I haven’t been to the gym much lately. Which is not to say I haven’t been working out—on the contrary. But my grunts and perspiration have been confined to my home, my routines dictated by a trainer on a laptop screen. For the past year or so, Gold’s has been supplanted by the virtual gyms of Daily Burn. And I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

Daily Burn and its online ilk are based on the premise that guidance and motivation are more important than equipment—with a couple of dumbbells, a box and a mat, you can get in better shape than you would plodding through your routines at the gym. Follow along with the person on the screen and you’ll find workout nirvana. Or at least make your guest bedroom smell like George Wendt’s undershirt.

Daily Burn’s programs have names like “Live to Fail” and “Inferno HR,” and a legal disclosure runs across the screen before the workouts start. If you follow along and don’t cheat, you’re in for some pain. I scream and pound the wall in between sets. My dog occasionally walks in, sees what I’m up to and walks back out. I’ve punched my own ceiling fan. I regularly glance out the window to make sure none of my neighbors are walking past, especially before I do that stretch where you roll backward on your shoulders with your crotch in your own face. Some of the modified jumping jacks are also very silly. I look like I’m taking part in an invisible Super Bowl halftime show.

But despite Daily Burn’s many options for self-flagellation, after a year of it, I was ready to try something different. Enter Beachbody, which is like Daily Burn on steroids. Not literally. OK, maybe literally.

Switching from Daily Burn to Beachbody is like moving to a new town in 10th grade. I don’t know who my friends are in this place. Burn feels like you’re going to the gym with your super-positive, perky jock friends. Anja Garcia acts like anybody could be a gymnast if they just gave it their all. The phrase “Come on, you guys!” is repeated at various volumes and inflections until you believe that, yes, we guys can do it! And after this workout we’re going to all hang out and drink recovery shakes and maybe go to Anja’s later for a paleo cookout.

Beachbody seems darker, somehow, like you’ve got to complete this workout or else. You’re not entirely sure that everyone in the room wants to be there. There might be bad people just off-camera holding syringes and mouthing the words “Finish the set if you want the anti-venom.”

But if post-workout soreness is any measure, then Beachbody is brutally effective. A day after I did the 21-Day Fix “Dirty 30” workout, I was walking like an arthritic Frankenstein’s monster. I had time to kill at a hotel in Quebec during a business trip, so I very uncharacteristically booked a massage. I’m not a massage guy, but I figured that my shredded glutes and screaming traps would benefit from a vigorous kneading by a French-accented masseuse. And man, was I right. Emphasis on “man.”

It didn’t occur to me to ask whether I’d get a masseuse or a mass-sir, and I tried to conceal my surprise when a ponytailed gentleman strolled in and called my name. I was cool, though. Yeah, I left my underpants on, but aren’t you supposed to? No? I don’t get a lot of massages and I wasn’t sure. But I erred on the side of modesty. Which was good, because this bro really went ape with the knuckles and elbows, to the point that without my Hanes I would’ve surely flinched my way into a wardrobe malfunction. I told him I was tight around the upper back, and he disdainfully replied, “You’re tight everywhere.” Damn right, bro! Fist bump, great time, thanks for rubbing oil on my mostly naked body and let’s never talk about this again.

Now, the gym never made me so sore that I needed a massage. So, points to Beachbody on that. But as much as I hate the gym, Gold’s has the benefit of including people other than myself. And they’re my friends. Sort of.

There’s Gigantic Flat-Topped Hair Guy, Suspiciously Jacked Grandpa, Girl Who Would Destroy Me, Exercise-Bike Octogenarian and, of course, Guy Who Wears One of Those Hannibal Lecter Masks And You Want to Laugh But What if He Really Is a Cannibal? I’m sure they have names for me, too, probably something like Really Handsome Man or Captain Pecs or Guy Who Takes Way Too Long Between Sets. In any case, they’re my people, they’ve missed me and it’s time to make a triumphant return. Maybe I’ll even integrate some of my new moves into my Gold’s workout. Look out, Hannibal Lecter, because you’re about to have a front-row seat to the Invisible Halftime Show.


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