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The Gym Craze. They don’t call it a “craze” for nothin’. Because sometimes, for some people, this newly discovered obsession with going to the gym can get just plain crazy. I’m not talking about Gym Rats who virtually eat, sleep and scurry around local fitness centres when they are not pretending to be humans, attending office jobs which consist mainly of going to meetings all day.

The Gym Craze. They don’t call it a “craze” for nothin’. Because sometimes, for some people, this newly discovered obsession with going to the gym can get just plain crazy.

I’m not talking about Gym Rats who virtually eat, sleep and scurry around local fitness centres when they are not pretending to be humans, attending office jobs which consist mainly of going to meetings all day.

In fact, many gym rats, if they didn’t have to make a living, would just stay at the gym eating Power Bars and mixing up oat-flavoured Energy Drinks before pumping iron and sweating a lot. No, I’m talking about the hordes of rookie gymsters who seem to be herding themselves to the closest fitness facility, like out-of-shape lemmings grunting and stumbling toward the nearest cliff. Especially at this time of year, what with all the rampant New Year’s resolutions flying around, 98.3 per cent of which involve losing weight, getting in shape or sweating a lot.

And there certainly seems to be no shortage of fitness centres around these days. And they run the gamut (another fitness term), from classy facilities with names like: Warm and Fuzzy Spa and Fitness Emporium, which feature dozens of exotic fruit juices (all made out of something called mango) and aroma therapy consisting of burning musk incense sticks left over from the ’60s; to the more serious, boot-camp type places like Get Fit or Get Out, where the fanciest fitness machine is a cinder block with a chain bolted on it, and your trainer is a large angry man named Guido.

Yes, the fit biz is a big deal these days. Which is seems a titch paradoxical during these contradictory times. On one hand we are obsessed with health and fitness, while at the same time, being a couch potato has become so popular that the IOC is considering introducing it as a demonstration sport in the 2012 Olympics.

And while entire TV channels are dedicated to large people heroically trying to lose weight, fast food restaurants are sprouting up on every corner even faster than fitness centres.

Now we exhausted human lemmings are more like a herd of weary cattle on account of significant weight gain, and we are awkwardly stampeding to stinky, sweaty rooms containing more high-tech machines than mission control during a space shuttle launch. Scary, complicated torture machines from the Spanish Inquisition with names like the Elliptical Cross-Trainer Recline Thigh Cruncher, the Hydraulic Multi-Flex Ab Popper and the Cardio Killer loom there, laughing at us with a voice that sounds exactly like Vincent Price’s cackle at the end of Michael Jackson’s song Thriller.

Even as we speak, everywhere, middle-aged people, baby boomers and other FCPs (former couch potatoes) are stuffed into tight, frighteningly undersized gym shorts and matching T-shirts, and are hopelessly trapped like human pretzels in giant exercise gizmos they don’t understand and wouldn’t be able to operate with a two-week course and an operators manual.

“Do my traps look good?” they grimace bravely from underneath a large pile of cables and pipes and handles. “Can you see my six-pak yet?”

But looking good is what it’s all about at the gym.

That’s why everyone has wires coming out of their ears. It’s part of the compulsory Coolness Workout Dress Code — like wearing black, and sporting $200 running shoes. It means that either everyone is listening to inspiring tunes, or perhaps self-help audio books on iPods and MP3 devices through earphones, or they have something seriously sci-fi going on. And in fact, in some cases, I have wondered whether one or two of those super-buff, ripped gym rats were in fact androids. It would explain all those muscles and all that inhuman strength and endurance. And it would explain the wires that come out of their ears and just disappear into their skin-tight Spandex shirts.

So — looking good, endurance, strength, traps and abs … hmmm, that lets me out of the Gym Craze on all counts. But these days, there’s always the Diet Craze. There’s just about as many diet centres opening up as fitness places, and — hey — they make dieting sound pretty easy. And with everybody doing it, it can’t possibly be that expensive.

Maybe I’ll trade one craze for another — all those people signing up — they can’t all be crazy … right?

Harley Hay is a local filmmaker and freelance writer whose column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate.

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