Which Gym Personality Are You?

6 Apr

It doesn’t matter whether I’m in elite Equinox or state-of-the-art Boston University or the hilariously geeky over-looked cousin, MIT, or the cushy Joint Ventures or Sports Club LA facilities.  They all boast a smorgasbord of the same characters.  And yes, some are better than others.

The Gym Rat – Aka, Meathead

He strides around simultaneously emitting an air of busied importance while strutting his stuff like a vain peacock. He wears the same unwashed basketball jersey or cut-off shirt all week and appears to do the same exercises every week (heavy weights, low reps, jump up and strut, repeat).  He’s far too busy and buff to put back weights when he’s done with them and God forbid you ask if you can swap in on a bench he’s been using.

Too Cool for School – Aka, Mr. Celebrity

Which is why he’s in the gym.  He’s like the cooler younger brother of Meathead.  A little strutting and preening but mostly he’s here to workout.  And look good for the ladies. And not be in school.  Efficiency is not his strength.  He’ll get his hour of lifting done but it may take 2-3 hours as he needs to stop and chat – meet his social responsibilities.  On the plus side, if you’re a female, he’ll graciously spot you/show you correct form and/or provide any pointers you need.  Just don’t get jealous when he bounces off mid-rep to go welcome another face into his fan club.

I Watched A Video – Aka, Mr. (Geek) Universe

I’m going to try to stay out of hot water by not mentioning any specific ethnicities but, at least at MIT, it is not uncommon to see  someone watching an exercise on YouTube on their phone/IPad/laptop and then trying to replicate it.  If the electronics aren’t a dead giveaway, the fact that they use the exact same weight as the YouTube video is.  You only have to watch a guy doing exercises with 3 pound weights while I use 20 pounders to know that that he’s replicating a Jane Fonda video rather than modifying.

What, Gyms Have Rules – Aka, The Newbies

Here’s a short checklist to help you spot and help them (only solicit advice if you can give it in a non-condescending and patronizing manner). Otherwise, just observe from afar:

  • Wrong Apparel – jeans/Crocs/sandals/lace blouses/skirts on the treadmill/etc.
  • Mimicry – copying is a form of flattery but when they are staring at you while you do crunches and doing the exact same ones in the exact same order, it gets a little annoying (unless they’ve previously asked if they can copy your routine)
  • Headphones plugged into a treadmill jack, then forgotten about, leading to some sudden and vicious whiplash
  • No idea how to push any of the buttons on any of the machines
  • No idea how to put benches up/down (or you could just be inept like me)

One Rep King and Lady of the Multitude – Aka, More is More

He’s the guy who thrives on increasing his one rep maximum.  So he’ll spend 15 minutes setting up to dead lift for one rep (maybe 300 pounds) and then he’ll pace and breathe and prepare himself for his ordeal.  In the meantime, you’ve managed to do 3 sets of bench press, 3 sets of chest press and 3 of shoulder press.  You’re sweating and thinking about dinner. He’s thinking about his one rep.  And then it happens – sometimes a thing of glory, sometimes a very loud bang when the bar comes crashing back to its final resting spot.  And he goes away happy, if not entirely healthier.

On the flip side, we find Lady of the Multitude.  She takes the “low weight but high rep” philosophy a tad far.  Worried about getting bulky muscles, she dutifully does lateral and front arm raises with a 1 or 2 pound dumbbell, maybe even a 5 pound one.  30. 40. 50. reps.  And then goes away frustrated and exhausted because she worked out for an hour, managed to do 2 exercises and doesn’t even feel a burn.

OCD is a Way of Life – Aka, Mr Sterilizer

After choosing his piece of gym equipment, he begins the sterilization process.  God forbid that any sweat or germs from someone else should be passed on to him.  Ignoring the fact that 10 minutes of spraying means 10 more minutes being in the same space, breathing the same air, as potentially germ-infested people, he sprays and waits and wipes. And you watch in horror, while a very deep puddle of cleaning solution travels towards you, soaking everything in its path.

(Editor’s Note: I should mention that I am a tad OCD, too.  You will never see me do an odd number of reps unless it is a multiple of 5.  10 and 16 and even 15 are good numbers.  17 and 19 are BAD.  I don’t care about poor form, I will eke out one more miserable rep just to make sure I don’t end up with an annoying odd number.)

