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Equinox: How The Other Half Gyms

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For those of you who don’t know, Equinox is one of the higher-end gym chains in the New York city area.  I belong to Crunch, but after going on a sort of yoga sampler for the past month or so (going to different yoga studios every couple of days), with my friend Alli a while back, she decided to get me a free week pass to her gym, just to check out the yoga classes there.

I tried a yoga class at my own gym, Crunch, once, but, I find it hard to get over the ridiculous cutesy-ness (if that’s what it even is) vibe of all the classes.  For some reason, it seems like the types of classes that dominate the schedule always have some annoying sexual connotation.  I think there’s one in particular called 'œturning tricks.'  Not only am I now self-conscious about working out in a large group of people, but now for some reason, I’m forced into somehow being likened to a hooker?  I’m all for wanting to feel comfortable with my body and my sexuality, but, I dunno, I just feel like this sort of attempt at humor or whatever, is sort of forced and stupid.  Not to even say anything about the labeling they employ to their shampoo and conditioner ('Wash what your mama gave ya!,' etc).  Though Crunch is certainly the more affordable of gyms, and is generally pretty clean, there leaves a little something to be desired.  Though, until now, I had no idea how much there was to be desired. I blame it all on Equinox.

Alli belongs to the SoHo location, which is rumored to be one of the nicest ones, and from the moment you walk in, the Scandinavan-like wooden interior design is probably the biggest tip off that this is certainly no Crunch.  Everything looks brand new, and yet not showy, and certainly not plastered with bright colors or ridiculous puns.  It was really nice that they had a separate studio specifically dedicated to yoga classes, as opposed to a one-space-fits-all situation that can get pretty crowded and smelly sometimes, not to mention loud.  But what was the most striking to me about my Equinox experience was the locker room.  I could write an entire essay just on the incredible luxuries of the locker room alone'“ strongly contrasting to with the metal-and-plastic locker rooms at Crunch.

First of all, the Equinox lockers are nice & wooden, like the ones at Bliss or some similar such spa.  Horrible Top 40 music isn’t assaulting your ears on sub-standard speakers, no.  Rather, relaxing jazz, world music, and/or folk music played softly, as I hung my coat on the coat hangers found in my locker.  I felt like I was on vacation at my parents’ house.  After the yoga class, Alli suggested we go steam.  I was a bit apprehensive, because I am under the general belief that steaming, unless at a really nice spa, is kind of gross.  Not to mention the fact that the steam room at the Crunch on 4th Ave (the one I more regularly go to), has been shut down many, many times by the Health Department.  Um, gross.  So, I was not only very pleasantly surprised by the experience I had in the Equinox steam room, but, the already amazing yoga buzz I had going on was prolonged and practically taken to another level because of this steam room.

Perhaps I am very sensitive to smell, but that damn Eucalyptus-scented steam, coupled with being able to legitimately lay down completely nude with a bunch of very attractive women relaxed me more than I have ever been from just yoga alone.  When Alli & I were done steaming, we headed to the showers.  Not only do they have disposable razors available, but some of the stalls have their own shaving stools within a separate drying areas enclosed in your private shower pod area.  The shower doors were not crappy plastic curtains like at Crunch, but glass doors that close you into a pun-free cleaning zone.  Not only do they have amazing, fresh-smelling shampoo, conditioner & body wash, but also shave cream.  I felt better and had more room showering here than in my own bathroom.  With the soft jazz playing in the background, I never wanted it to end.  In fact, I feared that I could never go back to Crunch again, having been exposed to something so much better.  But at $180 a month, there is no way I can afford to make the switch.

When I got home, my roommate was watching Taxi To the Dark Side-a film about contemporary torture practices by the United States.  In great detail, I learned more than I could’ve imagined about what unthinkable conditions the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay & Abu Graib withstood.  These guys weren’t even allowed to sleep, were beaten with sticks, sexually humiliated, and had all of their five senses severely messed with to create such profound disorientation, that they literally went insane, tried to commit suicide, or died.  It was then that I started to feel like a giant tool for going to this bourgie gym and enjoying it as much as I did, and even considering paying $180 A MONTH just for a cushy gym.

Now, with only one day left on the pass, though I am still, admittedly, thoroughly enjoying being spoiled by this gym, it’s sort of frightening that I’m sort of getting used to all the accouterments.  When you think about the standard of living that most people have in the rest of the world, it seems disgusting, narcissistic, and excessively luxurious and wasteful that I can even go to a gym at all, plus that such a place as Equinox exists.  It’s gross that only certain types of people get to experience this type of treatment/environment.  Most of those people probably who belong there don’t even deserve it.  So where does this leave me?  How do I reconcile my simultaneous guilt/disgust and desire for Western excess?

Because I live in this weird reality that is the United States, and is especially heightened in New York City, does that mean that as long as I’m not being too gross in comparison to everyone else, that it’s sort of ok?  I mean, should I renounce the gym altogether and grow some balls and move to a 3rd World Country doing real work, working for real global change?  In the meantime, I’m going to go back to Crunch, and hopefully won’t feel like either I’m being denied basic human dignities, nor like I’m a total capitalist pig.

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Anna G - Caliburg Contributor

Anna G - Caliburg Contributor

Anna G. is a Southern California native living in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn since 2005. Anna is constantly trying to unite her love of CA sunshine and the excitement of the New York urban jungle, all the while trying to keep her unwieldy credit card debt under control, and look fabulous at brunch, no matter how un-showered and hungover.