Photo: Scouting NY
My roommate is a burly male model and his friends are burly male models. Whenever they get together it’s as you’d expect: They taunt, they compete, they outdo one another, and when there’s nothing left for it, they throw on a pair of gloves and box it out (obviously, no punches to the face are allowed). I am therefore the butt of numerous jokes, due to my smaller stature, my slender (yet graceful) wrists and my preference for witty banter over bloodsport. If I attempt to compete in the physical arena I get hurt, and as soon as the shirts come off I’m hopelessly outmatched. So two weeks ago, in an attempt to man up, I signed up for the nearest gym in Williamsburg – Frenchies.
Named for its owner, Frenchies is the Average Joe’s of the neighbourhood. The clientele is colourful, the equipment decades old and the decorations inspiring – 1970s portraits of Arnold Schwarzenegger alongside handwritten signs like: “PUMP UP AND SHUT UP.” Papa Frenchie is a legend. Latino (though I’m not sure where from), and falling somewhere in the 65 – 80 age bracket, he sits at his desk at the front of the gym, grinning at everyone who enters. His style is flawless – he wears a plaited goatee and a tee shirt emblazoned with his own face on the front and back. There are no electronics or computer systems, your membership card consists of a piece of cardboard with your name (which you write yourself), the date (which you write yourself) and a box ticked one month, three months, six months or 12 months, depending on how much you paid up front. It costs just $30 per month.
I train with Tom Bull and fellow Kiwi Bruce Raubenheimer and we have three set routines – chest, triceps, biceps. Bench pressing, flies, bicep curls, chin ups, dips, straight bars, dumbells, you name it, we do it. And it hurts. Tom is relentless and forceful in his instruction. We run to the gym, we run back. We work out hard for 25 minutes, then we leave. I push weights till my arms aren’t strong enough to lift my water bottle, then Tom makes me do three more sets. Bicep training was three days ago and my arms are still on fire. I can’t straighten them past a 60 degree angle. In order to put on a pair of pants, I now have to crouch down all the way to the floor then stand up very slowly. A girl tapped me on the arm yesterday. I almost cried.
I await muscle development with keen interest. Until then, I live in hope that the pain will subside.
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