As I ascend ever higher into my twenties, I find myself increasingly obsessed with the gym. Perhaps it is the startling notion, that, already – even imperceptibly – I am teetering toward the precipice of decline from which I will one day topple, hapless, into bloated, broken oblivion.
Possibly it is more rudimentary than this; exercising wards off those faint creepings of anxiety, of apathetic self dissatisfaction, that can so easily become pangs of something far more sinister.
This is why I commend my fellow gym goers, resplendent in their startlingly effervescent work out gear; luminous yellows paired with lurid, bilious greens that give one an instant migraine. They are fighting the good fight, living the dream, pounding the protein shakes.
That doesn’t mean that occasionally (most days) said gym goers are not some of the most absurd, annoying, downright manic people you are ever likely to meet. If you use the gym yourself, you will undoubtedly recognise these stereotypes; if you don’t, you can’t say I haven’t warned you. Buckle up.
1. The grunter
Picture the scene. You’re pumping iron, minding your own business. Slowly, though, you become aware of a troubling noise. Investigating, you whirl around, as the sound reaches incandescent decibel levels. It’s a kind of earthly grunting noise, ostentatious and – you suspect – rather affected. Lo and behold, the source of the noise is a few stations away, lifting a moderate amount of weight, teeth clenched, eyes bulging. Maniac.
2. The first timer
It can be an intimidating thing, that first foray into the vast unknown. Especially so when there are a myriad of sweat-drenched muscle men giving you the once over as you scuttle towards a piece of equipment. However, if you are heading gym-wards for the first time, heed this sage piece of advice: for the love of God, have an induction. If you don’t, you risk being that guy/girl giddily doing bicep curls on the leg extension which, as its name would suggest, is not for your arms.
3. The selfie taker
In this glossy fiction of a world that we inhabit, an emollient pool of glowing, filtered Instagram models flexing their chiselled physiques, the phrase “pics or it didn’t happen” has never rung truer than in the gym. No matter that the gym selfie takers look utterly absurd, contorting their bodies in startling fashion to achieve the desired look. Once that picture hits Instagram and the likes come flooding in, then, and only then, will they be happy. After all, what else is exercise for?
4. The Usain Bolt-on-a-treadmill
Of course, we all go to the gym to work hard. Having said that, treadmills have always presented something of a mystery to me. Why, I wonder, would anyone prefer to scurry along inside when the great outdoors is beckoning? There is a special breed of treadmill users though who, not content with happily jogging along, opt instead to hurtle forwards with dizzying speed. They are the treadmill sprinters, and they look like a constant hazard, as the contraption shudders under their breakneck velocity.
5. The wannabe boxer
Don’t get me wrong, boxing is a superb way to get into shape. As with most things however, there is a line, and the wannabe boxer appears to have no idea where that line is. They are often in startling physical condition, but regardless, there is something rather laughable about two men occupying far too much space in the weights area in order to box each other, exhaling ostentatiously and generally causing a ruckus. You’re not Mike Tyson, you’re a businessman with boxing gloves on. Find your own space to punch each other.
6. The Lothario
Now then. This one is nigh on unforgivable. It is a sad truth that many people feel too intimidated to use the gym regularly, and would-be Lotharios stalking the gym, leering at women and attempting to chat them up while they’re on the rowing machine is a large part of the problem. Sure, you’re feeling good about yourself, pumped up to within an inch of your life on protein and testosterone, but the chances of a female gym goer looking for a date in the gym are not worth the anxiety and self consciousness you cause in the ones who would rather be left alone.
7. The never-ending texter
We’re all slaves to our phones. Fear of missing out drives many of us to stay obsessively connected at all times. Having said that though, there are occasions that require the phone to be put to one side. Funerals, for example, but also family meals and the cinema (if you use your phone at the cinema, shame on you). One might presume that the gym would fall into this category, but the phenomenon of the gym texter dispels such ideals comprehensively.
8. The unsolicited adviser
Everyone likes to talk about things they know. That doesn’t mean that anyone else wants to listen to your senseless prattling, particularly when they are trying to exercise. Sadly, there is something about fitness that brings out the bore in some, who could extol the virtues of pea protein over hemp for hours, given half the chance. They are also liable to approach you, unannounced, in the gym and abruptly advise you that you are carrying out your workout entirely incorrectly. They are the worst.
9. The animal
No, I’m not referring to the startling large, bulging bicep-ed monsters that prowl the weights area of the gym with well-earned pride. Rather, the “animal” moniker is rightly reserved for the total brazen lunatics who work out barefoot in the gym. Quite what such a pursuit is intended to achieve remains unclear, but frankly it would be better for everyone if the barefoot exercisers could put some shoes on and stop inflicting their sweaty appendages on the rest of us.
10. The hoarder
You’ve made the effort to hit the gym after work, despite the exhausting slog that comprises your day. You’ve packed your gym clothes in a rucksack and, although you’d much rather stumble wearily straight through your front door and into bed, instead you stagger through the gym turnstile, shuddering in anticipation of the exercise you are about to do. Blinking slowly as you take in the sounds of weights crashing to the floor, grunts of exertion and top 40 hits, you trudge over to the weights section, ready to begin. Except there’s a problem. Some hoarder, hunter gatherer, purveyor of gym equipment, has stock piled what appears to be three quarters of the dumbbells in the gym, including all the weights you need. Aghast, you approach the would-be collector, and ask politely if you might select a pair of weights from his astonishingly large supply. “Sorry, bro, just need those for another ten minutes” comes his reply.
Maybe you visit the gym regularly and recognise a few of these personalities, possibly you see yourself in a few of them; either way, it’s all a bit of harmless fun at the end of the day. We beat on, pumping iron and sprinting with manic abandon on the treadmill, in the endless pursuit of the perfect workout selfie. It’s a noble art, and I salute all of you, its patrons. Just keep your shoes on.