of Our Lives on the big monitors at the club) with total-body conditioning classes. I mostly stick with weights now, with the occasional session on the elliptical walker (where I usually watch country-western or 80s/90s videos on the machine’s monitor). Frankly, I’m in a rut. A few years ago I tried cardio kickboxing, and before that yoga, but breaking out of the typical routine takes effort. Separate from the club, I also took a 10-week krav maga class in Stamford in 2007, which was the most exhausting physical workout I’ve ever had

Thus, the tribute program jolted me with the promise of something new, something fresh and engaging. Archery and tree-climbing: well, those are ways to break out of the routine. I just hope I don’t break a bone — after various aches and pains from overdoing workouts over the years, I’m very attuned to my limits.

Do I dare rise beyond the routine to become a Tribute, proudly representing District Westport in the Fairfield County Games? Stay tuned.

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