worrisome

Not the fact that I went to my new gym for the first time.

Nor the fact that I took it a little easy on myself, since it has been a while.

What worries me is that when I got to my car, the couple in the car parked next to mine were quite upset, since, in the 15 minutes that they had been parked, someone had smashed their driver’s side window.

Note to self: park closer to the doors next time.

knowledge is power

One interesting facet of dealing with my knee injury is that my physical therapy appointments basically became a scheduled, mandatory, twice a week workout. Albeit, we might have solely been working on one very specific body part, and the sessions were more than a little light on cardio, but they got me moving, and I might even be willing to admit to leaving the gym feeling just a touch endorphinized.

Since I’ve pretty much plateaued, recovery-wise, and it doesn’t make much sense for me to be dropping $40 in co-pays every week to do exercises that I don’t need supervision for, I’m done with therapy for now. I do still have certain fitness related goals for this year (rollerderby tryouts — I’m looking at you), so it was time for me to start looking into gym memberships.

There’s a small, yet decently equipped, fitness center at HedoCorp, that I’m a member of mainly because it costs me less than $10 per paycheck, and I like the idea of being able to pop in for 30 mins on the treadmill at lunch, but I hardly ever use it. A large part of this probably has to do with my ever growing dislike of spending extra time on campus, but there is also the fact that it is very small, has limited free weights (which are generally pretty popular during my desired exercise times), no squat cage, and of course, lacks a pool.

I used to have a membership at the local YMCA, which didn’t suffer from the shortfalls above but was a little bit too “family-friendly” for my tastes. I don’t appreciate 6 year-olds running wild through the locker rooms when I’m trying to change, and I’d rather not think about the urine-to-water concentration in the pool (especially since adult swim was always scheduled right after some child-splashy-waterslide-fun extravaganza). So, I wasn’t too excited about signing up there either.

LA Fitness, however, has made a huge push into the Twin Cities lately, and has opened up a location that is closeish to work, and really close to my house (closer than the Y even). I’ve always been skeptical about the “fancy” gyms (the Y’s billboards about showering after the workout, not before do kind of resonate with me), but I figured they’d be worth a try since what I’d heard about them was mostly good. But I’d also heard stories about the crappy sales techniques employed by similar gyms and I didn’t feel like having to deal with slimy sales people, or getting ripped off by BS “initiation fees”.

So, I did a little bit of research. A friend of mine had signed up for a “preview” membership before the location closest to us was even open — basically, he signed up early, got access to another location, and got a “special” rate that shouldn’t have been offered to us latecomers. I also looked up LA Fitness on The Consumerist to find some general traps to avoid: never give them your bank account information, don’t sign up for personal training, and NEVER, EVER, accept the first rate they give you.

It was armed with this information that I finally worked up the motivation to walk into LA Fitness and get pitched to. The salesdrone that I was assigned to give them the impression that he was working there because dealing in used cars was too complicated. As soon as we shook hands, all he cared about was knowing what other gyms I had looked at and what rates I had been quoted. The tour he eventually took me on was painfully scripted, and even my engineer mind could see through the lame sales tricks that he was half-heartedly trying to use on me. A large part of me wanted to cut the tour short and just tell him “listen, I’m interested in signing up and giving you your commision, so why don’t we sit down and talk business and forget this bullshit”.

When it time down to finally talk about money, the opening line was “what do you think it would take to get you to sign up today?” — I will admit to kind of wanting to punch him right then, but because he was so easy to see through, I figured I’d play along. When I lowballed him ridiculously ($20/mo and no initiation fee), he got all flustered and just showed me the regular rates:

  1. Regular package: $50/month + $150 init
  2. Premium package: $40/month + $250 init

zOMG the premium package totally pays for itself after LESS THAN A YEAR! Such a good deal! Not.

