And now for the second installment in my chronicle of Brazilian gyms! I went from working out on an ancient, wheel-controlled treadmill to joining one of the schamciest gyms in the city within 24 hours. What a whirlwind. There were several steps in this process. To start with, I decided against re-joining my old gym, Reebok ("Hee-bocky," as the Brazilians say) because it's too far from my apartment and my office and I'd end up sitting in traffic for 20 minutes each way to get there. And since a 20 minute cab ride here costs about as much as a black market kidney in the US, I decided I needed to find a closer gym.
First, I tried Academia Fitness World. Its name led me to believe that it would be some sort of, like... world... filled with, I don't know... fitness. Or something. When I walked up to the building, I was shocked not to see anything representing a world of fitness. Instead, I saw a squat, orange building with a menacing looking metal gate. I had to be buzzed in, and the woman who let me in seemed confused by my presence. She gave me a look like, "Why are you in exercise clothes? What does this look like, a world of fitness?"
I was quickly introduced to a trainer (sigh), who, I was disappointed to note, did not have a mullet, but who did creepily hover next to my treadmill as I ran three miles or so. Then, the same trainer, Roberto, "trained" me on the gym's rickety old machines, explaining that the reason that I have shin and hip problems is because I "run too hard" and need to "run softer." EXACTLY, Roberto - this is why I invested in that company that builds anti-gravity shoes! They just need a few billion more dollars in R&D and they'll have this whole shin-splint thing solved.
Anyway, Fitness World was okay. A bit dingy, a bit small, a bit creepy, but it would do in a pinch. Then, someone told me to check out the Pele Club, which is, unsurprisingly, owned by the soccer icon Pele. The Pele Club turned out to be mind-blowingly expensive -- more than twice as much per month as my SUPER fancy gym back in D.C. -- but it has individual TVs on the treadmills, and I'm sort of a sucker for that. I mean, come on, how can I say no to watching all my favorite American shows on the "Warner Channel"* while I exercise? The Warner Channel plays such popular series as Two And a Half Men, According to Jim, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Supernatural, and Smallville**. You know, all this year's runaway successes of American television!
Anyway, when it came down to it, I was sold on the treadmill-TVs and the fact that after paying several hundred dollars to become a member of the Pele Club, I'd receive a tiny soccer ball. Seriously. That was their membership promotion: a tiny soccer ball. Whatever. I joined. Don't judge me. The way I justify it to myself is the following: 1) I pay more per month at my gym in DC since I have been seeing an outrageously expensive (but very good) personal trainer once a week anyway, and 2) this way I get "trained" every single day by Brazilians, who know all about fitness, and can probably teach me Brazilian stuff, like caipoeira and soft running.
Exercise is just different in Brazil. For one thing, I feel like a total bad-ass when I work out here, because the trainers always seem amazed at the fact that I can run for more than four minutes on a treadmill without having to take a cigarette break. Also, the exercises themselves are just... different. This morning, for example, I stopped by the Pele Club and was treated to something called "treinamento funcional" ("functional training"). This consisted of intervals of a series of seemingly random movements, interspersed with 2-minute sessions on a slow-moving stair-stepper. It was weird. It lasted thirty minutes, and when I was done, I felt more confused than anything else. I don't know, guess I am just used to having my a** handed to me on a plate by a personal trainer. I want to feel SORE and shaky and on the verge of muscle implosion (is that a thing?) after working out. Here, the gyms subscribe to a softer, gentler form of exercise (hence, soft running).
Stay posted - there will be another update coming about the dreaded, mandatory fitness evaluation that the gym is forcing me to do.
*Obviously this channel does not exist in the United States.
**Really, guys? Smallville? UGH.