It seems like only a few short years ago that business trips were an excuse to indulge in prime rib dinners and hang around the hotel lounge until the wee hours under the guise of conducting business. That was before the constant barrage of sobering reminders on the news about the obesity epidemic, the failing health of U.S. citizens, aging baby boomers crippling the country’s medical system, and the ever popular "heartbreak of psoriasis." The gustatory joys of the old business trip haven’t been the same since.
Nowadays, many business meetings are conducted over a "power breakfast," where presentations are given and deals are made over yogurt and strawberries. Yum! No one actually says anything if you order the Lumberjack Special, but when a steaming platter of cholesterol arrives at the table, there are usually a few disdainful glances thrown your way. As far as closing the old hotel lounge is concerned, that usually happens around 8:00 P.M. after everyone has finished a few rollicking rounds of chardonnay spritzers. To make matters worse, most hotels have guilt-inducing health clubs where exercise aficionados can puff away on an elliptical machine in lieu of happy hour. On a recent trip, I noticed that my washboard abs looked more like the whole Maytag, and with summer beach season looming, I decided to give the health club a try.
I was greeted by Mandy, a chipper young woman who said she’d show me around. First stop was the aerobics room, where everyone was jumping around and whooping to loud, encouraging music. The instructor would yell, "Go for it! Whooooeee! Feel the burn! Whooooeee!" and the rest of the class would gasp, "…whoo." Some poor souls in the back of the room weren’t whooping much at all. Their tongues were hanging out and their eyes were sort of hollow, like Little Orphan Annie’s (remember her, fellow baby boomers?). Some of the wheezers back there had a grim, determined look on their faces, like prisoners on a chain gang. I could almost hear them thinking, "With my last ounce of strength, I’m going to lunge up there and strangle that perky automaton with my shoelaces if this doesn’t end soon."
Then we entered a room that I like to call, "The goin’ nowhere fast salon." It was filled with all sorts of stuff that looked like things that went places — rowing equipment, stairs and bicycles — with the drawback that they were all bolted to the floor. People were climbing and running and rowing and pedaling in place, while little computers told them that, yes indeed, their hearts were about to crash through their rib cages and join a commune in Vermont. The computers, Mandy giggled, would get playful every now and then and throw little obstacles in the way, like applying brakes to the bike so you’d feel like you were pedaling up Everest. Some fun! Mandy then took me into the Nautilus room to meet Chip.
Chip, Mandy explained, would show me how to use the machines and give me encouragement. What Chip actually did was scream in people’s faces while they struggled with the weights. I saw one guy about my age, strapped into a machine that was right out of the Spanish Inquisition. His face was purple! As he tried to push a bar with the equivalent of a Land Rover attached to it, Chip was screaming directly into the guy’s ear, "One more! Attack that bar! Lift that little peanut! No pain, no gain!" I was really anxious to try this, I told Mandy, but I’d like to wait until Chip had taken his medication.
I decided to try the stair machine which, believe me, is the most mind-numbing exercise I’ve ever had the misfortune to try. As I puffed my way up 30 simulated flights, I thought of all the devices in the hotel that were invented to get people away from this activity. There were escalators, elevators and moving sidewalks — all designed to relieve us of any burden that would cause sweat. Now here I was on a machine that simulated everything I’d been avoiding — welcome to virtual reality.
After about 20 minutes, I decided I’d had enough health, so I showered and went up to the hotel bar to see if there was anything going on. Sure enough, there were a few of my fellow business travelers engaged in serious activities that involved rounds of beers and cheeseburgers. They were power-lifting these with great ease, sipping aerobically and proving the age-old business traveler’s adage: No pain — good!
By Mike Donlin.
Mike does technical, marketing and creative wriiting for The Write Solution, his freelance business. He can help your company wend its way through the vagaries of the English language, and prides himself on his intimate knowledge of gerunds, semicolons and dipthongs. If you'd like Mike to pen a tome on a timely technical topic, you can reach him at email@example.com or 603-889-4955.