***Originally posted December 13, 2007 to personal blog
Since samgyeopsal (three-fat pork) has become a weekly staple in my diet, I decided it was high time I join a gym. In a society where great importance is placed on appearance and it seems everyone is on a diet, gyms are ubiquitous. I located a little mom-n-pop operation about two blocks from my apartment last week and sauntered in to inquire about their monthly membership rates. I made my first faux pas just stepping in the door. It's customary to take off your shoes when entering a home or a a restaurant with floor seating, but I didn't realize the same rules apply to gyms. And apparently walking over about five pairs of shoes just to get through the door wasn't hint enough. Once I realized everyone who was paying attention was staring at my feet, I quickly shuffled back out into the entryway and shed my shoes. Through a series of hand gestures, grunts, and facial expressions, I confirmed the membership rates and told the owner I'd be back another day.
So, this Monday I found myself back in the gym, the owner sternly instructing me to do "O ship beon" [fifty more] abdominal exercise "x". Fifty more?! Who do I look like, Rocky Balboa?! This guy does not think it is cute and/or funny that I don't speak Korean. While I smile at my own ignorance, hoping for a little sympathy, he seems to get increasingly annoyed. Although I tried to explain that I really just wanted to run on the treadmill, Mr. Gymowner seemed highly concerned with my mid-section and insisted upon guiding me through rigorous strength training before turning me loose for a cardio workout. I hung up my coat and hadn't gotten three steps outside the locker room when he approached me and used blatant gestures to "explain" we'd be working on my stomach . . . and whatever you call the flab that pokes out of your sides over the band of your exercise shorts. At this point, I was glad I couldn't understand anything that was coming out of his mouth. His message was pretty clear--"Honey, that samgyeopsal is going straight to your gut."
Amid 1970s era posters of body builders, I huffed and puffed my way through Mr. Gymowner's instructions, looking forward to being left alone to commence my treadmill workout. But when the time arrived, I realized every treadmill in the gym was set up on a permanent incline--a significant incline. Not ready for defeat, I decided no hill was too much for me and started running at a fairly brisk pace. That's when I realized everyone else in the gym was watching me (some giggling) and there was no way I would make it any longer than ten minutes at this pace. But now that I had established myself as super woman, I couldn't give up my ambitious run and settle for power walking like some soccer mom. The glass in front of the treadmill reflected my face getting redder and redder and even my most inspring iPod tunes weren't cutting it for this workout. I hammered through 25 minutes with visions of Sylvester Stalone confidently maneuvering the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art before succumbing to my fatigue. I stumbled off the treadmill, my legs feeling like Jell-O, grabbed my things, and rushed out before Mr. Gymowner could catch me and demand, "O ship beon!" of any other maneuver up his sleeve.