Working Out With The Common Folk
This past weekend I was forced to lower myself to the level of the common gym-goer and work out in a public gym, something I had not done in about two months. I have gotten quite used to my private facility with its views of Biscayne Bay and Downtown, and my XM radio perpetually tuned to hard trance and cranked to ungiodly volumes. I get used to talking to myself and doing little dances in the mirror when I get excited. All NOT things I can do at 24 Hour Fitness.
My irritation began as soon as I walked in and heard Gwen Stefani coming out over the loudspeaker. Yes, nothing makes me want to crank out a max set of pull-ups like listening to “This Chick is Bananas, B-A-N-A-S Bananas!” (can she even spell?) Perhaps I could out of pure anger. It was followed by the usual dribble of top 40 hits that big gyms like to play that are completely unsuitable for exercise. Kelly Clarkson complaining about a breakup, some Black Eyed Peas song about lumps and trunks and jeans or something, and the Backstreet Boys. And I have never in my life heard anyone say, "You know what I listen to to get pumped for my workout? 'Incomplete.'"
So after my warm-up I venture over to the water fountains which, I might add, have a convenient little faucet/spigot thing next to them for those who prefer to use water bottles. Of course, this thing gets used about as often as the Metrorail, so I am forced to wait as an elderly woman fills a 1-liter bottle at the water fountain. Meanwhile my heart rate is spiraling downward. She noticed me behind her and made no effort to let me get in for my two swigs of water. No, instead she proceeded to fill the entire bottle and let me seethe.
Once I finally got my water, I went to go try and do a set of bench press. Well, since every guy who has ever seen “Pumping Iron” once is convinced he knows what he is doing, they all seem to decide that bench press is the single most important exercise ever developed for anything ever. Needless to say, all of the benches are taken. Fair enough, I can wait. But what these particular groups of guys like to do is what I call the “Bench and Bull.” Which means you crank out a set of about 10 reps, none of them particularly difficult, then sit and bullshit with your buddies for about five minutes about your new workout and how you’re “blasting you pecs” today, before doing another spectacularly unchallenging set. Do this five times and you have just taken up about half an hour of my workout. Thanks a lot. Try push-ups. They are much less invasive and will get you more results. Because since you are tipping in at a whopping buck fifty five, I just don’t see you gaining the barrel chest of a Ronnie Coleman doing what you’re doing.
I was doing some triceps press-downs in the mirror and a group of about three Asian guys that would best be described as “wiry” began lifting their shirts up in the mirror to admire their six-packs right in front of me. Now, I don’t know these boys and I had never met them before in my life, but judging by their overly baggy workout attire, CTL (conversation to lifting) ratio and general lack of knowledge about anything gym-related, I ventured to guess that their impressive abdominals were more a product of Mr. and Mrs. Woo than it was of hours spent doing Rocky 4’s. But that certainly did not stop them from doing a full on Taye Diggs in the mirror in front of me. Yes, Johnny Hoo, your abs are much more defined than mine. I am impressed. So is every girl in here. As a matter of fact, I think I saw those three girls on the Precor over there go back into the locker room so they could be the first to blow you when you returned from your strenous workout of Shirt Lift (5 sets, 10 reps). So why don’t you go get a head start on your groupies and let me watch myself actually do an exercise.
Next to the super-cut Asian guys was a bulky white guy doing low-back and shoulder curls. Never heard of this exercise? Well, to him it was probably called biceps curls, but to anyone who was not familiar with the exercise, it would have appeared that he was trying to lift said barbell exclusively with his lower back and shoulders. And grunting as if he were competing on ESPN late night. Yes, I can see how curling 135 pounds would be difficult. If you were doing it right. If you’re doing it completely wrong, there is no need to make any noise because you’re not really doing anything at all. Your grunting just makes everyone look at you and your horrible, horrible form. You are now the joke of the gym, as far as anyone else who knows what they are doing goes. Congratulations. I hope you never go to prison.
I don’t mind people not wiping off equipment, since I generally shower after I leave a gym and it is no nastier than playing pick up basketball. But if I were a girl, I would be mortified. And the sweat stains people leave are sort of like the Rorschach test. I think if I were ever to become a psychologist I would take people around the gym and say “Okay, you see that slime that guy left on the decline bench? What does that look like to you?” Kind of like cloud gazing but a lot smellier.
My favorite are the people staring at me. Not because I am such a dominating physical presence or because my body is all that impressive, but rather because they want to use the machine I am on and are too afraid to ask to work in. Instead, they just glare at me as though I were taking the last parking space at the mall on Christmas Eve. Excuse me? Do you like watching other men work out? If not, why are you making me so uncomfortable during my only enjoyable part of the day? Here’s a few helpful phrases you can use: “May I work in?” “How many sets you got left?” “Do you mind if I jump on this for a second?” Any of these are preferable to you staring at me disapprovingly as I do my fifth set. I am more than willing to share (okay, not more than willing, but certainly willing) and I am a fairly nice person. But not if you stare at me. If you stare at me, I will sit here and do nine more drop sets and you will be here until well after your wife told you to be home.
Do I come off as a bit of a gym snob? I’m sure I do. I’m sure I am one of those people that people who are afraid to go to the gym are afraid of mocking them. But it is not the people who are beginners and trying to learn everything that I mock, it is the people who think they know everything and look like complete idiots. As it stands, I am happy to be back to my gym, where the only other people who work out here are invited by me personally. I am an only child, so I don’t like sharing. Especially when it is something as precious to me as my weights.