What he didn’t know is that I knew that my buddy was paying $35/month, and I wasn’t willing to pay more than that. So I hemmed and hawed and he lowered the initiation fee on the “premium” package to $99 ($150 saved just be keeping my mouth shut!), and I countered with my demand for $35/month. At which point, he had “to go talk to his manager” — seriously, I thought that that only happened on used car lots…in the movies. Of course, his “manager” was perfectly fine with only charging me what the services are worth anyways, so having gotten mostly what I wanted (I would have preferred to not pay an initiation fee at all, but I’ll consider that $100 to be my “I hate to haggle and I didn’t want to deal with this salesdouche anymore fee”), I signed up. And, in the process of me trying to help salesmonkey figure out his own software, I happened to see the screen where lo-and-behold, the special “just for me” rate package was listed amongst their standard options (as were the more expensive plans for the less assertive suckers).

The moral of the story? If you hate to haggle as much as I do, go into the bargaining situation knowing as much as you can about what other people’s deals, and have a firm understanding of what you will or will not accept. This is stuff I knew in theory, of course, but it was actually kind of fun to put it into practice. Could I have gotten a better deal? Probably, but this is a price that I’m willing to pay, so I’m not going to beat myself up about it).

And I might even go work out tonight — as long as I don’t have to deal with any of the actual employees.

belated

Yes, I know that Lincoln’s birthday was on Monday, but it just dawned on me how perfect this time of year is to show you all this video (which is probably not appropriate for the vast majority of workplaces):

Also, the 6 are finally playing a non-Sunday night show — it’s a Tuesday in April, but I’m still excited!

in like flynn

I got my receipt from Harmony Valley Farm today, so it looks like Amber and I are in for their 2009 CSA.

We signed up for the weekfly, full season share, so we’ll be getting a box of veggies to split every week from may until december.

Special thanks should go out to Kayepants, who pointed me to A Good Appetite, who in turn had lots of great info about Harmony Valley, and helped sell me towards them.  If I manage to keep my act together this year, I’m hoping to document my first CSA experience as well as they did.

In other news, Saturday night was Nerd 2’s 2nd goodbye (#3 is tomorrow, and the fourth and final is Thursday).  The service at Space Aliens was pretty dismal, but much fun was had at Brunswick Zone — seriously, we need to go there more often, there is even a bizarro version of Joe-the-emo-gameworks-bartender there. Maybe I should let my knee recover for a week or so first though…

veggie tales

After a lunch which ,on my part, consisted of the flesh of two different species of animal (plus peanut butter!) Amber and I filled out the paperwork to purchase a CSA share for 2009.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and can take many forms: weekly boxes of vegetables, half a cow (processed), chickens, eggs, even fresh, contraband milk. Basically, a farm (or group of farms) offers to the public a number of “shares”, which entitle the purchaser to, well, a share of the output of the farm for the season.

This gives the farmers a steady and predictable source of income (no worries about over or under-planting their demand), and provides the shareholders incentives to eat more meals that actually contain green things.

Once I hear back that we actually got into the CSA that I’m hoping for (a lot of small farms will sell out by March/April, which I found out the hard way last year), I’ll post the specific details. But if you’re interested in joining one, a good place to start (if you’re in the Twin Cities) is the Land Stewardship Project’s page which lists a number of MN and Western WI farms. Another resource that is nationwide (and I wish was better designed) is Local Harvest which is a database that collects CSA Farms, farmer’s markets, and various other ways to avoid getting scurvy.

One thing I haven’t decided yet is what this means for my backyard garden. With just me to feed (the cats aren’t so big on salads), I’m looking forward to taking a year off from hardcore vegetable cultivation and letting someone else do the seed starting and the planting and the watering and the harvesting for me. I’ll probably still grow some things (not having a container of basil going all summer just seems like a waste of dirt) but maybe I’ll stick to just one interesting variety of tomato, or put all of my growing efforts into maintaining a truly epic giant pumpkin patch.

Which reminds me…it’s time to start looking at seed catalogs again…