Gyms are full of mirrors. People can look at themselves while exerting influence on weights, and marvel at the streaks of sweat traversing foreheads and cheeks. Others can see contorted faces as arms and legs attempt to raise bars with heavy disks on each end. Legs are raised in leg presses, while against the wall, bicycles, and treadmills allow the super-athletic to run or cycle the equivalent of the Tour de France or the Boston Marathon.

Gyms are usually staffed by handsome men wearing tight T-shirts so that the six-pack is straining to get out. Women instructors are usually tall, blond, and have limited vocabularies. Words such as “wow” and “awesome” trip off the tongue in an avalanche of shallow language. The only punctuation that is heard in a gym is the thud of boxing gloves, the sharp clang of weights being dropped, and the occasional deep sigh as a fitness fanatic is attempting a personal best on the lifting machine.

Of course, there are those who are inactive, even though they are in a gym. These are the ‘mirror-gazers’. Beautifully sculpted, these individuals adopt a number of poses in front of mirrors so that their figures, muscles, profiles, waistlines and weight distribution can be studied at length. There is nothing more admirable than self-admiration.

More and more gyms are open 24 hours. Sighs of the frustrated permeate the night air.  Dissatisfied humans strive for perfection under the lurid lights of the gym. After work or study, a designer bag stuffed with designer track-suits, sneakers, and T-shirts emblazoned with the ubiquitous dynamic swoosh or the three fig-leaves, or the leaping feline, head for the gym.  At the entrance is a fridge stocked with energy drinks. These are to ensure that all of the kilojoules taken off can be replaced easily.

Medicos and politicians keep reminding us of the ‘obesity epidemic’. This divides citizens into two camps – those who spend hours at a gym to ensure that obesity never comes their way, and others who head for a couch, bags of chips and cans of beer in hand, to watch hours of sport. There is the euphoria of weight increasing over the whole body. A healthy body is the least of their worries, whereas the fitness aficionados diligently work out and regularly check their image in the nearest mirror.

Unfortunately, those committed to health and fitness, give up at some point. All that lovely muscle turns to fat. The bottom takes on an aspect of bottomless expansion. Men develop paunches and women begin to sag. The last thing people want is a mirror to show up their imperfections. Yet the cycle goes on, and the gymnasium will continue to weigh constantly on those who prefer image over substance.

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