People watching at the gym

For those of us who spend obscene amounts of time at the gym, people-watching can slip into the rank of “Extreme Sports”. The gym attracts a wide variety of individuals who never cease to express themselves through the art of dance, weightlifting, and doing pointless exercises on the exercise balls that will most likely inflict injury.

But hey, it’s their membership. If they want to give in to the crazy LA Fitness guys heckling students as they walk by the Student Services building, only to pay $26.95 a month and roll around on the exercise ball, then more power to them. Let’s hear it for jazzercise classes!

The gym is a magical place where it is rumored that exercising takes place, and there are really 5 types of gym-goers: the people who are there to show off, those who are there to find a mate, ones who just wander around because their spouse/boyfriend/doctor made them join the gym, those who are there to sit in the sauna and gossip, and the rarities that actually work out.

Let’s start with the show-offs. Typical specimen is male, tan, and obnoxious, walks with his head held way too high, and usually has no neck. More of a chin-neck, really, because his shoulders are so big that the poor neck just gets squished in with his chin. This guy likes to start fights with people about things for no reason except to show how much he can raise his voice and make his veins stick out. He also grunts unnecessarily when lifting weights, does about two repetitions, and then primitively throws the weight down so that even people with headphones on can feel the vibrations of his uber-toughness through the floor. It is like watching a caveman perform some sort of mating call ritual, which brings me to my second subject: those who are at the gym just to search for a significant other.

This is more of a unisex role, but each sex plays it out differently. The men are similar to the show-offs, and always leave the gym with a phone number or two. “Oh, hey, if you ever want me to show you some great abdominal workouts, here’s my card, I’m a celebrity personal trainer…” Yeah, right. The women who want to find dudes (or girls-whatever they’re in to) and clad in boyshort underwear and a sports bra, regardless of whether or not they have the body for it. These women don’t really exercise anything except their ability to sway their hips while on the elliptical. They always have their hair and makeup done as if they’re going to Senior Prom, and find a way to wedge a push-up bra underneath the little sports bra crop top. That just can’t be comfortable. Needless to say, they don’t break a sweat and spend most of their gym time throwing sultry glances at unsuspecting passerby and chatting on their rhinestone-encrusted cell phones about the importance of Doctor McDreamy and Meredith Grey’s pseudo-relationship.

Next, we have the people who were forced into working out. This type of person does not look the slightest bit enthused to be at the gym, and just wanders around looking for something to do that won’t actually qualify as exercise. A lot of times, this particular individual will slip outside for a cigarette break – wait, really? Someone is at the gym to pursue a healthy lifestyle, and they are smoking? You can’t even smoke on gym property, so if you want to smoke, you have to walk completely off the premises, which in turn will burn some calories, but is completely cancelled out by the fact that you’re filling your lungs with poison. A very hypocritical move, unless wheezing after one lap on the treadmill is what you’re in to.

If it’s rancid, hot air that you want to fill your lungs with, though, then step into the sauna. You will immediately be greeted by a group of gossipers who pay monthly dues just to sweat. These people are most likely nude or close to it, and are seemingly un-phased by the fact that the sauna is a prime breeding ground for all sorts of juicy bacteria. They don’t really care about exercise as much as they do sweating, and I’m not sure how that works out. After a good long sit in the sauna, they will not hesitate to stroll the locker room in the nude. It’s like they’re doing laps or something, because everywhere you look, they are there, just waltzing along. Don’t ever make eye contact at this point, because you will consequently hear a lengthy life story while this naked person grooms, stretches, and scratches themselves as if they were fully clothed. Hooray for their confidence. Boo for the fact that no one wants to witness that confidence.

So then there is this rare breed strewn amongst the crazies who actually lifts weights without making mating calls, wears real gym clothes and not underwear, doesn’t take smoke breaks while pondering how they got suckered into the gym, and is relatively discreet in the locker room. Separate yourself from the pack and work out for your own benefit! The gym is not a place to show off; there really is no place for that. It is not a bar in which to pick up chicks. Don’t go if you don’t really want to be there because you are taking up space, and spare those in the locker room who don’t want to see how hairy your back is. Just exercise, please.

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