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Archive for the month “May, 2013”

Deconstructing the Gym Tribe

I go to the gym three to four times a week. I work out in order to keep fit as well as keep my weight in check. GymIt is hard work but it pays off and the endorphin high is simply worth the torture. As a regular at the gym, I get to meet and see all sorts of people who also frequent the gym. Many times it is as if I am watching an emerging tribe of homo sapiens, so fascinating. The tribe is made up of many interesting characters. If you go regularly too, I bet you have spotted a few of the ones I am about to mention and describe below.

  • The Gaggle – This category of gym-goers is mostly young, male and usually turns up in groups of three or four. Easily identifiable by their baggy trousers or shorts sitting halfway on their bottoms, showing their underwear, sagging pantsit is obvious that they have no clue what they are doing. To all intents and purposes, it would appear they believe the sole purpose of being at the gym is to impress their mates. You can spot them trying to outdo each other with heavier weights, faster runs, louder grunts and more reps, usually with bad form. I call them The Gaggle because it is military slang for an unorganised group doing nothing.

Note to The Gaggle: There is nothing wrong with having a training partner but going to the gym does not qualify as a team sport. Lose the attitude and stop showing off your ignorance. Instead watch some YouTube videos and learn how to do those exercises properly before you do yourself or someone else grievous bodily harm.

  • The Chatterbox – This person does more talking than actual working out. He comes into the gym, stops at the front desk to have a natter with the gym staff, guffawing loudly at one thing or another before finally making his way to a machine. You would imagine he would then get on with his exercise but oh no, you would be very wrong. He’s just getting started as he begins a conversation with the unwilling user of a neighbouring machine. Undeterred by monosyllabic responses, he carries on chatting away till the other person wanders off. He may or may not complete a few sets at his current machine before moving off to another having identified his next unwitting victim.

Note to The Chatterbox: Gym time is not Happy Hour. If you want to have a good natter, go to the pub. This might surprise you but some of us come to the gym to actually work out. Reserve the right to express your loquacity elsewhere.

  • The Groaner – Anyone who uses free weights knows that a grunt or groan may slip out every now and again. However, this category of people are in the habit of groaning out so loudly during their entire work-out that you would be forgiven for thinking you accidentally walked into a labour ward. You can occasionally catch them looking around to see if anyone is watching them as they exaggerate the effort they are putting in.

Note to The Groaner: Go easy on the grunts and groans. They are not only distracting but also quite annoying. Your noise does not make for an appropriate background sound track, that’s what music is for. And if you’re not careful, you will give yourself haemorrhoids.

  • The Fashionista – I don’t know about you but when I go to the gym, I wear comfortable, breathable clothes. I have no problems with people lookingSPL400935_003 good but this category has a completely different idea of gym fashion. The people in this group dress to the nines, colour-coordinating every item of clothing including their shoes, towel and water bottle, complete with hair and make-up. You will often notice them admiring their reflections in the mirror as they pretend to work out.

Note to The Fashionista: Perhaps you did not get the memo but this is a gym not a catwalk, people come here to exercise not to get fashion tips.

  • The Underdresser – This group is similar to the one above except that they wear too few clothes. Their tiny sports bras, crotch-hugging gym shorts/underpants and half-tops leave little or nothing to the imagination.

Note to the Underdresser: If you want to wear skimpy clothing, go to the beach. You are not here to record an episode of Baywatch. Put some clothes on!

  • The Sweat Factory – Most people sweat when they work out, however, this 20130508_102718group are rather generous with theirs. They sweat all over machines and free weights, then just walk away when they’re done not bothering to wipe them down. Yuck!

Note to The Sweat Factory: You are not an animal marking your territory. Stop leaving DNA samples all over the gym. It is plain disgusting. If you cannot be tasked with bringing a towel with you, then use the tissue provided by the gym.

  • The Show-off – You can spot this group a mile off. Their huge biceps rippling through shirts with the sleeves cut out are a dead give-away.Muscle man Some of them straddle the Underdresser and Groaner groups as well. They can often be found popping copious amounts of supplements and disgusting-looking drinks which could easily pass for cat puke out of funny shaped bottles called strange names like ‘Tornado Shaker’ between sets. They also love to strut around the place pretending to be moving to different machines when in actual fact they are giving us lesser mortals a chance to admire their toned physiques.

Note to The Show-off: We’ve already had an eyeful of your taut, tanned and toned muscles, thank you very much. Now, either carry on with your work out or go put your money where your mouth is muscles are and compete in the IFBB.

