Saturday, August 14, 2004

Gym Characters

Bowflex Xtreme XTLUThe past 23 years, I've spent at least two -- and as many as five -- days a week in various gyms. From hole-in-the-wall ironhead gyms (one of which ended up getting forcibly closed by a Fire inspector) to plush state-of-the-art health facilities like NIFS in Indy and Tri-Health Pavilion in Cincy.

After a while, you tend to identify commonalities between the various kinds of characters that populate these places. Here are a few that I've categorized.

The Prima Donna - often an aging, hairy-armed, wannabe tough guy who refuses to let others work in with him and who monopolizes multiple pieces of equipment at a time. Frequently grows his hair (or what remains of it) into a frizzy, mullet-like appendage that is as out-of-place as Stephen Seagel at the Academy Awards. The Prima Donna does not socialize at the gym. He's there for one thing only: to work out and scope babes. And, yes, I know that's two things.

The Screamer - one of the more annoying gym types is the dude who screams or groans loudly on every repetitition, as if the physical workout is secondary in importance to his 'primal scream' therapy. The only humorous aspect to the Screamer is usually the contrasting -- and pathetic -- weight that's inciting the loud noises: a 150 pound bench press, for instance. Something's not right when 'Monica Seles' over in the corner with the tiny barbells is making more noise than our buddy Neal when he benches 500+ pounds.

The "alternative lifestyle" guy - actually, I haven't seen too many of these guys around, but there is one at the gym whose workout habits are so eccentric that I simply must describe them:

1) Puts on headphones, gets on the stair-climber and proceeds to swing his hips and head back and forth wildly while bouncing on the balls of his feet. Oddly, his feet are only depressing the climber steps about one or two inches at a time, so he's getting no aerobic workout other than the energy expended by shaking his ass.

2) Goes over to the back extension machine (sort of the reverse of an ab machine, for exercising the lower back) and proceeds to do hundreds or thousands of very fast, bouncy repetitions with almost no weight.

That's the whole workout from what I can tell. It's safe to say we're not talking Lance Armstrong-like energy expenditure here.

The Karate Kid - this is the boxer or karate wannabe who, while appearing physically weaker than Olga Korbut, is also remarkably insecure. Insecure enough to continually attempt demonstrations of his martial art through kicks or rapid punching sequences. Try to restrain your chortles and point him to the nearest Dojo, where the members there can clean up the mess.

The Juicer - well, every gym has its juicers (steroid abusers) and ours is no exception. Years ago, I was relieving myself at the urinal when the bodybuilder next to me noted, "Man, I'm peeing blood". Yes, he was built like a tiger, looked great and actually finished second at a metro body-building contest. A year later, he looked just like me. The Juicers tend to do that... they appear in the gym, look fantastic and lift enormous weights with ease. Let a few years elapse, though. They'll be as smooth as Diana Ross' face, plus have all the muscle mass of Michael Jackson.

The Fulcrum - let my friend Bernie describe a typical Fulcrum. Bernie is a consummate workout fiend who employs exceptional form, has great flexibility and strength, and knows his way around a gym. He is also one of the friendliest guys you'll ever meet, so for him to refer to someone as 'Fool'... well, there's probably a lot of truth to his observations. Here's his recent note to a few of us regulars regarding a typical "Fulcrum":

While I am squatting , some dude, I will call him fool from here on out, starts watching me. He comes, goes, comes , goes. I get 275 on the bar, by then, the power rack next to me had opened up. I turn to fool and say--what are you waiting for--the squat rack is open. he do you keep your neck from hurting? I mention you get used to it. He says "i havent squatted in forever" as he approaches my rack. He proceeds to get under the bar and say 'watch me'.

I mention--if you havent squatted in forever, and you are warming up with 275, u r one heck of a man. He says 'my legs are freaky strong'. I, of course, have no intention of 'watching' him. Fool can kill himself, I will not assist. Out of the corner of my eye, I watch him do about 6 shaky reps, just a little over 1/4 squats--barely bending his knees. He sets it down.

I dont say anything to him. Fool says 'my form is a bit rusty, got to get my neck used to the weight again, my legs are fine'. Fool then goes over to the white leg press (which anyone who has used it knows, is completely [screwed] up ergonomic wise) and put eight (8!) 45's on each side. I dont watch the set, as I am squatting.

