Tuesday, January 9, 2018


I have no idea what this guy was doing last night at the 
gym. As I did ab crunches, he stayed like this for more than
five minutes. Sleeping? Had he passed out. I later worried,
but when I went back, he was gone. Power napping...
I always cringe through January. It’s because I’m so routine-oriented and all these well-intentioned people suddenly (over)populate the gym. Suddenly, my favorite machine for working my calf muscles—at least, I think that’s what it’s for—always has someone on it. The 52.5-pound dumbbells which no one but me EVER takes (Seriously, every other gym regular thinks, Who can’t move up in 5-pound increments? *Raises hand.*) It’s even a challenge to grab a mat to do a few ab crunches.

I try to prepare for the change. After all, I’ve been going to gyms regularly for almost thirty years. In this month especially, I avoid the peak time of 5-7 p.m. whenever possible. (Mornings are out. I’d just drop weights on myself or the pour sap beside me.) I have a good sense of the most popular weights and have my radar on for the first opening. SWOOP! Above all, I try to smile through frustration and be more flexible with what will constitute a full workout.

Two years ago, I wrote a January post to encourage new users to truly commit to the gym and to disregard all that looked intimidating and chaotic. But I do have some pet peeves that I thought I’d share this time around. You might relate. You might be the culprit and think you have a reasonable defense. You might just think I’m a cranky, old man.


10. Leaving a towel on a bench or seat after you are done with your workout. (At my gym, there is laundry service so towels are provided. This is great, but it also means some people don’t care where they leave them. Your mother would be ashamed! Practically speaking, the abandoned towel creates confusion to other gym users. “Is someone still working out here?” I’ve seen a piece of equipment unused for over half an hour because of towel abandonment issues. Same goes for leaving your weights by that bench. All this relates to the next peeve:

9. Not using a towel when you work out. I’ve belonged to other gyms where towels were not provided. I was one of the few who always brought one. It’s true, I sweat more than others—not like you’ll feel a squirt as you pass by—Eww!—but that big ol’ perspiration stain doesn’t take long to form and grow. There have been so many times when sweaty men don’t bother with a towel—even when they’re provided. I’m not sure what the thinking is. Hey, dude. I’m a man. I sweat. Deal. But when the towel-averse guy moves on from one bench to another apparatus, the wetness on the padding is his departing gift. And suddenly I’m thinking I don’t really need to do chest inclines today.

8. Guys who get powder stuff all over. It reminds of back when Ivan Lendl played tennis (I really am showing my age!) and he’d pull out sawdust from his pocket to help his grip on every serve. Lendl was playing for tens of thousands of dollars, swanky trophies and courtside chats with the Duke and Duchess of Kent at Wimbledon. Ostensibly, the powder helps with your grip too but I’m thinking, if it comes down to powder on your hands and everywhere else in a one-meter radius, just lower the weight. Your ego may suffer, but we’ll all feel a bit better about our gym. Thanks.

7. Guys who want everyone to know their regimen goes beyond the gym. You know the ones. They find a buddy and go on and on—loudly—about the two pounds of chicken they’ve had today along with three cans of tuna, the oatmeal and the avocado. Oh, wait! That’s not just today. That’s every day for the past month. Yeah, yeah,…we get it. You’re dedicated. And it’s true, you’re way more ripped than I am. (Truth: I’m not at all.) But the diet just sounds like a downer. Suffer in silence, will ya?

6. Fake users. We’ve all seen them. They’re often on the mats, stretching only their mouths. It’s always a convoluted anecdote about something someone’s sister’s best friend’s fourth cousin said and did at a party—or was it a funeral—last weekend. And there’s always the companion who keeps things going with the courteous “uh-huh”. (Stop that!) Or there’s the guy on the gym floor who knows himself well enough not to get too close to any particular machine or bench. He’s just putting in time. It doesn’t matter what the topic is. He can babble three sets worth on the football game this weekend, four to six sets about the tricks for changing a car’s oil (I really should listen…nah!) and finish up his gym experience with the dramatic saga of how his knees aren’t what they used to be. Who is he really kidding? Just go to the bar already!

