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Hell on Earth, Thy Name is 24S.E.T.

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I’ll put up with a lot in the name of health and a trim, firm bod. I’ll run on the treadmill till I want to hurl myself out the 24 Hour Fitness dome window from boredom. I’ll walk up the dusty trails of Runyon in the midday sun. Shit, I’ll even hang upside down from a flying trapeze.

But of everything I do, nothing terrifies me quite like the hellhole that is my gym’s boot-camp-style interval training class.

Each week as Tuesday rolls around, I promise myself, oh no, not again. Not this week. I won’t do it…until I find myself staring at the long lines for the elliptical, the 20-minute wait for the bike…and suddenly, against my best judgment and all that I know to be good and true in the world, there I am, heading into 24S.E.T. once more.

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This very week was no different.

I’m standing in the back of the classroom should I need to escape. Meanwhile, I’m try to justify my willing presence on Lucifer’s playground by telling myself, hey, hour after iPod-playlist-on-repeat hour on the Stairmaster is enough to make anyone forget how much this class makes them want to die. The thought of yet another session of “working in” with some smelly roid-rager in a tank top with armholes big enough for each nipple to poke out is a fair reason to duck into the aerobics room.

And yet, 20 minutes into the class, as my face turns red and my mouth hangs slightly agape from dehydration, I am again wondering why, oh why, I'm spending this precious hour of my valuable life being pushed to exhaustion by a 5'0, 100 pound fascist in calf-skimming sweatpants and a bouncy ponytail.

"Run!!! Faster!!! Hey, yeah, I'm talking to you!!!" she screams to the class. "You can do anything for one minute. RUN!!!!" Sweat drips down my face and between my clavicles as, in fast-forward, I make like football player doing speed drills, then a boxer working the punching bag, and shortly after that a crazy woman in Hollywood trying desperately to get in shape for bathing suit season...oh wait.

She inflicts upon us two to three minutes of cardio madness followed in rapid succession by squats, leg lifts and lunges, all while holding a weight bar. At one point my supporting leg begins to shake. Oh snap, I'm actually going to fall over, I think. So embarrassing.

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Amazingly, the class is always packed. I am not the only masochist who pays $34.00 a month (I know, totally not bad) to stake out three square feet of hardwood floor once a week and get pummeled, mentally and physically, in this chamber of horrors.

45 minutes into it, following a not-relaxing drill lying down on our steps, she lets us know that we have only fifteen minutes left. "Keep working!!!! Get in shape for those weekend wardrobes!!!" Let the record show that my weekend wardrobe, at this point, is going to consist of an ice pack and a tube of Ben-Gay. Hot.

Finally the misery ends and we begin to put away our gear. As we do, trying not to impale one another with our weight bars in the packed equipment room or knock anyone out with our steps, the yoga class after us begins.

"...And, take a few deep breaths, really relax, you've had a long, hard day," the instructor is saying soothingly to her little munchkin class participants, as the lights dim to set a pleasant mood. I've always hated yoga, but I wonder if perhaps there isn't something to be said for being told that hey, you worked hard today, take a load off and do a downward dog for a hot second, you'll feel better.

But the next day when my hamstrings are slapping me silly and my quads are reverberating with pain, I suspect that there will be part of me that's pleased that I made it through the hour of misery. Even though I seriously will never do it again.

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Photo by Gonzalez-Alba via Flickr