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HEALTH WATCH : FIRST PERSON

Spa Ads Could Make a Guy Throw in Towel

January 26, 1998|JIM SHEA | THE HARTFORD COURANT

Alot of people join health clubs this time of year.

Some do so as an act of holiday contrition.

Some suspect the eggnog-consistency sludge now oozing through their arteries might not be good for them.

Some simply want to expand their wardrobes beyond sympathetic sweat pants and tops that sumo wrestlers would find baggy.

I'm thinking about quitting my health club.

This has nothing to do with the annual January invasion of nouveau sweat-setters.

It's just that I may have been going about this exercise thing all wrong.

I have always treadmilled under the assumption that working out is something you are more happy to have done than to be doing. It is kind of like watching PBS.

Now, however, I am beginning to reassess.

What has me weighing and wavering are the television commercials I have been seeing for other health clubs.

The promos for these glitzy, high-energy spas show everyone to be having just a super time while sculpting their fat-free physiques.

The macho men are iron-pumping shirtless, the bulging muscles of their evenly tanned bodies rippling with each repetition.

The women, all lean and leggy, are sporting Spandex bodysuits and midriffs you could scrub clothes on.

What's more, no one is even moist.

The overly toothed supermodels may have been climbing Stair-Masters to heaven for the past 60 minutes, but a close-up reveals their brows to be bone dry, their hair and makeup flawless.

As part of a losing battle against gravity and sloth, I have frequented many a perspiration parlor over the years.

None was anything remotely like the ones currently flash-dancing across my television screen.

For one thing, the health clubs with which I am familiar are usually populated by people who, upon seeing their naked selves in the mirror, can't stop from breaking into the J-e-l-l-o jingle.

Another thing about real health-club attendees is that they never, ever wear makeup. They don't have to. Their faces have a natural ruddy glow, thanks in no small part to elevated blood pressure.

As for attire, Spandex is generally treated as an endangered species at any place I have ever hyperventilated. Perhaps the most delicate way to explain why is with the following image: an Easter kielbasa stuffed into a hotdog casing.

Finally, there is the matter of atmosphere. At the TV-land health club, everyone is burning calories to the same pulsating beat. In reality, the choice of music is what bitterly divides health club members into openly hostile camps:

Those who like oldies.

Those who prefer the kind of music the FBI plays to get barricaded cult members to surrender.

Anyhow.

Maybe I'll just stick with the eggnog crowd.

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