Wasting Time at the Gym

I no longer work out two hours per day, but I still spend quite a bit of time at the gym, about one hour six days per week. While warming up on the rowing machine or re-racking the bar in the mirrored squat rack, I take a look around. Sometimes I admire the masterful technique of those nearby. Sometimes I get ideas for new exercises, helping me to plan the next work out with Dr. Ironcore. And sometimes I become irrationally annoyed by people who don’t seem to be working out at all. They are just wasting time.

Every time I go to one particular gym, a young, slim Asian woman is using a pro-cor strider machine. But she is not striding. Instead, she steps straight up and down, very slowly, while staring fixedly at her phone. She does this leisurely, light march for well over an hour every day. Why? Walking to the Mac’s convenience store would take more effort. Sitting down on a leather sofa and standing back up again would raise her heart rate more than that relaxed air march does. What on earth is she thinking?

Another woman sits in the hip adductor machine every day, opening and closing her thighs a few times before resting for about five minutes and then switching to the nearby abductor machine. Then she leaves. WTF? These machines do not provide much of a work out, though they are good finishers after a full leg day. Can sitting still at the gym be considered worthwhile? I am baffled.

Do these and other people simply not know how to exercise? Could they use a good personal trainer or some friendly advice? Or are they afraid to get sweaty? No. I do not think that such low impact spa ladies are misinformed or ignorant. I assume that they are meditating, or perhaps escaping a smelly roommate by enjoying the gym. Wait….that might not be the best location to pursue sweet smells. Maybe these women just want to take a shower afterwards or else are they hoping to run into a friend? I have so many questions; so few answers.

Do you ever see people at the gym who are not working out, but are doing something entirely different? Do you have theories about their motivations? Is this a sociology doctoral thesis project in the making?

Other gym regulars do not seem to be wasting time so much as performing self-loathing and body destroying rituals. One guy in his thirties appears to live at the commercial gym I frequent. He wears baggy pants and t-shirts and seems hell bent on ruining all of his joints by middle age. He lifts insanely heavy weights, swinging them around wildly while arching his back. His version of a bicep curl is like the scene of an accident. I am horrified by his performance, but I cannot look away. First he throws his back and upper body into an arch trying to lift the right side of the massive barbell. Then he slowly raises the other side in a series of thrusts and grunts. Ugh. Yesterday I saw him bend over while swinging heavy dumbbells from the front of his body around to the back of his neck, like a rear delts movement done by someone without elbows. It was painful to watch. I feared that the bizarre, jerky motion could break his neck, especially since his traps were pulled up and his head tucked down like that of a turtle. I am seriously thinking of changing gyms to avoid watching this man annihilate his body. I don’t think he is wasting time by not working out; he is compulsive-obsessive in a way that I do not pretend to understand.

Pants optional?

The other day, Dr. Ironcore and I were ascending the Eiffel Tower on the Versa Climber when we saw a skeletal woman nearby. She had no fat on her body, not even on her thighs. I see her doing various body weight exercises almost every day. That day she was doing a wall sit, with her back flat against the wall with her knees bent at 90 degrees during our entire “upward” climb, about 15-20 minutes. She was rigidly sitting that way when we left to go upstairs to do pull ups. In fact, she was reading a thick textbook. I was seriously worried about her knees and back, as well as her future. It seemed that the wall-sit lady was punishing herself, but I did not intervene in her obsessive torture ritual. I wished that Fitbabe was there, because she would know what to do. Witnessing this spectacle was quite upsetting and, like the man above, I thought that this woman was dealing with issues in a way that would eventually result in her self-destruction.

Why don’t I just mind my own business, and get on with my own training? Yes, I should probably do that. I should stop gnashing my teeth about the large, young man who just this morning was swinging a heavy kettle bell from the ground to well over his head, while jumping at the same time. “Run for it!” I advised Dr. Ironcore as we scurried away from the scene of the crime. This guy was going to hurt someone badly, or at the very least smash a mirror at the gym. But what could I do? What should I do? Probably just get a better phone with more memory so that I can listen to music. And wear blinders.

Disclaimer: I go to several different gyms so I don’t think that anyone vaguely described in this blog could be identified…. Any lawyers out there?

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About feministfiguregirl

I am a 51-year-old professor named Lianne McTavish who receives as much satisfaction from working out at the gym as from publishing my academic research. About eight years ago, I decided to combine my two primary identities (scholar/gym rat) to create "Feminist Figure Girl," a fictional character who both analyzes and participates in bodybuilding. I competed in my first figure show in June of 2011, and then wrote a book inspired by the process, published by SUNY Press in February 2015. In this blog I will write about and consider my ongoing research on the body, while regularly making fun of myself. I recommend that you start reading my first post from August 2010 (available on the home page), instead of backwards from the most recent one, in order to get the full FFG effect.

1 thought on “Wasting Time at the Gym

  1. Boy do I understand. There’s a guy who, twice a week, goes around to all the weight stacks so he can put ALL of the 45-lbs plates on the leg press machine…and then proceeds to bend his knees about five degrees. I want to ask him why he’s not using a more complete ROM and what he thinks he’s accomplishing…but I also don’t want to know.

    And what IS with all of the people who use the Versa climber but only step about four inches, barely bending their knees?

    But then, my gym is full of middle-aged people working with trainers who have them do things like dumbbell flyes while lying on a ball or curls while balancing on one leg. I just avert my eyes and go back to my squats.

    This is the first gym I’ve been to where some man hasn’t decided to interrupt my workout to tell me that I shouldn’t lift such heavy weights, so I guess I should just be happy that everyone is minding their own business.

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