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The Buffalo News (New York)
As a young teen, I was vertically challenged yet more than adequate horizontally. Consequently, I decided upon a course of strength training and weight lifting.
I knew from the back of comic books that if I didn't want sand kicked in my face and my girlfriend (who was in a very demure single piece, black bathing suit) stolen, I would have to build my muscles to keep the bullies in their place.
I started lifting at the YMCA, which allocated a single dingy room with some threadbare and worn vinyl mats with stuffing coming out of them. There were some barbells around, a few bars and plate weights and a couple of benches. There might be a couple of other guys in there, and the accepted attire was sweat pants and a white T-shirt.
I marvel at the difference between that time and today. It is no longer a gym but a fitness center, with very bright lights everywhere and mirrors on the walls and so many machines that you can barely walk around.
There is Cybex and Nautilus, and Strive (with cams for greater emphasis) plus Lifecycle, Hammer Strength and more, all of them isolating particular muscles for the greatest development.
The room is also filled with treadmills and bicycles, both recumbent and upright, plus spinning machines. You can opt for an elliptical or a rowing machine, too.
One of the biggest differences is that there are women in the gym and their outfits are resplendent. They all match, wearing multicolored tight clothes, makeup and yoga pants.
There are televisions on many of the individual machines as well as up on the wall, and you can watch any channel you like as long as you have the requisite earbuds. It seems everyone in the gym has either earbuds or a headset and an iPod or smartphone listening to his own inspirational music. Some people spend so much of their time adjusting their music selection that I don't see how they have any time to work out.
A new style with guys is hats. I can't figure out why you would want to work out in a hat and get it all sweaty, but obviously I am old-school. I saw one kid spend five minutes at one machine's mirror and all he did was keep adjusting his hat and flattening the brim while he got it on perfectly sideways.
Some guys will work out in knit hats. I don't know if it's a fashion statement or a way to sweat more.
The goofiest thing I have seen is the Hannibal Lecter mask. Some guys will wear a large black face-covering, breath-inhibiting gadget that ostensibly makes it more difficult to get oxygen into their lungs in an effort to simulate more anaerobic exercise or maybe high altitude.
No one goes unhydrated. Everybody has his own personal water bottle. Some guys must be severely dehydrated because they carry around full gallon jugs of energy drink.
Many people are on their phones sending "selfies" to friends showing how they are working out and getting fit.
Everyone has his own individual moist towelette to wipe down the machine both before and after use. I think the vinyl is cracking from excessive wet and dry cycles, rather than age. Some folks don't even sweat but insist on a thorough wipe down.
Bluetooth ear devices and cellphone conversations only add to the cacophony.
I don't miss the old days. Today is much more entertaining.
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