Kickin’ It Old School,
Ever wondered what happens to old your old gym equipment when it gets replaced by shiny new gear with copious amounts of fans and built plasma screens? After all, a 10 pound weight will always be a ten pound weight no matter what you do with it. Well, after years of not fretting over this conundrum I think I’ve figured out the answer: it appears that most of yesteryears workout equipment has ended up in my gym right here in Seosan. The gym, which has barely more floor space than your average convenience store, is filled to the brim with rusty old weight machines, creaking treadmills, and wobbly stationary bikes. The padding on certain machines has been completely worn through, there is no air conditioning, and no certified personal trainers. It’s loud, it’s sweaty, it’s stuffy and it’s outdated – it’s also the best gym I’ve ever been to.
Don’t get me wrong, I could really use a TV or a cold water fountain or two, but what makes this gym so great is the atmosphere. It must be all the ginseng grown nearby, but the people who come to workout at my gym are incredibly enthusiastic about exercise. You can’t help but get caught up and join in. The whole place is literally a strobe light and some dim lighting away from being a dance party. The loudest, most repetitive techno music I have ever heard is constantly pumping at ear drum-crippling decibel levels, while men and women of all ages work the treadmills in step with the beat. Some people like to clap while others wave their arms or flip around and walk on it backwards. In addition to heavy jump-rope activity, there is also the un-ironic use of messaging body belts and oversized hula-hoops.
My favorite member of the gym staff is the lone trainer/maintenance man named Jin. He works seven days a week, fixing the occasional machine while dispensing fitness advice to any and all who need it. He is also quick to hand out food. One time I was one of the bikes when out of the blue Jin shoved a cherry tomato in my mouth. I was pretty grossed out, but hey, it’s the thought that counts. Maybe next time he will have a hamburger or something I actually like to give me in the midst of my cardio routine.
Joining a gym in Korea has really enlightened me as to what makes a good workout environment: equipment has nothing to do with your success, it’s the people. A treadmill these days might be able to tell you how many calories you burn, measure your heartbeat, display real-time stock market updates, and hell, maybe even program your VCR, but won’t do you any good if your not excited to use it. So surround yourself with people who are enthusiastic about exercise – people who aren’t afraid to look a little silly while shaking their hips in a multi-colored hula-hoop or dance on a treadmill. Who knows, you might stop procrastinating and actually start sweating.
Rocky knows how to make the best out of any situation. USA! USA!