The Spa Experience – Aka, Gossip Girls

The gym is really a luxurious experience.  Sure, you’re going to sweat but as long as you arrive fully armored in Lululemon clothing, wearing makeup and maybe accessories, clutching a stack of celebrity magazines (for elliptical dish sessions) and exercise magazines (from which you choose 1-2 exercises to attempt) you can pretend it’s just a spa-extension. Plus, Too Cool for School will be checking you out while you pretend to not check him checking you out.

The Rest of Us Poor Sods 

We have a system.  We’re reasonably comfortable with the free weights and the mechanized ones. We follow gym etiquette: ask before you sub in or borrow a piece of equipment.  Pick up after yourself and after the Meatheads. Don’t hog something for too long (to the Russian wrestlers the other day – really?  You needed to do 12 sets of one exercise?). We have a goal – work out efficiently and to the point of fatigue – then move on with our day.  The gym serves a purpose – to get fit/stay healthy/lose weight/help us reach a goal/help us in injury recovery.  We do not use the gym as our personal Linked In Live – social and professional networking never needs to be done in shorts and sweat-resistant clothing.

And Then There’s Me

Where to start.  Some days I cannot figure out how to get the benches to move up and down.  Some days I cannot remember if I need to chest press with 30 lbs or 20  lbs. Some days my triceps won’t stay still during triceps extensions and my friend has to hold my elbows firmly for me.  Some days I want to rip through the lifting and go eat a hamburger.  Other times, I enjoy the downtime – the 1-2 minutes before someone finishes his set and we have to swap the weights. Some days I like how my legs look pressing 280 pounds.  Some days I like how my shoulders look when pressing 60 pounds to the ceiling.  Some days I have fat arms and chunky thighs.  I swear the mirrors play tricks with me.  Some days I am so astounded by other people’s lack of etiquette, that I stand there gaping, getting in everyone’s way.  Thereby becoming the very person I am astounded by. Some days I argue about how much weight I should lift and how many reps to do.  Which has led to one friend instituting a rule whereby he makes the decisions and there is no arguing with him.  And some days I know what I’m doing and confidently set up the machines, grab the weights, stack the grip clips, remember how to adjust the machine for leg curls.

Then there are days like yesterday, when I find myself stuck in the calf raise machine with many more pounds than I weigh bearing down on me, 30 reps done.  Just like I was told.  But I can’t get out of the machine.  Because I didn’t think to save any energy for “locking” the machine back into place. And I sit trapped waiting for rescue.  And I think “I will never judge another gym-goer because at least they don’t get stuck pinned into machines.  So who cares if they wear jeans and dress shoes and use 2 pound weights?  At least they aren’t stuck here at the mercy of their friend who is busy doing back raises and has no idea of my dilemma.”  And then you find rescue, forget about your entrapment, complete your back raises and head back to the evil machine only to hear your friend call out with a tone that leaves no room for arguing “Don’t go near that machine again until I’m there with you!”

And you stand there embarrassed.  Hoping no one has pegged you as the official Gym Weakling. Only to realize that the Meathead is preening, Too Cool for School is socializing, Gossip Girl is pretending that socializing is just a mere byproduct of her greater gym goals (and not the actual goal), Mr. (Geek) Universe can’t find his WiFi connection, One Rep King is preparing for his great Guinness Record Book feat, Lady of the Multitudes is counting down “39, 29, 28…” and Mr. Sterilizer is advancing on you with the Windex.

And then you see them…the Newbies.  Huddled in a corner.  Sobs racking their bodies as they contemplate the fact that you, a gym regular, was beaten and subdued by a mere machine.  Another Newbie bites the dust.  Two more sign up for an Intro to the Gym class.  The fourth one invites you for a drink.

Which you can’t accept because that calf raise machine is taunting you from the corner and you have a score to settle.


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One Response to “Which Gym Personality Are You?”

  1. Meg April 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    You forgot a category: “Danger, Will Robinson!” This gym user will fall off the elliptical machine EVERY TIME, sometimes getting on and sometimes getting off, sometimes in the middle. This gym user will try to get off the treadmill without unplugging their headphones and get jerked back. This gym user will get their t-shirt caught in the weight machines and their pant leg caught on the pedal of the stationary bike. This gym user will fall down the three stairs on their way to the bathroom. They will hopefully not do all of these things in the same gym visit, but since you never know, you should keep an eye on them because if you don’t want to watch TV the “Danger, Will Robinsons!” are highly entertaining.

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