I notice in between sets though, that he is slowly taking every 45 he can find. I will leave out some details, lets just skip to the last set. That white press has two levels of weight arms, and fool has BOTH of them completely full, and 2 more 45's lying in the middle. That is 34 45lbs plates! I cant take it anymore--i go over and sit on the incline bench so I can watch this stupendous feat of strength.

I point it out even to a few other guys, so they can enjoy this entertainment also. He pushes the weight up off the stops, opens them up, then thinks better of it, and closes them back down. Then fool does 8 'reps', moving the weight about 2 inches each rep--just off the stops!!! ahahahahahahahhaahhaahh... what an ass clown.

Fortunately, Fulcrums don't last at the gym too long because screwing around with 1600+ pounds tends to... well, you can guess what it does to your body if even one little thing goes awry. If you've ever seen a red spot on a gym wall, this is usually evidence that a Fulcrum once worked out there: the term 'popped a nut' may ring a bell. Advice to any would-be Fulcrum: don't make a testicle of yourself.

New Components Girl - this is the girl who suddenly shows up with new components. While attractive, the sudden contrast often startles and confuses the regulars. The phrase, "they're real... and they're spectacular", should never be uttered within earshot of this person.

Spandex Man - a forty-plus gentleman who, while not in the greatest of physical condition, still dares to wears a spandex tank top and spandex shorts -- sometimes striped for greater visual effect. Let's put it this way: you would not want to be around when he peels off this outfit in the locker room.

Please use the Comments feature, below, and let me know which Gym characters I've missed.


Anonymous said...

You missed The Doug, a decently well-built, but aging man with receeding hairline. He shows up to the gym and proceeds to do about 8 reps of some new fad workout manuever (ala Furey) that has him doing what looks like a spread-eagle cock-pushups in the middle of the gym. After barely completing the 8th rep, he quits and waddles himself over to the eliptical bikes where he completes the remaining 20 minutes of his workout with the 85 year old women and Special Olympics losers.

directorblue said...

tell you what, try the following experiment. Get a bag of cement and rig it so it falls on your head with about 180 pounds of force. make sure it ker-plodes a disc in your neck. then attempt a year-long rehab. odds are, you too will suffer along with the "Doug-types", doing Hindu thumb curls or whatever. and you'll be damn happy about it.


Anonymous said...

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Probably you should write some articles for BodyBuilding.COM!


Unknown said...

My recent gym experience is confined to a single health club in the basement of a local hotel. While the place has decent equipment it's not home to any advanced lifters. I've been going there regularly for about two years. The ratio of women to men is high.

The Talker: Spends more time talking than doing anything else. These types don't usually renew their memberships.

Flabby Tummy Showers: Women who wear stomach revealing clothes when their stomachs should remain well hidden.

Put on your pants: The guy in the locker room who, once undressed, likes to strut around the locker room naked and talk with other people. If no one they know is there to talk they shave, powder or do whatever else they do to get dressed in the most traffic blocking spot of the room so you need to squeeze by their hairy fat ass in order to get anyplace.

Lifers: These people live at the gym. Every time you go these same people are always there. They move slowly between exercises and spend lots of time stretching so they can maximize the time they spend there.

The back from schoolers: These young people show up every summer and holiday break. They hog the equipment for a few weeks but soon fade away.

Anonymous said...

Between my wife and I, we thought of a few more gym types:

Lat Man--This species inhales deeeeeply after exiting his car on the way to the gym door, and never quite breathes out for his hole workout. His arms stick out from his body at a 45 degree angle as he trys to appear about 60lbs heavier than he really is. Often is seen preening in front of the ladies.

Groper Man- The often aging trainer type, who thinks because he is old, can get away with touching women ANYWHERE. 'Bill' was last seen with a young woman on the leg sled. He had his hand on her rear end, telling her, 'you should feel this right here'--for about 10 reps.

Pro Wrestler Bencher: This man can be seen in gyms across the country, performing stupendous feats (he thinks)on the bench press. He selects a weight that is far more than he can actually bench, then drops it quickly so his sternum contacts his spinal colum. This triggers the butt lift, so that he only has to actually lift the weight about 4 inches. Why "pro wrestler"? While pro wrestling takes incredible skill and strength, it has little in comon with greco roman wrestling. Comparably, this bencher has skill and strength, but it has little to do with actual bench pressing :o)