Now, there’s nothing worse than a regular gym-goer telling the novice what to do and what not to do. And let me tell you right off the bat that this isn’t going to be a post about newbies starting out at the gym with improper form, or lifting too light, or being one of those who will only run on a treadmill for an hour without touching the weights. We know NOTHING about strangers at the gym; what their goals are, what their current strength is like, whether they’re nursing an injury. I’ve been going to the gym for a few years – and I like to think I know what I’m doing. But I’m sure there are still a few beefcakes (the ones who hog the weights room) who roll their eyes and I think I should be doing things differently. Yes, my bench press and overhead press are crap (post broken/frozen shoulder), but I honestly don’t give a shit at this point. Ego doesn’t belong in the gym. The gym should be a welcoming and accommodating place for everyone, from every walk of life. There’s nothing I like more than a gym-full of elderly people and middle-aged women forcing the buff beefcakes to wait for the squat rack. Go to the gym and do what you enjoy – so it’s sustainable, so you’ll be motivated to come back. You do you. No, this is a post about rather mundane and insignificant annoyances that may only grate on my nerves. I don’t know, you tell me. Myself and my daughters attend the gym regularly; we’ve pretty much re-named every other regular in the gym. ‘Winking man’, ‘old man’, ‘other old man’, ‘very old man’, ‘man-bob’, ‘man-bun’, ‘rowing man’, ‘gloves’, ‘socks’, ‘cap’ (super imaginative, aren’t they?), and ‘supply P.E. teacher’. Harmless nicknames purely invented so we know who we are talking about when discussing who was at the gym today. “Who was at the gym today?”, “Oh, Socks and Supply P.E. teacher.”, “Oh…”. All in good fun, and they know nothing about it. They probably have a name for us too, I hope mine’s a good one. But there are some, who not only get nicknames, but we are secretly rather irritated them because of their ‘gym don’ts’.
‘His & Hers’: This is not what I and my daughters have really have named these characters, but I’m trying to keep this blog clean for the kids…or the kidz. There is absolutely nothing wrong with couples training together. That’s kind of cute. Couple’s Goals! Yay! What I don’t like is when one half of the couple just watches the other working out. I’m not talking about helpfully ‘spotting’ a chest press to ensure they don’t crush their ribcage with a barbell. No, I assure you, it’s actually just…watching. One does the exercise and the other just stands there and stares. I mean, gym membership is a luxury expenditure, isn’t it? And there’s no way I’d be spending my precious hour in the gym just staring at my other half lift weights when I could be getting on with my own workout. I hate to say this, but there is a particularly tiresome young couple at my gym who only come in the evenings (hence why we avoid evenings – and they really wouldn’t annoy me if they were quiet about their business, but they are really not). And she really must only perform two exercises of her own at most, the rest of the time is spent observing her muscle-bound other half lifting and grunting. Sometimes she films him and tells him how great he looks. I don’t know, maybe he’s a Fitspo influencer and he needs content, but I highly doubt it. Look, I’ve been known to take photos in the gym for the purposes of this blog but it’s hideously embarrassing and I get it done quickly and as inconspicuously as possible. And this isn’t an isolated incident, it’s every time we see ‘His & Hers’. I know I shouldn’t care but it’s an utterly massive waste of time. Just let your significant other get on with their own training regime whilst you get on with yours. Come on!
The Gym Butterfly: Since the days of COVID, which are completely over and we no longer need to worry about them (ha-ha), sticking to one piece of equipment at a time has pretty much been an unspoken rule. Back in the day, you had to sanitise everything you used the moment you left it, so it made sense to just work your way around the gym, cleaning as you went. Now, you don’t have to clean the machines anymore (but you can if you want to), but I think social etiquette still requires one to use a chosen bit of kit (three sets of ten reps, for instance), and then move on – or bring some weights over and superset the machine with that (back-to-back exercises). What you shouldn’t do is nab a piece of kit (let’s say) the squat rack and do alternate sets with (let’s say) the cable machine WAY across the other side of the the room…in a gym heaving with people. And expect that piece of kit that you’ve left unattended to be there when you come back…in a gym heaving with people. And baggsie-ing the equipment by leaving your hoody and water bottle on it to be on the safe side…in a gym heaving with people. It’s just not on. Look, I have actually done this (supersetting two bits of kit) – in a deathly-quiet gym. A gym so quiet you could shoot a Howitzer down the centre of it and be pretty certain you wouldn’t hit a single person. But when the gym is busy, it’s common courtesy to use machinery or weights when free, then move on and let someone else have a turn. And not bagsie it with a solitary random shoe, or something. You might even need to adjust your workout plan to fit in with…*retching* other people. Use it, dissemble it (God, I wish people would put things back where they belong), and get on with something else. Come on!
Look-at-Me, Look-at-Me, Look-at-Me!: (aka Toxic Masculinity). Every gym has its fair share of these. When I first started out at the gym, I used to actively avoid the weights room because that’s where these types hang out. They are men. They lift HEAVY. They grunt. They noisily drop weights on the floor more aggressively than is strictly necessary. They laugh…REALLY loudly. Like this; ‘fwah-fwah-fwah-fwah!’. They shout across the room at one another, with a, ‘fwah-fwah-fwah-fwah!’. I mean, it’s cool. I’m quite certain they mean no harm. It can, however, come across as a tad intimidating to women/people working out alone/newbies. But since the introduction of noise-cancelling headphones and baseball caps shoved down over your eyes (that’s a fairly old invention, actually), I care much less about them. I don’t avoid the weights room anymore. I can still see them hollering at one another, ‘fwah-fwah-fwah-fwah!’ but I can only see their lips moving, ‘****-****-****-****!’. All I’m saying is, if you are one of these men (and like I say, I’m sure you mean no harm), just know that you may come across as a tad threatening to others – or me, when I forget my headphones or they’re out of charge and I have to listen to you shouting (and shitty ‘KISS FM’). So maybe keep the ‘fwah-fwah-fwah-fwahs!’ down to a dull roar, if you don’t mind. This isn’t a nightclub. Come on.
There is so much more; so many more don’ts. But I’ve overshot my word count (again) and I’m just coming across as ranty (again). There are other darker, more sinister don’ts which do not fit in within the confines of a humours blog. Y’know, things like men oggling women in the gym. I’ve never experienced it (partly because I’m mad-old and maybe I go to a better class of gym), but I know it’s a problem for a lot of young women. And I know there are a lot of women of any age who will only workout in a women-only gym. Because they feel self-conscious about their bodies around men – and some guys come across as judgemental, or intimidating, even if they don’t mean to. I think it’s sad that women have to feel that way; have to wear their most oversized workout gear to feel anywhere near comfortable working out in a public place. I applaud anyone who is working on their own physical improvement. I personally care very little about what other’s think of me (I mean, I will always have the amusing secret nicknames, they can’t take that from me). My gym is largely a friendly place, there are a good few people I actively wave at or talk to (not His and Hers, of course). I generally don’t know my gym compatriot’s names, but I may know all about their work and social lives. And most of these people are actually men – usually the older retired ones. They’re great. They work out for social interaction, because their spouse died a couple of years ago, or to keep healthy during the ageing process. And they are my inspiration. That’s going to be me – I’ll still be there in my eighties, or as long as my body holds out. And I won’t let anyone or anything – not even the ‘gym don’ts’ – drive me away.