What do you think about when you read the word weight?
Do you think about body weight?
Do you think about weights in a gym?
Do you think about delaying an action until a period of time has passed, because you paid very little attention in school and are now illiterate?
With me it’s a combination of one and two. I’ve always enjoyed weight training. It’s something that feels natural and rewarding.
Now, it’s not exactly something I do religiously. I tend to do it agnostically I suppose. I’m aware it’s there, and I’ll take part, but only if I really have to…usually when I get too fat to fit in to clothes that are available in in non-specialist shops.
I probably wouldn’t ever exercise if I lived in America. The ability to buy clothes in sizes with more x’s in it than a goodnight text from your ‘oul lass would make going to the gym a non-essential part of my life. I probably wouldn’t survive if I lived in America for that matter.
At the moment, I’m in a good phase of getting regular exercise.
(Before anyone decides to leave: This isn’t a “Hooray for me! I’m not as fat a bastard as I used to be” piece. Bear with me!)
My energy levels are good. My mood is good. I’m sleeping well. I’m feeling great, if I’m honest.
However, there is one thing bothering me.
I like going to the gym. I do. I just hate other people in the gym. Well, to specify, I hate certain other people in the gym.
First of all, I’ll explain what I’m like in the gym.
When I go to the gym I say hello to the guy at the check in desk. And that pretty much ends the human contact that I want to make in the gym. As you’ll no doubt know, if you’ve been reading my previous pieces, I’ve played quite a few team sports in my time. The gym isn’t a team sport, well unless you’re mental and do cross-fit, to me it’s a private and personal thing. I’m in there to achieve my own targets and goals. And that’s it.
I go in. I put on my headphones. I do my cardio. I stretch. I do my weight session. I stretch. I shower. I go home.
If I’m unsure whether a piece of equipment is in use, I’ll politely ask. I return my plates and dumbbells. I spray and wipe equipment. I bring a sweat towel.
I might take the odd photo of a significant milestone, like a big gain in a lift for example, but I’m not constantly wandering around aimlessly on my phone.
And that brings me to the first gym-gowlbag that annoys me. The person who is constantly on their phone, hogging benches or other equipment at busy times.
Yes, your hair is amazing. How would it not look amazing? You haven’t broken a sweat yet!
I remember one time asking a guy who was mid-way taking a selfie while lying down under a full barbell, if he was nearly finished using a bench. He said he wasn’t going to be for a while. I offered to take the photos for him while he lifted, then maybe I could use it when he finished. I expected a pissed-off passive aggressive response, but amazingly he said yes! I took a few snaps while he finished his set.
Not my best work if I’m honest, lighting was a bit harsh, and the lens didn’t give me many options to play around with depth of field. It was adequate at best.
The next gym-goon – the guy who thinks he owns the gym, and every other member is just a guest.
Do you know these people? The people who bagsy/call dibs/reserve (delete where appropriate) every single piece of equipment all at once. There’s a special place in hell reserved for these maniacs.
I remember one time sitting on one of those giant inflatable balls over near the stretching area, wondering, “What the fuck am I supposed to do with this yoke?”, when I observed a very strange interaction between two other members. A youngish guy went over to use the lat pull down machine. A high-pitched voice squealed, “Don’t use that! I’m using that!” I turned my head to see the source of the squeal: a gigantic meat-head who was hanging by his feet from a bar in the ceiling, doing upside down sit-ups like he was training for an athletics meet in Transylvania. The young guy, turned around and told ‘Count Jacked-ula’ to politely fuck off. Well, the big man did this amazing flip, landed on his feet, ran over to the machine, pushed the young guy off, put the pin in to the heaviest weight, and begun to effortlessly bang out at least twenty reps in quick succession. He then floated back up to his bar to continue another set of upside down crunches that was so extreme, and so intense, I got a brief contact-high six-pack.
It was impressive like, but what a wanker. He could have waited his turn like everyone else.
Last gym-gargoyle to suffer my ire – the smug-buff-strutter.
There is nothing more insufferable in a gym than that ridiculously ripped shit-head that walks around with a self-satisfied look on their face, sneering at all us normal fatties. You know the type – neon spandex, t-shirt that looks like it was crafted by an agitated tree surgeon, spray-tan, roid back-ne.
These guys shouldn’t be allowed in to gen-pop. They should be in the maximum-insecurity wing. Because that’s what that is at the end of the day – a manifestation of their own insecurities. Anyone who laughs at someone who is at the beginning of their fitness journey, or simply trying again after a few false-starts, is a massive dick.
A couple of weeks ago I was waiting to use the leg-press machine. The guy currently using it had all the gym-rat paraphernalia – a water bottle that could solve an Ethiopian drought, an arm-band for his phone/mp3 player, liquid chalk, belt, gloves, straps, and an outfit so brightly coloured and tight it would have made Macho Man Randy Savage blush back in the day. After he screamed through his last ten reps and wiped himself off, he got up, looked me up and down, and smirked. “You might want to take a few plates off there mate in case you hurt yourself!”
I’ll try and describe the rage I felt at that particular moment. Have you ever stepped on an upturned plug and slipped and fall at the same time? After making a very good point in an argument with your significant other? In front of them? It’s a complete loss of credibility, physical pain and embarrassment all at once. It’s an anger that is completely internalized, but furious and real, and usually expelled with a hurtful comment, or silent sobbing later in the car.
This guy had looked at my couch-bod and made an assumption. I had a glance at the load on the machine. It was a lot. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to lift it, but my ability had just been questioned. The need for revenge, mixed with pure ignorance, is better than any performance enhancing drug my friends.
I nonchalantly shrugged and settled in to the apparatus. I managed ten solid reps. My head nearly popped off my shoulders, but I wasn’t proving that dick right. I finished off the set, removing approx. forty kilos both times, finishing my last ten reps with a hundred kilos. When I was done, my legs were like jelly that had been hit by a nuclear warhead and shat on by a passing magpie.
Throughout the remainder of my workout I kept catching the guy looking over at me, grinning. He knew. He knew I’d almost given myself a coronary to save face.
I had to wait for Mr Wonderful to finish his workout and leave before I attempted to go home. I was genuinely concerned that I’d need to be airlifted out the window of the gym. The story would end up in the section of the newspapers reserved for the light-hearted and ridiculous events that occurred to the nation’s poor. I was sure my legs would buckle if I attempted the stairs. The last thirty minutes of my work out that day were spent over in the stretching area silently screaming in pain.
You’d think at my age I’d be comfortable enough in myself to ignore a stupid sleight like that. Who’s the bigger idiot here?
We have a toxic relationship, me and the gym. You see, if I had equipment of my own at home, I’d never use it. I need to be in a paid subscription service to get angry about not using and pressurise myself to attend weekly.
I just have to get bigger headphones and maybe some kind of asshole repellent spray, to give myself the solitary I require while exercising. It would negate my need to complain.
That, or I could just wake my fat ass up earlier in the morning and go when it’s quieter..
catch up on previous entries in this series here: