The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Workout, that I’ve been toiling away with for 6 years. I’ll periodically post works in progress: today’s excerpt looks at the quirky, distracted gym members who have provided me with endless entertainment over the years. Enjoy…
Whether it’s 6 in the morning battling darkness and cold or 9 at night fighting distraction and fatigue, gym members bond over the toil that defines a good workout. When the groove becomes the grind members can take comfort in knowing that others are suffering too. They lean on each other as much as the handrails of a step machine to get through a workout, although some need the help of distracting devices, which serve to entertain them and, coincidentally, me as well.
I’m intrigued by the member who sprinted up the stairs and asked me to put on America’s Top Model while jumping on an elliptical, saying, “I know I’m lame but I came over on a commercial break.” I’m equally puzzled by the geniuses who talk on the phone while running on a treadmill. This idea seems as dumb to me as when TV commentators trap the winner of a track and field event for an interview immediately after he crosses the finish line. You mostly hear deep, heavy breathing punctuated by a sprinkling of nonsensical syllables—who’d want to listen to that?
I’m truly baffled by the members who only ride the bikes—they cause a minimal amount of jarring—for a cozy half-hour of reading bliss. I may be a bit of a snob but isn’t the idea to move more at the gym? After all, the term “workout” suggests that work must be done.
My theory on these distracted gym members; because they pay a monthly fee to use the club—like rent for an apartment—they treat it as an extension of their homes. So, they bring a bit of home to the gym, creating hybrid time between leisure and work. Thus, the leisurely workout.
My favorite distracted gym member is a curly-haired blond who comes in sporting the accoutrements of someone with no intention of exerting herself: iced coffee, magazines, iPod, and phone. Ms. Curly Q claims a bike strategically located in front of a TV and positions her implements in a satisfactory arrangement. She exerts just enough force on the peddles to power the console and then takes out her phone to begin a battery of calls.
One day, I happened to be working with a client about eight feet from Q and I instructed him to do weighted ball throws to the ground. He picked up the ten pound ball, raised it up over his head like he was about to chop wood, and rapidly fired it to the floor, causing a thunderous thud. He quickly scooped it up and did nine more. I knew to watch Q when he started and I enjoyed seeing her quake with panic as the first rep roared. After a few more I heard her say to her phone partner, “Hold on,” and then tried to get my attention. I have added my own internal commentary [in brackets].
She said, “Excuse me. Do you have to do that over here [I’m trying to have a conversation]? Can’t you go over to the mat?” Without looking up I said, “We’re almost done with the set.” That’s a little unsafe, don’t you think? I’m mean, everything’s shaking [including my coffee].” She tried to resume her conversation but kept looking sharply in my direction until we stopped. I was in the middle of speaking to my client about his form when she chimed in once more. “Are you going to do that again?” I just looked at her and smiled, thinking to myself, “If you moved your legs as much as your mouth, you might be able to fit into that skimpy top a little better.” But instead I picked up my stuff to move my client to a different area when another trainer, who had witnessed the exchange, said, “Leave the ball, I’m doing that with my client next.”
Keep on Movin,