5. Noise makers. Granted, the gym is not a library. But how is it that 95% of the members can inhale and exhale, lift and put down weights without, in the words of Madonna, causing a commotion? (I have a hunch these noise makers don’t look to Madonna to finish their sentences.) Do they really want to be compared to notorious tennis court grunters Maria Sharapova and Monica Seles? I recently tweeted about a guy who didn’t grunt while lifting; he actually growled. Made me laugh. Not a good thing when I’m lifting weights over my head, even if they’re only ten pounds. 

4. Weight misplacers. If it says 40 on the barbell or dumbbells, that’s where the 40-pound weights go. You chose to do something—I can’t imagine what—with the 110s. You carry them back to their well-marked spot. Thanks. It helps everyone have a more efficient workout. (Please don’t make me have to make my way through all the Hulks in the area with the heaviest weights just to grab the 40 dumbbells since that was the only open spot for the previous user.)

3. Locker room slobs. Admittedly, I’m not the tidiest person. But where I leave my socks at home is for only me to make sense of the spectacle. When I finished my workout at the gym last night, I went in and a dozen locker doors were wide open. (Everyone uses locks so it’s not done to let people know which lockers are vacant.) Towels were tossed about everywhere. Who raised you? Again I say, Your mother would be ashamed! I’ve smashed my head on an open locker more than once. I’ve seen cleaning staff walk in and look demoralized. These are the same people who have to mop up all the misfires at the urinal. Give them a break.

2. Machine savers. These people like to work more than one muscle at a time with more than one machine at a time. That’s typically what I do. A decade or so ago, circuit training was a fad and people jumped from station to station. The gym I went to had lights and bells signalling when it was time to stop resting and move to the next set at the next station. The fad faded quickly. Still, I think there is something to the notion that, if you’re working separate muscles concurrently, the rest time is reduced and you can be more efficient in completing a workout. I bounce about, but I do so knowing that a bench or a machine I was using may be taken by someone else while I went elsewhere to do a set of lat pulldowns. Fine. I can come back. No big deal. But there are others who are risk-averse and self-centered. They save the bench by leaving a towel, the weights and their water bottle there while they do pulldowns elsewhere. They have another towel and keys that they leave there. Thus, both places are taken by one person. How convenient! How clever! How rude. The gym is not theirs alone and all of us want to get in and get out ASAP. People like this should buy one of those complete workout contraptions for their basement—the kind you see a smooth-muscled guy use on 2 a.m. infomercials—and have at it.

1. Prolonged texters. I could write a separate post on this. Drives me crazy and it’s only getting worse. It’s completely normalized. There is this notion that the cell phone is an essential component of a workout. (I use mine on the exercise bike or when jogging outdoors, but I’m exercising while using the device.) As I look around during a quick rest at any place in the gym, there are guys sitting at machines and benches, texting away, watching videos, scrolling through social media and even taking selfies. They sit. And sit. And sit. Five minutes can pass. I am certain that quad muscle is well rested. In fact, it’s cold now. People do like their rest time and I am convinced that many lose track of how long they are actually looking at their phones between sets. Addiction, habit…I don’t know. When I first went to gyms, it was workout partners who would get lost in drawn-out conversations between sets. Then it was cell phone users, answering a call from their buddy or girlfriend about plans for later. As the cell phone has taken on more functions, it’s impacted gym time even more.

YES! How do I become a member?
Last night three of us—people who didn’t know one another—were waiting for the cables and a guy stood there texting away. I’ve seen him before. He gets noticed not for his biceps but for his prolonged texting. “How many more sets do you have?” I asked, which has become clear code for, There are people waiting. He had one more. And then he continued another three minutes of texting. What is that? Passive aggressiveness? A need to assert control after a bad day at work? He actually built a sense of community as the three of us who followed figured out how to quickly adjust the machine for smooth transitions in sharing the machine. As an aside, none of us had our phones anywhere in sight.

All right. I continue to believe we can be more thoughtful people even as we sweat it out. Good luck with your personal fitness goals this year. Don’t let the gym—and it sloppy grunters—intimidate you. But if you look up from your phone and see an older guy glaring, by all means, get out of the way!

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