Gym Classes

Running Girl and I went to our gym out in suburbs today.  This unusual for me.  I usually frequent the downtown gym.

Time was, I used to get up at 5:20, pull on the pile of clothes that I had carefully stacked next to the bed, and drive the 1.7 to the gym.  I was then among the orthodox waiting for the doors to open at 5:30.

Yes, I was one of those people.

On my way to gym.

I felt great all day.  I knew I was burning fat as I sat at my desk.  Also, even if I screwed up the entire day’s events, at least I had done one thing right.

Of course, I would fall asleep on the couch at about 9:00 at night.  Yep, I was pretty much a farmer.

"I'll try not to wake you, little fella."

The 5:30 crowd was wonderful.  Not much conversation there — just dedicated athletes gettin’ their sweat on.

During one period, I took about a year’s sabbatical from the gym.  Not my finest 8,765 hours.

When the prodigal gym son returned, my morning crew was all there.  They greeted me (with nods and grunts) as if I had never left.  If they talked, they would have said, “We knew you’d be back.”

Then, I got talked into something.  It was my friend, Jon.  He’s a smooth talker.

Not only did I switch from being a crack-of-dawn gym guy to a noonday gym rat, I also traded gyms.

I began frequenting the downtown location.

Have your assistant call my assistant.

More talking.  Longer pauses between sets.  But, more professional colleagues to interact with.  I found that I was frequently getting business done in the weight rooms, on the treadmills, in the locker room, and occasionally while waiting for a shower.

Back to today.  Saturdays are a madhouse at the gym.  The attendees are not the 5:30 adepts.  And they are certainly not the courteous professionals of downtown.

Saturdays at the gym feature the weird and the wonderful.  Okay, mainly the weird.  But, I think both Benny and the Jets are there.

Saturday people feel they own the gym.  They stand in the aisles between machines and refuse to politely move aside until you insist.

Saturday people.

Saturday people put their stuff on one piece of machinery only to wander away and use two other machines.

Saturday people leave their gym bags in the middle of the aisle in the locker room, and their shoes in front of your locker.

If they’ve been swimming, they’ll leave you a generous puddle that soaks through your socks.

The paradox is that Saturday is usually the day when you have the longest amount of free time for your workout.  But, you want to get out of the gym as quickly as possible — because of the inconsiderate people there.

Now, a word about rats.  You’ve got your black rats (rattus rattus) and your brown rats (rattus norvegicus).

Today, we’re going to talk about the rattus gymnasticus.  And we’ll talk about its sub-genuses (sub-genii?) as well.

Let’s explore some of these classes of gym rats:

"Yo Snookie. We'll be right there."

The Meatball —Hey Vinny, Marky, Dion.  One of you’se gonna’ give me a spot or what?”  The meatball certainly has the pecks, delts, lats, bi’s and tri’s in abundance.  Unfortunately, he don’t got the cerebrum, celebellum or cortex to go along with those muscles.  The meatball usually neatly combs his hair…with the Exxon Valdez.  He invariably leaves behind a spot on the equipment — either grease or sweat.  But, he never cleans it up.

He’s generous to a fault — with his cologne, B.O. or cigarette stench.  He’s also overly willing to share his stimulating idea of conversation with people all around him.  The Meatball’s disappointment at not having a Jersey Shore reality show about him is palpable.  If some kind-hearted producer would just…”Hey girls.  You need some help with those free weights?  I wouldn’t want you to break a nail or nothin’.”

The Princess — “Daddy paid for my apartment, my car, my insurance and, of course, my gym membership.”  Designer nails and designer nose.  Although not really into the whole “sweating” thing, these sisters see the utility in having toned thighs, calves and shaped abs.  Without it, their carefully acquired tanning-booth bronzage would not complete the package.  Besides, how better to check out the action without appearing to check out the action than at the gym?  “Just don’t approach me, okay?

