Exercising Judgments

I approach the gym with a sense of dread.  Not because I don’t want to work out, but because I can’t take the woman who works the front counter.  She’s aggressively friendly.  As I approach, she’s coiled to strike, ready to jump up with her perky “Good morning!” as she scans me in.  I can barely bring myself to make eye contact with her.

I dump my sweats in the locker room and head out to exercise area.  As I make my way over to the treadmills, I see a regular stretching over by the aerobics room.  He’s an attention whore.  He stretches next to the high-traffic areas, so no one can avoid seeing him without shutting their eyes.  And when he lifts weights everyone in the place knows it.




He should just be honest and scream “LOOK AT ME!!!”  For all his preening and posing, he doesn’t do much actual conditioning.  If he spends an hour at the gym, about ten minutes of it goes to actual exercise.  The rest is posing and sitting around the weight benches trying to look worn out from the last set he did.

The seniors are already out in full force.  Early morning at the gym is like their happy hour.  They linger among the weight machines, often with one sitting on the machine, chatting away and blocking any others from using it.  If the old guys aren’t chatting up one another, they are trying to flirt with any female that will talk to them, or at least let them talk and pretend to pay attention.

As much as I want to tell them to get the hell off the bench, I can’t bring myself to yell at the seniors.  Not because I’m polite, but because I fear the repercussions.  They think they own the place.  I envision coming back to the gym the next day and every machine in the place being taken up by a senior who just sits there, creepily looking at me.

To be fair, dealing with the seniors is not as bad as the kids who overtake the place in the evening.  The last time I worked out at night I was down to my last weight station, and was patiently waiting for a young guy to finish his sets.  As I waited, he finished a set and then pulled out a cell phone and started talking.  A cellphone.  Seriously.  It’s hard to imagine a bigger jackass move at the gym.

I get on a treadmill, put the headphone on, and start jogging.  After a few minutes I wonder if something is wrong with my iPod.  I’m listening to a podcast of a talk radio show, but for some reason a singing voice is now intruding.  Then I realize the voice is coming from my right.  It’s the person on the elliptical machine next to me.  She’s rocking out on her headphones, but feels the need to sing along with her tunes.  I’d be annoyed by this even if she sang well.  I turn my own headphones up, then up a little more.  I reach for the volume control again, but I realize that I can’t turn them up enough to drown out the singer without causing permanent damage to my ears.  I soldier on, trying to concentrate harder on my podcast.

My gym is not what’s considered chic or hip.  It’s not one of those places where beautiful people come decked out in top flight athletic gear.  Choices in gym attire range from entertaining to downright perplexing.  That said, there are some fashion barriers that shouldn’t be crossed.  A quick scan of the gym reveals the typical fashion offenders.

Jeans.  Working out and denim do not mix.  Yet, there it is, just down the row of treadmills.  I guess you can argue that people go for walks in jeans, so walking on the treadmill really is not different.  But some of the denim-wearers lift weights, too.  It’s just not right.

Bras.  Another fashion crime walks in front of me as I jog.  It’s commonplace for women to wear clothes that do not hide their bra straps, and with sports bras at the gym this is especially true.  What passes before me, however, was not a fashionable sports bra.  This woman is showing the big white straps of her Playtex granny bra.  I’ll say this for her, she’s wearing it proudly.  But it’s awful.

Small clothes, big bodies.  Look, I applaud those who are … on the bigger side … and are trying to get themselves in shape.  But would it kill them to wear clothes that fit?  The oversize guy in front of me on a stationary bike might as well be a plumber, and a large woman a few stations down is wearing a top that would be too tight on a 10-year-old child.  C’mon …

Unitards.  Thankfully, none in sight this morning, but the unitard has made and appearance here before.  Unless you’re wrestling for Olympic gold, unitards are not acceptable.  Ever.

Workout complete, I duck back into the locker room to weigh myself and then gather my things to leave.  The locker room has its own visual assault, but it does not involve clothes.  Guys in their fifties and older have absolutely no self-consciousness when it comes to walking around naked.  The older the guy, the more likely he just doesn’t care anymore about how he looks in the birthday suit.  Did I already mention that my gym is full of people who are not exactly in great shape?  I know, it the men’s locker room, after all, so maybe I’m the one with the problem.  Perhaps I’m just worried I’ll be one of these guys one day.

I leave, trying to time my exit so Miss Perky doesn’t doesn’t see me and can’t order me–with that perky smile–to have a nice day.