"You're joining a gym again?" I laughed. "If you could get back even half the money you've spent on gym memberships, you could go to Hawaii!"
"This time it's different," my friend said. "I'm joining that new one right by the mall. It's so convenient, I can't not go! And I'll even use my free sessions with the personal trainer. I swear to you I am not throwing my money away this time."
Where have I heard that before? Gym joiners are a dime a dozen here in fitness-obsessed Los Angeles. And you can't drive three blocks without seeing some kind of gym or studio. Where I live, every time a new Starbucks pops up so does another gym. But I gave up on gyms long ago.
I joined my first gym while in college. My friends and I signed up for a three-month trial together, intending to rid ourselves of the proverbial freshman 10 -- the end result of late-night doughnut runs.
We went religiously for three weeks, and then at least twice a week for three weeks after that, and then once in a while for three more weeks, and then we took a break for finals. After finals, the excuses began: "I have too much studying to do." "I have a date." "My sister has my car." "I need to go shopping."
We didn't sign up again when the three months ran out.
Over the years I joined a few more gyms, always with the best intentions. But eventually my motivation to workout just wore out. For every reason there was to go, I had at least three reasons not to.
After I swore off of gym memberships, I decided that I needed to come up with different incentives to get moving. I used my dog. My dog loves to walk, and I love my dog. But dogs tend to stop frequently, and my dog must have been concerned that the female dogs on our block were not aware of his existence. So even though our walks were delightful, it became less of a fitness routine and more of a way for my dog to mark his masculinity.
Although the dog-walk routine didn't pan out, a bit of canine inspiration led me to a workout regimen that finally worked.
When I next ran into my gym-joining friend, she was sipping a low-fat frap at the Starbucks next door to her new gym.
"Hey! How's the new workout?" I asked.
"Um, good. The trainer was great, but kind of expensive once the freebees ran out. The locker room is very clean, and the juice bar totally yum," she said, diverting her eyes and concentrating on the whipped cream oozing up her straw.
"You quit, didn't you?"
"Not exactly," she said.
"You stopped going?"
"I just needed a break."
"I told you so," I said as I ordered a tall decaf latte.
"OK, so you did," she said defensively. "And what about you? What are you doing for exercise?"
I raised my eyebrows and smiled coyly. "I invented my own routine. I call it the 'Sex and the City' Workout," I said.
"I'm intrigued," she said. We took a seat in a quiet corner in the back. "How does it work?"
"Do you remember Pavlov? Well, I now am conditioned just like his dog."
"Don't be silly. I developed a system so that I associate exercise with something I really want. I got an elliptical machine and put it in front of the TV."
"I bet you hang your dirty clothes on it."
"I do," I admitted. "Exercise equipment always turns into a clothesline. Anyway, the trick to my workout is DVDs of 'Sex and the City.'"
"I don't get it."
"I love watching 'Sex and the City,' right? Well, I allow myself to watch only if I am on the elliptical. So just like Pavlov's dog learned to associate the bell with food, I associate exercise with my favorite show. If I want to watch, I have to workout. It's that simple. I got caught up in season five one night, and when I looked down I had burned more than 3,000 calories."
"It's the best idea I ever had. My regular workout consists of two episodes -- first episode on the elliptical and second episode stretching and lifting weights."
"Wow," she shook her head. "You do look, uh, pretty fit."
I showed her my upper arm and allowed her to poke my bicep.
"I'm not only in shape," I bragged, "I am also the 'Sex and the City' trivia game champion. I was the only one in my havurah who knew where Carrie and Miranda bought their cupcakes." (Magnolia Bakery.)
"So you just watch 'Sex and the City' over and over?" she asked. "When I could recite Carrie's lines as well as she could, I decided to move on. So I addicted myself to 'Gilmore Girls,'" I said.
"Ooooh, I love that show!"
"Then 'The Sopranos,' '24,' 'Will and Grace'...."