Thursday, September 17, 2015

Observations from the gym

Years and years ago--think decades--when I was much younger, I had a gym membership at Bally's. I'd go periodically, hit a few machines, do a little lifting, and maybe play some racquetball. But I was certainly no gym rat. I joined with the best of intentions, of course: to gawk at women in spandex and to maybe improve my own physique just a tad. But like many people who join gyms, those intentions only served to get me to the gym once and a while (though Bally's happily charged me month after month). I knew I had to wise up and make a choice: make full use of the gym or stop pretending. I chose the latter.

Now as I said, this was some time ago. No regrets from me on that account, since I found other avenues--for a time--to stay in shape, or some reasonable facsimile thereof. I biked, I walked, I swam, I had jobs that required some physical exertion. All was well. Especially when the first two kids came along. They really kept me active. Aside from all of the stroller pushing and running around on playgrounds, there was softball, football, and basketball, sports my kids played where I joined in as a coach or assistant coach. You want an arm workout? Try two hours of pitching batting practice. Of course, the kids got older--they're both in high school now--and either moved on from these activities or no longer required my help.

But in the middle of all this came kid number three. And while there was still some of the same initial stuff--the stroller and the playground--I found myself growing tired much more quickly, owing no doubt to the fact that I was ten years older when kid number three was born, as opposed to kid number one. So I tried to do something about it: I ran. And I still run, even though I really don't like it much, because it keeps me healthy, keeps my heart strong. True enough, I go through extended periods when I fail to get out there, but I always manage to break out of these funks. Still, I found myself feeling my own mortality in new ways, probably because I could see my fiftieth birthday on the horizon (that's right, I'll be in my fifties and still have a kid in elementary school).

So, I went back to the gym. Well, to be fair, I joined a gym--L.A. Fitness, basically another Bally's--at the end of last year. I went a couple of times early on, but then fell into the same old pattern: I'd think about going, but would find a reason to put it off until "tomorrow." Halfway through the summer however (for some reasons I'm not going into), I forced myself to start going in earnest, at least three times a week. Many weeks, I've gone five or even six times.

A few months have gone by now and I have to admit to feeling a need to go. I feel better after working out, have more energy and am simply happier with myself. And I gather that's the way it's supposed to work. Oh, if only I'd figured this out in my twenties. But I digress...

Anyway, after almost three months of a serious approach to working out, I feel entitled to offer some observations on the whole gym scene, some serious, some less so, but all--I think--accurate:

1) Variety is the key to working out, just as it is the key to so many other things. Since I still run, I'm not that worried about cardio or even my lower body, but I can't just do nothing but arm curls and bench presses, right?

2) Most people are slobs, so bring a towel if you're going to the gym. When I finish on a machine or a mat, I always wipe it down. I thought this was protocol, but it appears to no longer be the case, given how many people I see drip sweat all over the equipment, then simply walk away when they are done.

3) It's very hip to lug around a gallon jug of water, especially if you're using free weights, even if you only end up drinking about a third of it. Me, I stick to my smaller squeeze bottle, given the fact that most gyms have water fountains.

4) People need to read the instructions on the equipment before using it. It's amazing to me how many people consistently use this stuff incorrectly, who--for instance--don't adjust seat heights and the like and fail to target the muscle group a particular machine was built for.

5) In that same light: isometric holds. If you have a limited time to work out, you should try to maximize your results, no?

6) Weight training first, cardio second. Seriously people, I know I'm still something of a novice but this is basic stuff. Yet, I see person after person--always decked out in top-of-the-line gear--do the reverse.

7) And in that same light, gym outfits have become much more interesting. Seriously, some of the leggings women wear just...well, enough said.

8) Stairmasters suck. Okay, not really. They're great, but they kill me (which, of course, is the point). The first ten minutes or so are no big deal, but after that...gah! I have to admit that the most impressive thing I see are the people--usually women--who not only hit those things for an hour, but do all kinds of additional movements on the stairs. Awesome stuff.

9) I have noticed that there are primarily two kinds of people at the gym: those who walk away from a machine leaving the weight settings as they used them, and those who feel compelled to increase the weight when they are done. Seriously. It's as though they think the next person who uses the machine will somehow be impressed by the higher setting, never mind that they have no idea who used the machine last. Are people really that shallow? Well...

10) Oh. My. God. The mirrors! Some people check themselves out constantly. I was in the locker room once and another guy there--younger than me, to be sure--could not take his eyes off of his reflection. He went to the mirror and posed every time he put on an article of clothing, including when he put on his hat and backpack!

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to hit the gym!


  1. One of my top gym pet peeves is the (are the?) people who don't wipe down the machines. Ew. You should be allowed to rat tail them with your towel. Them and the people who don't take the weight plates off when they're finished. And with that, I have to go find a new gym since mine is closing. Ugh. :D

  2. I'm thankful that I stick with just riding a bike along the bike trails near my house. I had a gym membership well over a decade ago, and the clientele weren't much different then.

  3. Hi!
    Really great post. Your reflection is so wow that its stuck my eyes. Really great... :-)

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