I went to the gym tonight for the first time since I got back. While I was working out I thought about the last time I sat on an exercise bike: at the hotel gym in Seoul. There I sat on the sole upright (i.e., not recumbent) bike, facing the massive window. It was early, before sunrise, so I could see both the morning’s first cars crawling along and the reflection of the gym behind me. A note on the bike boasted that it was built for smaller people. It was true: I had to position the seat higher, and higher, and higher before I could get a comfortable cycling position.
Behind me was a row of machines I didn’t recognize from gyms back home. A man went up to one of them and laid down, securing his legs in substantial velcro straps. “It must be a machine for doing situps,” I figured. I looked back a second later, and the machine was creeping upright, pulling the man’s legs upward. Soon he was completely upside down, held by his strapped-in legs with his head dangling near the floor.
Definitely not sit-ups.
Once I started to get over my utter astonishment, I imagined how great it would feel to have my back stretched out like that. But the machine’s instructions were all in Korean, and I started picturing myself doing it wrong, falling on my head while half-way up, or my glasses falling off as I dangled helplessly upside down, unable to see the switch that would bring me back. So I stayed put, right-side up.