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Inside the women’s change room

It’s been a month already since I joined the Goodlife Fitness Centre. With the exception of the week I was away, I’ve gone every single weekday morning.

I have to admit I’m a little surprised at how quickly I adjusted to getting up at five in the morning. I mean, it sounds so insanely early, doesn’t it? I’m out the front door by five-thirty and at the gym by six-forty-five.

Mondays I do BodyFlow, which is kind of a tai-chi-yoga fusion to bad music. Tuesdays and Thursdays I do BodyPump which is a full-body workout with weights to bad music. Wednesdays and Friday I do cardio – an hour of walking uphill on an 8% grade at 4mph on the treadmill.

Overall, it’s pretty good. I’m feeling a little stronger and a little more toned and stuff. I’ve lost a little bit of weight. The biggest difference, I have to admit, is I feel more virtuous.

I’m supposed to have a Visual Fitness Planning Consultation. However they don’t seem to want to come through on this thing, which they advertise as a free benefit of membership. I’ve asked three times and they’ve taken my information three times and they’ve told me three times that someone will call to schedule it, but nobody has called to schedule it.

Gym culture is interesting. I do some of my best people-watching there. Everybody’s doing the same thing but mostly in isolation from each other. It’s a pretty intimate culture so the collective isolation is an interesting contrast. I mean, you’re all sweating and contorting and panting together in front of a giant mirror, but God forbid you should acknowledge one another’s existence.

The most interesting part of gym culture is the change room. I would love to show you pictures, but there’s a big sign saying you can’t use “image-capturing devices” in the gym. (Why don’t they just say cameras?)

Basically, you’ve got a whole bunch of little lockers and a whole bunch of women in various states of undress, which is exactly what you’d expect in a women’s change room. But there’s MORE than that. They’re not just getting dressed or undressed. It’s like they live there. They’re wandering around half-naked, doing the getting-ready-for-work stuff people would normally do at home. Like ironing, for instance, or putting curlers in their hair.

Maybe these aren’t good examples, since I don’t iron or put curlers in my hair at home. I actually thought curlers were an antiquated thing – I thought people used high-tech heat tools to curl their hair now. I haven’t seen curlers in anybody’s hair since my mom used to sit under a noisy pink hairdryer with a plastic cap with a rubber hose attached to it. And she’d put Dippity-Do in her hair, and tease it.

There are lots of mirrors in the change room, and they’re all busy all the time, because so many of the things women do require a mirror. Makeup, hair, etc. It seems they mostly like to do those things in their underwear.

I try to be discreet in the change room, but I’m fascinated by so many things, and I can’t help but check out things like what kind of underwear everybody wears. And now I think I should upgrade my own underwear, because maybe other people are checking mine out too.

The showers are kind of icky. It’s best not to touch the walls or the curtains. I touched them accidentally once, and they felt slimy. I don’t know how often they clean them, but it’s not often enough. I suppose they’re being used all day long, every day, so it’s hard to keep them clean, but still. Yuck.

There’s a sign in the shower area saying “we are extremely sorry for the lack of hot water and the burnt-out light bulbs in the showers, and we are endeavoring to fix both those things as soon as possible.” The sign has been there since I joined the gym.

I really wanted to take a picture of a new sign in the change room today. It was posted by someone whose belongings were all stolen from a locker on Friday afternoon. It basically asked whoever took those things to turn them in at the desk, or “if you prefer to remain ominous, just leave them in a locker and the staff will collect them later.” Yes, if I were the thief I think I’d prefer to remain ominous.

I thought it was weird too that someone would ask the thief to return their stuff. They’re basically asking the thief to go out of her way to do them a favour for no good reason. I mean, why would the thief want to do that?

There’s one thing about the gym that bothers me a lot. I’m afraid it’s going to collapse. It’s on the second and third floors of a very old building on Queen Street, and the building is about six stories high. There’s a lot of heavy equipment in the gym. After the BodyFlow class, when we’re doing that nice relaxing part of yoga at the end, I’m lying on the floor and I can feel the building shuddering. It freaks me out. It reminds me exactly of how I used to feel when I was a little kid on the swings and I’d build up some serious momentum, and then the swing set felt like it was going to pull itself right out of its moorings and flip over.

I have visions of the building collapsing under the weight of all that machinery and energy. It’s probably an irrational fear, but I can’t seem to shake it. What if the building was never designed for this kind of thing? What if structurally it can’t handle it? Who can I contact to find out if it’s safe?