  • The Mobile Phone Addict – I’m pretty sure I don’t need to say much about 20130508_102804this group. It would require surgery to detach their phones from the ears or fingers. They are constantly fiddling with their phones, it’s a wonder they get any exercise done at all.

Note to The Mobile Phone Addict: Surely the world can survive not hearing from you, reading your tweets, Facebook status updates and text messages replete with emoticons and weird abbreviations for an hour or so while you concentrate on your workout. We all own mobile phones too but choose not to use them while at the gym.

  • The Loud Music Lover – You can hear this group even before you see them. Donning their ‘Beats by Dre’ or some other oversized headphones aka flying saucers, they might as well not have bothered for the ear-splitting sound coming out of their iPods, iPhones or whatever other device.

Note to The Loud Music Lover: You may go to Ibiza and impress the 18 – 30 crowd with your taste in music and spare those of us who want to work out a headache.

  • The Competitor – This is the group of people who have to run faster than you on the treadmill, lift heavier weights or do more reps than you as though you are competing. They can do everything better and faster than you and they are out to prove it. It doesn’t matter that you are not competing with them and, in some cases, don’t even realise what they are doing. They are on a mission to outdo you at everything. You may even feel they are stalking you as they follow you around to different workstations.

Note to The Competitor: As in life, working out is not a race. We are all at different levels, all have different goals. Work at your own pace and stop trying to outdo me. I don’t really care that you are faster or stronger. Go and sign up for a triathlon or Strong Man challenge and exorcise this competitive urge.

I could go on but I will not as the purpose of this post was not to bore you.

Do you fall into any of the categories? I reckon you are not about to admit it if indeed you do Open-mouthed smile. Do you recognise any of these people? I don’t recognise myself in any of these categories of narcissistic tribe members either but Mo Cushla snarkily says that I easily fall into the Mobile Phone Addict category. That is so not me, I check my phone for my work out programme. If in the process, I notice an email, Facebook or Twitter notification, it would be rather remiss of me not to quickly read them and possibly respond, wouldn’t it? I think he is just jealous that many male gym users are oohing and aahing over my well-toned muscles.

Please share any other members of this unique tribe you may have come across.

Tara for now.

Wednesday at the pool

Every Wednesday, I take my boys to swimming lessons. Every Wednesday, I meet this woman and her son. Well, I meet lots of women and their sons, and some men and their sons, and daughters, and so on…

Anyway, every Wednesday, this one boy screams blue murder as soon as it’s time for his lesson. Crying-Boy-with-Adult-in-Pool-300x225His mother claims he got spooked one day when his class was asked to do the backstroke a few weeks ago because he downed more than the equivalent of his body weight in water. She didn’t exactly put it that way but I imagine that’s the way it happened. She asks him to get in the pool, alternating between threats and bribery, to no avail. She starts off asking him to get in the water and join the lesson but by the time she’s run through the gamut of options, she wearily settles for asking him to just stand outside the pool and watch the lesson.

Embarrassed, she looks around. We, the other parents, surreptitiously watch the spectacle but quickly avert our eyes and feign disinterest as she looks up. At first, she’s defiant, defensive but she soon loses the fight and succumbs to that syndrome with which most parents are generally afflicted and gives in to the need to rationalise and explain her child’s less than stellar behaviour. ”He can swim”, she says to no one in particular. Her ears have turned a deep crimson from her efforts to remain calm when it is apparent she is keeping a tight rein on her true emotions. ”He just doesn’t want to,” she shrugs, resigned to spending the next half hour negotiating with her distraught offspring.

We take her feeble explanation as a cry for help and tacit permission to get involved. Some of us meet her eyes, our empathy shining through as if to say we understand, we’ve been there. Others are more vocal in their show of support and try to coax the rather unwilling pupil to give it another shot while reassuring the distressed mother that this, too, shall pass. A small number shake their heads and sigh, barely able to hide their disgust at the woman’s inability to get her child to do as he’s told.

Eventually, though he still won’t get in the water, his loud cries fade into quiet mumblings. The rest of us, thankful for the respite, return to whatever it is we were doing.

Lesson over, the mother leads her son to the changing rooms. We overhear her tell him ”we’ll be back next Wednesday.” The rest of us look at each other, our eyes conveying words our mouths will not dare utter. We are not looking forward to next Wednesday.

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