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(2009-01-15 12:03:29)


分类: 健康



When I walk through the streets of New York, I pass strange rooms where people are doing strange things.

Some folks are attached to madly spinning wheels. Others are straining to keep metal bars from crushing them. Still others jump around in unison as someone yells at them.

It all looks like something out of Dante's Inferno. And the most amazing thing is that people are paying to endure these trials.

The strange rooms are gyms, and I've been an on-again, off-again member of the cult over the years. My wife, Clarissa, and I have also purchased some of these machines of torture for home use.

I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation for our spending on gyms and fitness equipment over the past 27 years. It came to $8,500. Pretty big money considering there have been numerous years when we spent nothing.

Clarissa drove me nuts back in 1982 when she purchased a $79 six-month membership at a gym and went exactly three times before it expired. She explained to me that she didn't feel comfortable going to the gym until she got in better shape.

Isn't that the point of working out? 'Women will understand,' she told me the other day.

Some 41 million Americans are health club members, more than twice as many as in the late 1980s, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. Historically, 12% of memberships are signed in January, the most of any month, as Americans vow to knock off their holiday flab.

I've come full circle on the gym question during my life. They're worth it if you use them. But you can keep in good shape spending a lot less money.

I lifted weights for a while during high school. But growing up in California, I mostly kept fit by biking, bodysurfing and playing endless pickup games of basketball and touch football with neighborhood kids.

At the age of 23, I got my first job at a daily newspaper in the California desert. The mind-numbing heat made outside exercise an ordeal. I remember standing in line at some farming banquet and passing by a mirror. I took a look at my growing paunch. I joined a gym.

Since then, I've alternated between going to a gym and working out at home. I've usually looked for grungy gyms -- the sort of places where the weight-lifting equipment is in good shape but there isn't a whole lot else.

From 1989 to 1995, I covered the auto industry for the Journal. I lifted weights twice a week at a delightfully unpretentious place called Muscle's Gym, just outside Detroit. I paid as little as $200 per year.

I called the gym recently. It now charges $250 a year. 'We're as far from the contracts and fancy gym as you can get,' said owner Jerry Cuppetelli as weights clanged in the background.

You can't find these gyms in every city anymore. Too often, it's a fancy gym with lots of bells and whistles. If you ask how much it costs, the person at the front desk often won't know. Instead, he'll want you to meet with a 'fitness consultant,' who will pressure you to sign a contract. It's a bit like buying a car. You may end up feeling like you need a shower -- before you even work out.

Working out at home has its problems, too. We've all heard horror stories of people buying stuff they didn't use. I have one. In the late 1990s, I attended a spinning class and thought it was one of the best workouts I had ever had.

So I bought a $700 spinning bike for home use. I tried a few workouts and found the position reaggravated a neck problem. End of spinning workouts. The $700 bike leads a lonely existence in our basement.

Now I'm back to the cheapo approach to fitness. I walk a lot. And I do Pilates or calisthenics on my living room floor most mornings. Total cost: $60 for an exercise mat. It's not exactly Dante's Inferno, but I'm working on it.







据国际健康及运动俱乐部协会(International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association)的数据,美国大约有4,100万人参加了健身俱乐部,数量是上世纪80年代末的两倍多。历史数据显示,有12%的健身会员卡是在每年的1月份办理的,是所有月份中最多的,原因是1月里美国人都发誓要减掉节日里长出来的肥膘。





从1989年到1995年,我负责《华尔街日报》汽车业的报导。我每周会到底特律市外一个叫Muscle's Gym的健身房练两次举重,这个地方毫不矫揉造作,让我很高兴。当时我每年只要交200美元的会费。

最近我给这家健身房打了个电话。现在的会费是每年250美元。健身房的老板杰瑞•库普泰利(Jerry Cuppetelli)说,我们可不是那些价格贵的要命、花哨的健身房。电话里还隐约有杠铃的当当声。






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