21 comments to Inside the women’s change room

  • Alicia

    I totally hear you about the isolation when working out in a gym. My old gym and the university one were both like that. Fortunately for chatty me, I have found the Metro YMCA to be a little more conversational. It also depends on the time of day I go – early morning i have found to be non-chatty, but during the day and early eve, I’ve had great chats with folks. Finally makes me feel connected to my community!
    Good for you for sticking to your 5AM routine. I caved on a similar plan after 30 minutes into day one. :-(

  • Gillian

    Doesn’t anyone go with a friend? My Comm Ctr gym is reasonably friendly and chatty.

  • Alicia might be onto something – maybe it’s an early morning thing. I wouldn’t even think of inviting a friend to go to the gym with me at that time of day. (Although Julia did meet me for a BodyFlow class a couple of weeks ago, out of the kindness of her heart.)

  • really – they wrote ominous? that’s hilarious

  • I go to my gym at lunch and see the same collective isolation. And the same weird things being done in the change room except that many of the women do it totally naked. I’m all about get in, get changed, get out, so it’s very strange to watch these dawdling with nothing on. But I never wear makeup or *do* my hair because it’s curly and just seems to do itself.

    And ominous? Hilarious!

  • Oh – and they probably don’t say cameras because they’re also talking about cell phones with cameras?

  • (I say that because if the sign said cameras I would totally try and get around that with a cell phone.)

  • Helen

    One of the main reasons I don’t go to a gym (besides being a wee bit lazy, obviously) is that I can’t face the changing room dynamics – eeek! There is a gym very near to where I work, which a lot of people from where I work go to, and can you imagine how hideous it could be to bump into one of your colleagues, naked! (this has happened to several people I know…and they are still quite traumatised) You could end up having some kind of very bizarre conversation about work stuff, both trying to avoid acknowledging the fact that neither of you have any, er, clothes on….
    Hmmmm. Dubious. And ominous.

  • Ominous is great. We’re going to need pictures, zoom… pictures!

  • XUP

    Dippity-do — that stuff was so far ahead of its time. Until then only men had greasy, sticky stuff to put in their hair (pommade, Brylcreem). AND, by jove, it’s still around in a variety of new, jazzed up formulations that are now being called ahead of their time! Truly an unparalleled hair product success story

  • The changeroom dynamic is wierd.

    … it’s stranger still when some random woman actually says “I really like your bra! Where did you get it?!”

    … I usually aim to be there either on lunch, or at 7am, but again- same isolation in some ways. I go to the Metro-YMCA and like poster #1, find that there can be some good conversation – the people in the pool are AWESOME – Since Jan 1, I’ve gone from being terrified to actually SWIMMING and Diving!! (Go me! and go them for teaching me!)

    I’ve been off the gym for 1.5 weeks with general exhaustion (heh.) and am starting to wonder if it’s the NOT going to the gym that’s leaving me STILL exhausted.

    I’ll get back to it Monday!

  • Psychic Librarian

    I used to go to the gym with a friend who is like a big sister to me. We were one of the weird ones walking around naked – comfortable as hell. Once, as we were getting dressed, she inisted that I feel what a cyst* on her breast felt like so I would know what I am looking for when I do my breast self-exam. I am sure people around us thought it was odd behaviour (I don’t blame them).

    *After weeks of waiting for results, her bump was indeed just a cyst – phew!

  • kathy

    Here is the U.S during the permit process of a building a new establishment, the floor are checked for loading bearing. In other words, a structural engineer makes sure the floor can hold the weight. If the floor won’t hold the weight, the permit to continue isn’t issued.

  • Ah, gym changerooms. I have a few scary memories of mine.

    Like the time someone bent over to pick something up – while butt naked – when I was down on one knee tying my shoe. I looked up and HELLO LABIA.

    Someone else forgot their thong on the floor and left. Their used thong. It was there for a week.

  • AndrewZrx

    I wonder how many men have signed up at the gym dressed as women, just in order to witness that changing room scene. After reading your post, I for one am certainly considering it.
    Good post. More fantasy fodder please!

  • J.

    I was wondering when someone was going to write about the half nakenness at Goodlife.. I feel so awkward when I see it…. I need glasses in order to see.. I like walking around without my glass so that I can’t see. :)

  • Woodsy

    This wood nymph is confused… what is wrong with nakedness?

  • megabytes

    And what about tattoos? I have a fairly large tattoo on my back, and really enjoy the looking/ wondering if they should say something/ getting up the nerve/ and then turning red with embarrassment for asking…

    I go to the Plant Pool, and really like the change room dynamic there. At the time of day I’m there, it’s either older ladies or kids. So much less awkwardness. And since there are so many neighbourhood folk, we end up chatting all the time.

    I once had a conversation with 3 work colleagues in the shower, where I was naked and they were all in bathing suits. That was weird…

  • Some of these comments are hilarious!

  • Pandora

    I wonder if a sketchpad and pencil would be considered an ‘image capturing device’…?

  • tip

    Super site darlings. Thanks awfully