A Tale of Two Gyms

I visit two different locations of my gym. I’ll call one “Closer,” and the other “Farther,” although both are convenient: Closer is less than 10 minutes away, and Farther is only 15-20 minutes, tops.

Each gym has it’s own pros and cons, and I’ve grown to appreciate their differences. Aside from being closer, Closer has easy parking, lots of natural light, and high ceilings. Most of their cardio equipment faces big windows, which I like. Closer has an assisted chin-up machine and a back machine that I enjoy using.

A big pro for Farther is that it’s bigger, with equipment on multiple levels. There are classrooms, although I’ve only taken spin classes there (and I haven’t done that in a long time). There’s a great corner that’s usually empty that’s perfect for planks, sit-ups, and mat work, and a perfect area for me to do walking lunges with having to dodge equipment or other customers. Farther has fun crunch machines that I occasionally use to switch up how I work my abs. Farther also has Arc Trainers, my favorite piece of cardio equipment.

A big con for Farther is that parking on the weekends can be a bitch – the garage across the street serves all the businesses in that area, including a 16-screen movie theater, and it will fill up completely. Ceilings are low in some rooms – there’s one spot where I can actually hit my head if I’m not careful. Meanwhile, the cons for Closer include a locker room and bathroom that I like less, and a shortage of open space for sit-ups and such.

I know each gym backward and forward, and I tailor my workouts to their strengths. But last week my two gyms threw me a curveball. And it’s gonna change the way I think.

One of the other differences between Closer and Farther is that Farther is the only location that has StairMasters. Well, to be specific, it’s the only location that has the kind of StairMaster that I like: the ones that look like mini-escalators that you continually climb. Closer has the StairMasters with pedals that you push up and down (actually, both locations have them), but I hate that machine, and won’t use it – it shouldn’t be called a StairMaster if it doesn’t feel like you’re going up stairs.

All of my StairMaster workouts that resulted in a new addition to my skyscraper collection happened at Farther. I would plan workouts with the StairMaster into my schedule, and those helped dictate which days I worked out at Closer and which days I worked at Farther. It was a system that I liked, and it worked.

So imagine my surprise when, a few days ago, I showed up at Closer and saw these:

Now both gyms have StairMasters! You’d think I’d be ecstatic, but I’m not. And it’s because, when it comes down to it, I don’t like the StairMaster. It’s torturous. The whole reason I created my Skyscraper Collection is because it was the only way I could motivate myself to use one. And I force myself to use one, roughly once a month, because the results are fantastic: I can burn 200+ calories in a matter of minutes, and get a great leg workout in the process.

To be honest, I liked that Farther was the only location with StairMasters. It meant that I could, during all my workouts at Closer, not even consider using the StairMaster that day – it wasn’t an option.

Now, it’s an option. Now, I’ll have to see those bad boys no matter where I workout. Now, I’ll have to incorporate the StairMaster more often into my workouts, because I tend to rotate through the machines. I’ll benefit from this – like I said, the StairMaster provides an awesome workout – but it’s gonna take some getting used to. And I’ll be grumbling until that happens.

The other day, when I saw the new StairMasters for the first time, my heart sank a little, while I simultaneously feigned excitement to the gym employee at the front desk. But I figured since it was my first day at the gym since they arrived, I should go over and introduce myself. I took the same posture as when I meet a new dog: stand firm, with a position of authority, and make clear that I’m the alpha being, and one that’s not frightened of them.

After a warm-up and a good long session using weights, it was time for the introduction. I sauntered over to one of the StairMaster, hopped on, and set the timer for 20 minutes. It’s been a month since I last used a StairMaster, and I could feel it. I didn’t push myself as hard as I have in the past, but I got my heart rate up, and I started sweating. After 10 minutes, I was exhausted, so, feeling satisfied in the entirety of my workout, I stopped.

Even a new StairMaster in a new setting doesn’t change how I feel about StairMasters:  I still don’t like them. But hey – I climbed 51 floors and burned 175 calories in those 10 minutes, and that is nothing to sneeze at!

Plus, I get to add a new skyscraper to my collection!

This addition brings my skyscraper collection to a whole new continent. I’ve already have towers in North America, Europe, and Asia, and now, I’m adding a fourth continent. One of the stops on the cruise I recently took was Aruba, an island that’s only about 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela (see pictures of me horseback riding in Aruba at the end of this post). I had never, in my life, been so close to South America, so in honor of that, I’m adding a South American skyscraper to my collection.

This, ladies and gentleman, is the Mirante do Vale building in Sao Paulo, Brazil:

At 51 stories, it perfectly reflects my StairMaster workout. Some fun facts about the Mirante do Vale:

  • It’s the tallest building in Brazil, and it has been for over 50 years, since it was completed in 1960.
  • The name means, roughly, “viewpoint of the valley” in Portuguese, and it’s a condo building.
  • It’s not well-known, even among Brazilians, that this is the tallest building in their country, and that’s because other buildings, built on higher pieces of land, appear taller in the Sao Paulo skyline. You can look down at the Mirante do Vale from the top floors of other buildings that were built on hills.
  • While it’s the tallest building in Brazil, there are 13 taller building in South America – all located in Chile, Columbia, Argentina and Venezuela.

And here’s what’s most interesting to me about the Mirante do Vale – it’s the tallest building in the world with an external fire escape that runs the entire height of the building. You can see the fire escape in the photo, going up the side of the building on the right. I just read about the history of fire escapes, and I was enthralled – and since I liked it, I think you might, too. This is boiled down from historian Sara Wermeil’s 2003 paper “No Exit: The Rise and Demise of the Outdoor Fire Escape,” which was published in the journal Technology and Culture:

Fire escapes came to be in the late 19th century, as buildings were growing taller, but before elevators were commonplace. After catastrophic fires started destroying those buildings in the 1870s, state legislatures finally enacted laws requiring means for getting people out. This meant new technology, and some creative solutions were devised. Elementary: equip each upper room with a long rope. Fantastic: a hat-like parachute, anchored under the chin, and boots with highly elastic soles. Practical: canvas escape chutes, like those used on jet airplanes today. Rube Goldberg: a rope and pulley system that let a person lower themself in a canvas seat.

The familiar fire escape finally emerged as the solution that worked best, but even they have huge shortcomings, namely, exposure to fires on lower floors and ladders, raised above street-level to thwart thieves, that frequently jammed. The beginning of the end for the fire escape was New York’s terrible Triangle Shirtwaist fire, where 145 garment workers died in 1911 as their ten-story factory building burned. Many died on fire escapes as flames billowed up from the windows below them. Fire escapes melted and buckled, dropping people to their deaths. Today’s solution is the closed, insulated stairwell, protected by fire doors that keep smoke from getting in, and that’s a still-evolving technology.

You learn something new every day, huh? I wouldn’t have learned any of this had I not stepped on that StairMaster.

Keep it up, David!

PS: Be sure to check out all the buildings in my Skyscraper Collection by clicking here!

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2 Responses to A Tale of Two Gyms

  1. I did the American Lung Association “Climb For Air” last year – with my inhaler. I climbed 96 stories by the time I was done. You should set a goal to do one in your area. It’s a blast!

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