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Gymtards, a Sociological Essay April 11, 2009

Posted by rscottgriffin in Life In Detail.
1 comment so far

It’s almost instinctive, now.  You walk through the doors of the gym and immediately begin scanning for them.  You simultaneously begin praying to God, Allah, Jehovah, key fob, the high priests of the Druids, or whatever higher power you believe in that “they” aren’t there today.  You know they will be, though…they always are.  Although one, alone, can be disruptive, as a group they are maddening.  They are the “gymtards.”

You know them; we all do.  This species crosses all standard societal boundaries and lines – black, white, gay, straight, men, or women, or any combination thereof.  (As a side note, most groups I have observed are all men or may only have one or a sprinkling of women.  At Curves or other women-only facilities, however, I am certain that a similar grouping exists.)

In my experience, the typical gymtards travel in packs of at least 3 and up to 6 or 8, depending on the number of hangers-on present that day.  (***It may be possible for one person to exhibit this behavior.  If so, make sure you avoid him or her – he or she is likely a sociopath.)  There is ALWAYS a core group.  there is a critical mass that is required to ensure that they make the act of working out as difficult as possible for others.

It is quite clear that they believe that they OWN the gym, and all equipment is there for their use at their leisure, those others of us that pay membership fees be damned.  Like a pack of hyenas that can’t make do with only one wildabeast, they surround several pieces of equipment – benches, machines, mats; nothing is safe.  At some point, though, you WILL need to use one of them or something in the vicinity.

Instead of breaking into groups of two or three, “working in” and using the equipment concurrently, though, the group, as a whole, may only make use of one piece of equipment at a time.  When one person is working, the rest of the group, or at least a critical mass, must observe.  That leaves some equipment being unused, but once it has been “pissed on” – 5 sets of dumbbells next to a bench or a towel draped over a machine seat or a water bottle or keys thrown about – don’t even THINK about getting near it.  Although there is nothing unusual about indicating something is in use, even for you and I, we don’t manage to mark four  at once.

A standard circumstance can play out as such: you walk up to a free-standing bench (you may substitute any other equipment you may commonly use) and see that it appears to be in use (see,  examples above).  “Hhmmm, okay” you think, and look around.  It is not clear to you, at the time, who has it currently claimed.  You wait patiently.  No one returns after a reasonable amount of time, and you progressively become annoyed, then irritated.  Then, you realize – “shit.”  Sure enough, after you have altered your routine and moved on to something else, one of the gymtards returns, usually with several others in tow to observe.  They always require a “spotter” and at least one audience member to grunt approval and encouragement.  Of course, this “set” comprises of maybe one or two repetitions, then concludes.  They then all wander off, again, to watch one of their brethren on his or her next exercise.  Of course, that does not mean that someone else would be free to work in.  That would be considerate of the others present.

In those circumstances when they all gather to use neighboring equipment, good luck  getting around them to use equipment in the general vicinity.  They WILL NOT get out of the way if they see you coming.  You must be assertive and walk unwaveringly toward your destination.  If you need to return weights to their proper place, which is always directly on the rack behind them, you must not deviate.  It’s like animals in the wild – do not show fear or weakness.  Looking them in the eye is also discouraged.

There is an apparent hierarchy to the gymtards.  This hierarchy seems to be aligned along the same lines as a group of high school girls (see “Heathers” or “Mean Girls” or “Never Been Kissed”).  There is an alpha (e.g., Heather Chandler or Regina George).  There is one that is kept at just enough of a distance to make him or her insanely jealous and and always struggling to maintain his or her status in the group (e.g., Heather Duke or Gretchen Weiners).  There is, of course, also the dumb one (e.g., Heather McNamara or Karen Smith).  There is also that guy that has some hidden reserve of confidence that you “come to school for” (e.g., Guy).  I think that this hierarchy may be the most entertaining part of the whole fiasco – that even well into adulthood, those roles and social constructs NEVER go away.  Just watch sometime, if you can get them away from your bench, that is.