That’s right, folks. After seven years, god knows how many crunches (probably because I always skipped a few…or 50, when asked to do them) and one too many bottles of Poland Spring that cost more than they should; I have filled out the paperwork and terminated my membership come the end of the month.
Pink slip in hand, I’ve got T-minus 19 days to get my Zumba/Powerstrike/Spin/Yoga on in a space decorated with fresh orchids. T-minus 19 days to cool down courtesy of a eucalyptus-infused wet towel and then a locker room offering Kiehl’s shampoo, gel and lotion. T-minus 19 days to spend some time amongst the scent of cedar in the sauna and steam rooms I so rarely used.
Jack LaLanne this wasn’t.
When it comes to gym chains, Equinox is the Primo Pump Palace. In addition to the above, my “home” gym on Greenwich Avenue has a pool; the one in Santa Monica, California offers cucumber-infused water on the staircase landing; and the one in London’s Kensington has a separate lounge-library with leather couches and reading lamps.
Members in Lululemon, myself included (natch), pay premium prices for those orchids, lotions and towels. That’s not to say I haven’t appreciated such amenities. In fact, never more so than when I received the annual notice in the mail stating that, “due to added benefits and increased maintenance” (or some jabberwocky like that) “membership dues are being increased by another $5.” After 7 years that adds up, hence part of my reason for quitting. But let’s call it canceling. I’m no quitter. I’m a mover on-er.
Surprisingly, doing whatever we’re going to call it wasn’t as impossible as Chandler and Ross made it out to be on Friends. I just walked up to the front desk after yoga class, took a deep breath and softly uttered: “I need to, er, speak to someone about…er…canceling my membership.”
She told me to hang on a minute while she got a manager.
“Hurry!” I thought. “Before I change my mind.” (This decision didn’t come easiliy. None do in the Lieberman household.)
Then a guy with tattoo sleeves showed up and started typing vigorously into a computer whose screen I could not see.
Just as I wondered if he’d ask me why, he did. I answered honestly: Because it’s too expensive for my new lifestyle as a freelance writer who travels often. Because I am tired of hearing dumbbells drop while I’m laying in savasana, despite my wholehearted intention of trying to tune it all out. Because I never take advantage of said dumbbells or any of the other cardio and weight equipment. Because I am totally non-committal right now and find more excitement in newness than routine.
OK, so I didn’t say all that to him. But I said a tapas-style version of it to which he just replied, “That’s understandable.”
Finally, he presented me with the pink slip, which I signed. On it, where it said reason, he wrote: Usage.
At first, I thought it trite and…untrue. Maybe for Chandler this was the case, but not using the gym was no part of the explanation I had just uttered minutes earlier, which he deemed “understandable.” In fact, ever since returning to New York as a self-employed writer with a more lenient schedule, I go pretty much everyday. And before that, I went at least three times a week, if not four. I wondered why he wrote that. His computer can’t support that fact considering I have to sign in each time I enter, hence leaving a digital trail of my fat-burning, mind-clearing ways. (Minus the times I came in just to use the bathroom, unbeknownst to them, of course.) “Thanks, Sara” they’d say, always voicing my name after seeing it show up on their screen. This, in turn, prompted me to envision them sitting around a table in their black Equinox Train/Greet/Maintain T-shirts agreeing to a company-wide mandate to “always make the member feel special.” The salespeople at Anthropologie are the same. “How are you doing in there, Sara? Anything I can get for you, Sara?” It’s like they should have bluebirds on their shoulder’s and halo’s hovering over their heads. I hate-liked it because while I appreciated the attention to detail, it never felt fully genuine.
Still, I could pick up on said niceties and reactions because I frequented the gym often. Usage was not my problem.
Or was it? I thought about it some more, and I only ever really came for the group fitness part of the Equinox equation, which I think I mentioned during my tapas-style explanation. He chose to hear that, I guess.
There was no point in clarifying it to him. As long as I was clear and honest with myself, that’s all that mattered. And I was, made evident by the pep in my step after I thanked him, folded my pink slip and walked home. It was a bit of a trepidatious pep, but still. There was pep. Similar to the one I had on my birthday when I went for a run for the first time in my life. (And no, I have not gone again since.)
I know where the pep comes from. It comes from making a change. From doing something out of the ordinary. From, as one of my favorite Equinox yoga teachers Nadia Zaki recently said in class, “putting courage into the recipe.” Because, as she added, “It makes an amazing cake.”
Granted, quitting, er, canceling my gym membership didn’t take as much courage as, say, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro as my friend Hannah just did. Or walking the Pacific Crest Trail as Cheryl Strayed, whose book Wild I’m currently devouring, did. Or even, say, picking up and moving to London for five months along with leaving a full-time job to go freelance as I did.
But it was something. And it felt good.
My plan remains to not really have a plan. (Still trying that, yes.) Sorta like I did while in London, despite my missing my regular routine while sampling workouts around town. But what I realized between now and then is that the practice of yoga itself has become comfort and constant enough, especially these days as I embrace a bit of flux, instability and the mystery that comes with it; when any day, Anything Can Happen (or so says Ellie Goulding)—and, perhaps more importantly, anywhere can happen, too.
That said, I have no interest in joining a different, less expensive gym. In fact, I’m pretty sure Equinox and its herb-scented towels and skin-softening lotions ruined that option forever. I’m going to concentrate more on yoga by taking advantage of first-timer specials and Groupon/Living Social/Gilt City deals at citywide studios that I’ve heard of, but never tried. There’s also this new app called Classivity where for $49 you get a 10-class “passport” to try various studios without a restrictive monthly time limit. Maybe that’ll satisfy my urge to roundhouse kick and shimmy and shake, Zumba-style, along with provide my gut the occasional cardio it so badly needs to keep it from hanging over the top of my Lulu’s.
Of course, I’ll miss the ease of being able to leave my apartment four minutes before class, not to mention the possibility of getting a free 10-minute chair massage pre- or post- workout. I’ll give it to Equinox: They made going to the gym a pleasurable experience, and one I actually looked forward to. But most of all, I’ll miss my teachers Nadia and Derek and Jen and Arnold who all guided me on the mat, and in turn made me realize the experiences off of it—and inside myself—were just as important to flex, bend, stretch and breathe into.