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Goin’ to the gym

Keepin' Score, Matt Brown

In the second semester of my freshman year of college, my good friend Jayson Forte and I made a wise decision concerning our physical health. In the search for a constructive hobby, we decided that we would start working out at the gym. After all, Chico State’s facilities were free to students (and believe me, I wouldn’t have paid a dime to use them), and free is always good when you’re penny-pinching in your late-teens and early 20s.

It was a good decision, but also a rather dangerous one, because little did we know that it would turn into an addiction. For the rest of the year and through our sophomore years, we frequented the gym three to four times a week, and we could hardly wait to go Monday through Thursday nights. We referred to the trips to the gym as “The Pump,” affectionately named after a quote in “Pumping Iron,” a documentary featuring one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s many runs at the Mr. Universe title. (The movie is worth checking out, even if only to enjoy the humor of a young, conceited Schwarzenegger flaunting his ego and saying some of the best one-liners.)

The Pump is almost as good as Schwarzenegger makes it out to be in his documentary, but for some reason (I joined a band, and Forte got a girlfriend) we lost the passion during our junior year. The funny thing about working out, lifting weights, or whatever the kids call it these days, is that once you stop, it’s hard to recapture that commitment. It’s definitely a hobby or sport that requires dedication and routine. That is my experience anyway.

Recently, I have only partly regained that intense motivation I once had. I have started going back to the gym once or twice a week as a member of 24 Hour Fitness in Reno. Let me first say that I don’t consider myself a hardcore gym guy because I don’t take supplements, and I don’t care too much about gaining huge amounts of muscle mass. I just want to stay in shape, and I realize going to the gym is one way to accomplish that.

But, besides the ultimate goal of getting or staying in shape, another draw to the gym is the characters that congregate there. The gym is its own world and one of the best places to people watch. In college, Forte and I had a nickname for all the regulars. Some were mean, some were silly and some were pretty out there. Some of the best were “Jabba,” “Owen Hart,” “Googs,” “The Angry Samoan,” “Wardrobe,” and “Birds of a Feather.” I’ll let you use your imagination.

So, when going to the gym, always remember that you are watched and noticed more than you think. This is especially true when you go at the same time every night because, chances are, other people consistently go at the same time you do.

So, without further ado, these are some of my favorite characters at the gym and how you might come into contact with them (guy can easily be replaced by girl in most instances):

— The “I look good just standing here guy” – These guys are the greatest because they’re in the best shape, and they scarcely pick up a weight. Miraculously, they’re in the best shape. They can be usually be spotted flexing in front of the mirror and admiring themselves in a skimpy tank top or A-shirt (a.k.a. “wife beater”).

— The “I dance better than I workout guy” – Have you ever noticed the guys with the headphones connected to their bicep who can’t sit still for a second because they have to dance to whatever beebop they happen to be listening to? They may not get through ten reps, but you can bet they know every lyric to every song on their current mix CD full of the latest dance hits. This guy will frolic just about anywhere in the gym. You can usually catch him dancing in the corner of your eye.

— The “I come to the gym to chat” guy – Then there’s the guy who comes to the gym to make his plans for the week with all his cronies, or to try to get a date with that girl that just won’t seem to give in. These guys come in crowds and are afraid to work out alone. Don’t let them latch on to you because you might have to get mean to get them to go away.

— The “I come dressed to kill” guy – More commonly, this is a feminine trait at the gym, but this guy wears the latest fashion trends, including a head band, expensive, gaudy cross-trainers, workout pants that come in an array of colors depending on his mood, workout gloves, a cool hat worn a bit crooked and representing the latest bandwagon franchise, and a suave shirt to round out the costume. But sometimes these guys are tolerable because some of them do work out hard. Don’t worry about spotting these guys because they want to be noticed.

— The “I want to be in shape so bad” or “I’m in denial” guy – Nothing drives me more crazy than the guy hogging the bench who should be on the treadmill. I am not saying that I have more of a right to the bench press, but we are at the gym to get in shape, right? Ironically, these obviously out-of-shape guys usually wear T-shirts with the sleeves cut off, further demonstrating their denial. These guys will most likely be on the machine that you want to use the most.

— The “I grunt because I can” guy – This guy grunts excessively because he wants everyone to know he is working out – and working out hard, at that. It’s one thing to grunt to get in that nearly impossible tenth rep, but grunting the whole time is exaggerated and unnecessary. This guy is respectable, however, because he motivates you to work harder, even though he is annoying. You might be lucky to be working out far enough out of his grunting decibel radius, but this guy refuses to not be heard.

— Any combination of the above – if you fall into two or more of the above categories, please invest in a home gym to spare human kind – the kind that go to the gym. There are most likely some good home workout infomercials on right now.

All joking aside, I do take comfort in seeing all the cars in the 24 Hour Fitness parking lot every night. It shows that a lot of people are at least going to the gym. Nevermind what they’re doing once they get inside.

Oh, you’re probably wondering what category I fit into. I’m the “reporter who occasionally goes to the gym,” so don’t let me see you do anything out of the ordinary.

Matt Brown is sports and outdoors reporter for the Sierra Sun.


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