Old Man Balls — “You know what the problem with America is nowadays?  I’ll tell you.  Nobody wants to work anymore.  I remember back when…”  There he is.  You can’t escape him.  He envelopes you in his loud voice.  He has been working out at that gym since the day it opened.  Before that, somewhere else.  He has not purchased new gym clothes in all that time.  He is wearing the same old ratty t-shirt and too small shorts that he rocks every single time you see him.  Despite his frequency in gym attendance, the only two muscles that receive a thorough workout there are pterygoids and the masseters — the jaw muscles.

Otherwise, gravity has had a devastating effect on his body.  The extent of this is fully revealed to you each time you enter the locker room because OMB insists on promenading in the buff.  I think it’s an old YMCA thing, from back before girls were allowed in the gym.  These old mastodons love to be naked in the locker rooms, in the sauna, in the steamer, etc.  They even shave naked at the sinks.  As for the title that I have given them, the only thing lower than my spirits in seeing them is their sagging, worn out, weathered…gym bag.

Rest in peace, Great Soul.

Jack LaLanne — Not the real Jack.  These guys are his prodigy.  They defy genetics, gravity and the calendar.  Their pecs are tighter than yours.  Although their biceps have migrated a little bit southward, they can still perform 50 lb. curls.  Contrasted with Old Man Balls, these gents are a beacon of hope to us all.  Perhaps I’ll look like that when I’m their age?  Who are we kidding?

The Truly Bizarre — Where do they come from?  As Paul McCartney inquired musically, Where do they all belong? Some of them are dressed normally — except for the sunglasses they are sporting in the darkened weight room.  I’ve found that you can tune out their mutterings by setting your iPod up to decibel-splitting levels.  Nevertheless, like a minivan rolled over a guardrail, despite your discipline, good breeding and perfect manners — you can’t freakin’ look away.

There is something utterly intriguing about the mentally ill in the gym space.  Maybe it’s that there’s usually not a whole lot of other things to look at?  I just can’t put my finger on it.  And they use the equipment in the most creative way imaginable, stacking benches on top of each other while hooking up mismatching grips to devices not designed to accommodate them.  I suppose we should all be grateful for the entertainment provided free of charge during our workouts.

For God's sakes, don't they have a shirt requirement here?

Thor — Perfect face, perfect muscles, perfect hair, perfect teeth.  You know what I’m talking about.  You look on in wonder as you watch him move the entire stack of machine plates up and down as if they were a mere annoyance.  He gives you false hope when you see him bench-pressing the same weight as your maximum.  “He’s just like me,” you think.  Then you realize that he is just limbering up.   He then goes on to stack on 45 lb. plates as if they were Cheerios.

“He probably has no real life outside the gym,” you conclude — for the human condition is ever-inclined toward hopefulness.  Then you see his wife/girlfriend/whatever who looks like she just stepped off the pages of your favorite lingerie catalogue.  You want to hate him, but you can’t.  You just want to be him.  You follow him out to the parking lot as he strolls confidently toward his “much-bettter-than-yours” car.  Along the way, he stops to squat a Buick.

Cellphone Sally — We’ll keep this short.  She must die.  The treadmills and weight benches are no place for a running commentary on nothingness.  Perhaps we can arrange a convenient “accident” involving a heavy apparatus.  The only visible part of Sally that will be sticking out will be her scrawny, white hand frantically clutching her Nokia.  “Sally?  Are you still there?” it will chirp.


The Distraction —  Guys, ladies.  You know what I’m talking about.  There she is in front of you wearing too small, too tight shorts and a spandex top which is doing its level best trying to accommodate her “gym kittens” which seem to be utterly intent on jumping out.  For the ladies, it’s probably Thor (above).  There ought to be a law against this sort of thing at the gym.  In the meantime, I guess we’ll all just have to suffer through it.

Ah, indoor physical fitness.  Where is thy sting?

— The Major

The Major, c. 2045.


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