Thursday, April 14, 2011

The People at the Gym

Over the last few weeks, I've finally been able to start going to the gym on a dedicated basis again. I'd been planning to do so earlier in the year, but all kinds of "life stuff" happened to intercede, the worst of which was that nasty knee injury I had. But I'm better now and back to the gym. Yay, me!

One of the things that interests me the most about attending the gym is the other people. Seriously, folks: if people-watching is your thing, then a busy gym is the best place to be. You'll see all kinds there. Here are some of the ones that I see.

The super-athletic fat guy. There's no other way to describe him, but he – and another version of him – has been a regular at every gym I've ever frequented. This is a fat guy. Not a guy with some fat on him, but an actual fat guy. He is easily well north of 300 lbs. And he's (a) really really strong, and/or (b) able to maintain a high pace on a treadmill or other cardio machine for a really long time.

Her Ladyship, the Ligament-less. Watching this woman stretch makes me wonder if her body is made of muscle and bone at all, or if she's really some alien whose body is made of some form of stretchy super-polymer or something. I doubt I was that limber at birth.

The docs. This is a trio of three guys who are always there when I'm there. They do their own workouts, but they also socialize amongst themselves, often talking shop, the sound of which implies that they are doctors of some sort. They'll do their own thing for a while, and then they'll just sort of congregate around a certain machine, at which point they'll converse for about a minute. You can tell when the conversation ends because all three of them burst out into loud laughter before going back to whatever it was they were doing in the first place.

The strong couple. This man and woman are hard-core. Both could beat the crap right out of me. You can tell they're super-serious about their workouts. They're focused and they use impeccable form in every exercise they do. If you overhear their discussion, they're talking about protein consumption and how much weight they need to work each muscle to overload. They're fun to watch and a bit inspirational.

Endurance guy. This fellow is skinny as a rail and is all about the endurance. He'll get on a treadmill for the full thirty-minute period that the gym allows, and when that time is up, he'll jump off and onto another treadmill for another thirty minutes. Sometimes he'll come over to the weight training area, whereupon he'll hop onto a machine, set the weight for a fairly low number and then proceed to do about fifty reps without break. There's no doubt that I'm stronger than this guy, and there's also no doubt that if we both entered a distance race, I'd be dead on the ground about half an hour before he even started to break a sweat.

The not-so-strong couple. This couple is interesting to watch in another way. It's clear that they're both interested in exercising, but the girl is obviously more interested in doing something else, exercise-wise. He's into weights, while she wants to stretch, do a little bit of resistance training, and work on her cardio. So she's hanging out with him by the weights, trying not to look bored as he talks about his workouts just loudly enough for others to hear about what he's doing. He'll never admit it, but he sees her as his trophy chick. When you see one of these couples, you can bank on seeing the guy back to working out by himself within a matter of weeks.

The kids who won't move their asses. I hate these kids. They annoy the hell out of me. There are usually four or five of them, all from the same school, and they're working out together. Which means that these bozos will set up camp on one machine and take turns on the damned thing for ridiculously long periods of time. The leader of the pack will be wearing a t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off; the next guy down will be wearing a tank top. The newest member of the club is in a t-shirt and you can overhear him asking the other guys if he's doing it right. The answer is always "No", not because the kid's actually not doing it right, but because the leader-guy wants to show off his knowledge.

Sweaty comb-over guy. This is obviously an older man who is working out with sufficient intensity to get his head sweaty to the point that his combover loses its structural integrity, so those wisps of long hair that he has earlier in the day meticulously arranged atop his melon so as to convey the illusion of hair (an illusion which fools no one) are now protruding from his scalp in all directions.

The walk-in-the-park girls. These are women of any age who use adjacent cardio machines – treadmills, ellipticals, anything – as a way of keeping in touch with one another. They cheerfully gossip away as they walk or pedal or whatever.

Garbage-bag guy. This fellow wears workout clothes that look like they're made of black garbage bags. Seriously. They're real workout clothes, but they're shiny and crinkly like garbage bags. This dude looks weird, every time I see him.

Office-at-the-gym Man. Here's a guy who brings paperwork from his office, which he then does while pedaling away on a stationary bike. I have no idea how he manages to do this, but there he is, pen in hand and flipping through a manila folder of stuff every time he's there, all the while getting all sweaty on the bike. I'm not sure if I admire this multi-tasking skill of his or not. Probably not.

The Lit Critic. This woman always reads on the bike or treadmill she's using. Nothing abnormal here; lots of folks read. I remember her because one time I was on the bike next to hers at the moment she decided that the book she was reading was apparently crap, because she suddenly said, "This book sucks!" and dropped it on the floor.

The business woman. This lady does cardio only; I've never seen her do anything weight-training related. She's extremely trim and fit, she works out with her machine set at high levels of intensity, she always reads a business magazine, and she never, ever, ever, sweats. She could probably pay someone more than I make in a year to erase my existence from the planet.

Range-of-motion man. This guy cracks me up. I love watching him. When I started going to the Y, three years ago, I saw a Harley chopper parked in the lot, and as soon as I saw this fellow, I knew that it was his. And sure enough, when he left, it was. He looks a bit doughy at first, but he's clearly got muscle underneath it. Dark hair, dark beard, and dark body hair. He puts the maximum weight on every machine, but when he starts the exercise, he only budges the weight a few inches one way or the other...but he does dozens of reps like that. I'm not sure how this workout benefits him – I've always read that working a muscle through its entire range of motion is key – but it must, because he's really strong, apparently. He can lift all that weight in the first place, but he'd likely be a lot stronger – and shapelier – if he actually exhibited decent form!

Techno-rower. I don't see this guy all that often. He likes the rowing machines, and he has a rowing program on his laptop, which he hooks up to the rowing machine so it can track his progress with scrolling graphs and an animated guy on a rowboat that pushes and pulls the oars in tandem with whatever our guy does in real life. I'm not sure what the point of the whole laptop thing is, but there he is, tracking his progress or something.

The iPod addicts. There are many of these folks, male and female. Their purpose is to take up space, standing in the way, oblivious to all things around them like other people, while they scroll through their songlists and playlists in search of a tune to play during their next burst of ninety seconds of exercise. These folks are pretty annoying.

Flannel man. This old geezer – sorry, there's no other word for him – shows up to work out in jeans and a flannel shirt. I'm always afraid he's going to give himself heat stroke. In January.

The lady who looks like another lady I used to work with so I always end up staring at her too long as I try to figure out if she's really the lady I used to work with. Only she isn't, so I end up looking creepy. She's not unlike The teenage girl who goes to my church but whom I couldn't recognize in her gym clothes so I stared at her a little too long trying to figure out why she looks so damned familiar.

The overweight folks approaching middle age who go to the Y in hopes that they can recapture some of whatever these younger, and deeply annoying, people still have going for them. Sadly, I fall into this last category myself!


Roger Owen Green said...

yes, I've seen most of these archetypes at my now defunct Y

Quince said...

Before Ipods I was probably known as the sweaty giggler or Mr. disoriented. I would wear a cheap version of a walkman (one with an antenna) that would inevitably get bad reception unless I tilted my head a certain way and walked sideways.

To make matters worse, sometimes the only station I could get was some silly thing on AM that would make me giggle out loud occasionally.

Call me Paul said...

I listen to an iPod when I'm on the treadmill, but not to music. I need some better kind of distraction or I bored with the exercise right away, so I listen to podcasts - which usually results in the same thing Quance mentioned: I laugh out loud to something only I can hear, and everyone around me looks at the crazy man.