So I had the shittiest, busiest work week ever, texting my special friend RenMan to explain why I would not be making it to the gym that week. Yes, for the first time in about 20 years, I did not train for a full 6 days in a row. And yes it was horrible. So when I told Ren that I was totally stressed out and praying for death to take me, he kindly offered to help. That was a big mistake, for I immediately asked him to write a guest blog. I did so, however, not simply because I was too busy even to bathe—much to my surprise the sensation of filth was nostalgic, returning me to my childhood—but because he is so clever and engaging that I was sure he would produce a post that my equally clever and discerning readers would enjoy. I should also mention, though this is not at all important or relevant, that Ren is a very good looking, fit, and affable man; indeed, he is rather something of a lady-magnet. This might be both a blessing and a burden for him; I wouldn’t know anything about that. In any case, he demolishes the myth of the lunkhead male bodybuilder, proving that muscular men can be just as intelligent and enlightened as the next person, perhaps even moreso. Enjoy the following entry and be sure to show RenMan some love.
Being asked by FFG to write a guest column was, by turns, an honour and a curse: the former reason is obvious – she’s a talented, literate and witty writer who is as well-steeped in astute academic research and dissemination as she is familiar with pop culture and general deviancy. Her interests are broad and so is her sense of humour. She makes me laugh, and seems to get my jokes (as wildly disparate as they can be).
If you can’t tell, I like and respect her a lot.
The latter is the problem, and that fucker is two-fold – her irreverence coupled with her concise language and easy manner make it hard to think I might write something that her readership may find even slightly interesting, much less do it in a way that is entertaining and informative. Finding something relevant to discuss is also at issue. How do I, an educated, white Anglo-Saxon male of reasonable intellect connect with a largely feminist and (gasp!) female readership?
Fucked if I know.
Yet, here I sit.
This is my attempt.
My first experiences with the gym started in my later teens and were for high school athletics with the intent to improve performance on the field. I was lucky. I had great formative experiences with strength coaches and trainers there in our tiny but well kept concrete cupboard; so great in fact, that I stopped playing football altogether. (Sorry, coach!) Shifting heavy iron around became my drug of choice, and I missed none of the camaraderie or macho bullshit that I left behind on the football field. Our gym was small and under-utilized so I initially missed something pretty vital to a good gym experience: sweaty, goal-oriented, hard-training women. Back in the very early ‘90s there just didn’t seem to be a lot of females interested or comfortable with pushing weights at my school.
This didn’t really change until I hit post-secondary and started training at the university gym. There were more women working out there, as it was larger and better equipped and the student population was much higher, but the concentration was still eight men to a single woman on a really good day. Those women that were training, though, were usually on the more hardcore side – serious athletes with serious reasons to be there. Sure, maybe some of them were there because they wanted to look better naked but the greater corps of them were strength and endurance athletes. In hindsight, I really respect those women because, frankly, the gym back then was more of a spring-time sewer runoff of testosterone and the female attendees could be treated with a little too much… assessment… by the other, phallically-endowed patrons.
(This still happens, of course, but I blame lululemon now. Not human nature, or anything as basic as sexual desire. Nope. Couldn’t be that. It’s gotta be the pants that work like a sportsbra for the ass.)
Even though I was the head-down, music-cranked-high, oblivious trainer dude I still bore witness to the typical mating rituals (albeit with much less understanding of what was going on), which were usually initiated by men against what they probably didn’t realize was a captive audience. Unsolicited advice on training, spotting without reason (or permission), overlong and over-personal conversations, and flat out pick-up lines occurred. (Apple pie, PDDs?) It tended to the obnoxious at best, and was predatory at worst. Sure, some of the more attractive members of our species seemed to get by and away with some of the more egregious examples of this behaviour (and still do!), but amongst the regular gym folk it seemed to be tolerated, ignored or reviled in equal measure.
Time passes, and over the swath of years I have noticed a greater balance in the male/female ratio at numerous gyms I have attended here in western Canada and the US. However, I can’t help but note that a lot of shit hasn’t changed but has become less male-centric. Oh, there are still the times when it’s a veritable sausage-party on the weight floor, but there are also more serious and knowledgeable female athletes doing exactly what they want to with their training no matter the concentration of XY to XX chromosomes or who is watching.
Some of the less favourable unsolicited behaviour also isn’t confined to the bigger, dumber and hairier sex either: a special shout out to the young personal trainer I recently busted gazing longingly at my biceps while I was doing preacher curls – she, at least, owned up to perving on my arms. Right at that moment the issue was more flattering than irritating, as I’m not exactly the kind of guy who gets bothered when comely young beauties objectify me in a non-confrontational way. It also doesn’t happen a lot. But I think most female readers would agree, when it is someone you aren’t attracted to or interested in its pretty bothersome. (Contrary to popular belief, not every guy will fuck anything that walks up to him and says hello.)
On the kinesthetic side, the styles and types of training I’ve witnessed have been making a more equal split: years before, the concentrations of women in cardio classes in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s were pretty high, with less of them participating on the more traditionally male-dominated weight floor. Now, I see a higher concentration of female athletes doing both, alternating or combining their aerobic and anaerobic training on a day by day basis. In my opinion, that is a serious leap forward as I also have noted that the women who are serious trainers seem to also be more innovative and interested in trying new training techniques than the old-school males of my generation (and younger) who might be considered equally as committed or interested in fitness culture.
(Something inside me here is also twitching with a question along the lines of why guys have difficulty checking a fucking map when they are lost. Could there be a correlation? Quick, somebody start a study!)
Is it safe to say that the evolution of feminism has influenced a more natural and egalitarian atmosphere in fitness facilities? Maybe, but that may just be what I’m reading (and hopefully willing) into it. It’s also an incredibly broad question that I am ill-prepared to provide a real, substantive answer to. (Back to you, FFG!) Gyms are, and always will be, places rife with sexual tension, but maybe not as much of it is borne solely by men for women (or men for men, for that matter) as it used to be. If women are more comfortable with their bodies and their training in that charged atmosphere, perhaps we are on an upward rise in terms of gender equality in these venues. A greater sense of confidence, safety, and shared space amongst the sexes? I can’t help but think that is a good thing.
(Just like those goddamn lululemon pants.)
(And ladies, they make them for guys, too. Buy your favourite dude a pair and see the difference…)
…But maybe I’m out to lunch here. What do you think?
I can’t help but think that you sorely wish to see a picture of RenMan, especially one with him wearing said ass enhancing pants. Unfortunately he did not have a photo on hand, and was unable to send it to my personal e-mail account as I requested multiple times. I am not certain, but I fear that Ren cannot afford said pants as they cost over $100. Always in a charitable state of mind, I have therefore begun a fundraising drive and ask you to pledge some money. Any amount will help. Should we manage to attain the full purchase price, RenMan has promised to pose in these luxtreme cheek huggers. This, I’m sure you agree, would be a dream come true. For all of us.
Pledge Now for Tight RenMan Pants