the swedish workout

Posted: May 29, 2012 in Humorous Bits
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Forget running the Boston Marathon. Forget power walking the stairs in the Willis Tower. Forget dashing up and down the face of the Grand Canyon. If you want exercise, if you want to get the old ticker ticking, if you want to burn calories like a fitness arsonist, you need go no further than your local IKEA. Their power workout puts Ninja Warrior to shame.

Are you familiar with IKEA, the Swedish home goods retailer? Their ubiquitous blue and yellow sign is a beacon to those who wish to get all Scandinavian with home décor. They sell pretty much anything not meant to be eaten that you would put in your house. Notable exceptions include spouses and pets, but hey, give them time. They have 332 stores in 38 countries, including 38 in the United States, 18 in the United Kingdom, and 1 in Bulgaria. Interestingly, only 17 stores are in Sweden. That may seem like a small amount, but it works out to approximately 1 store for every 4.2 Swedes.

Deception is the key to the IKEA Workout. It is so deceptive you have no clue that when you enter the store you are about to embark on something Jack Lalanne would have passed on. Sure, the store looks pretty imposing when you drive by. It even looks pretty imposing when you pull into the parking lot. However, the torturous insanity once you pass through the oversized revolving door is incomprehensible. Oh yes, you better be sporting runners and Lycra because you will soon be cracking a Swedish sweat. I guess if you hail from a sub-Arctic environment you crave sweat-inducing activities, even man-made ones.

The revolving door can fit a dozen normal-sized Swedes in one compartment or, as we like to say in the States, three Americans. It deposits you in a small lobby. This is actually the starting point for your workout, although you don’t realize it. Everything looks innocent enough. A few sofas and some sale items dot the space. These sale items are for those folks who need immediate merchandise face time. Aside from looking at this teaser stuff an escalator, elevator and rest room are the only other activity choices. No one mills about. The well-trained minions flock to the escalator and elevator, particularly since there is nowhere else to go. The escalator only ascends upward; there is no companion down escalator. That should tip you off to the level of crazitude awaiting you. My advice: If you need to use the restroom this would be the time.

The elevator and the escalator bring you to the second (and top) floor. Now the real fun begins. The workout is unobtrusive at first. Then it slowly takes shape like some alien impulse buyer rising from the consumer muck. The course is well-marked, although no signs are posted warning against inevitable loss of stamina, the sudden urge to eat herring, and an insatiable desire to dissect the films of Ingmar Bergman. For that you can thank the sadistically clever store designers. Everything is comfy and cozy, yet not crowded or cramped. The displays are pristine and meant to elicit maximum response in the form of you opening your wallet. A pencil and paper are available to jot down the item numbers of anything you want to purchase which cannot fit in the big yellow bag snatched in the lobby. The big yellow bag is just that: a big yellow bag. A lot can fit into that big yellow bag. A lot. Toting it through the store’s 6,000 sections adds a nice upper body aspect to the workout which, of course, you do not realize until it is too late.

The floor boasts arrows steering people in the right direction, basically the one direction everyone is forced to navigate. The path curves and winds and winds and curves and curves and winds in a pattern which would drive Jack Nicholson to axe murdering. It is so well-designed and thought out that it is actually disconcerting to see someone walking in the opposite direction. Alas, they are fools. Not following the arrows is ultimately a waste of energy. No matter how far you retreat, you still need to return to the prescribed path. It is the only way to reach the cash registers and, beyond that, the exit. Of course you have no idea both those lofty goals are hours away. So like sheep you allow yourself to be herded through every freaking part in the store. Not some. Not most. Every. And there are lots of them, but those Swedish devils exert you in such an aesthetically pleasing way that it does not seem burdensome. That is until your legs start wobbling and your arms start aching and you have no idea how much further this madness goes. It has to stop sometime, right?

Certainly it does. Eventually you reach the café where a spot of replenishing nourishment awaits. (Free with a $100 furniture purchase!) Generally you would not want to eat in the middle of a strenuous workout, but this is an exception. The lightheadedness is chalked up to the massive hike. It also accounts for the fact you completely forgot you have to make your way through an equally exhausting maze on the ground level. Insidious!

  1. rangewriter says:

    A dozen Swedes vs. three Americans. I love it. I’ve always wanted to visit an IKEA store. Now I’m not so sure. I passed one near the autobahn in Germany and could easily fit your description into what I saw as we whizzed by. Phew. I need a rest now.


  2. Overseas, I meant – not Ikea.


  3. Are you back from your trip?


  4. My stomach is in knots just thinking about my last trip there and the hours of assembling their furniture afterwards. Every piece of furniture I’ve bought from them, is just a bit off. Either slightly tilted or the little peg is about half an inch away from it’s intended hole.


  5. sparklebumps says:

    Putting together 9 of their red bookshelves by yourself is also a workout… trust me.


  6. I visited an Ikea store a couple of years ago. You have recounted the shopping experience accurately though I managed to escape without buying anything.


  7. I worked up a sweat just reading about it. Of course it could also be due to the heat index here in the south. Combined – I think I have earned dessert!


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