Friday, February 24, 2012

Gym Jerks

As we near March, tourist season in the gym is coming to an end. All those go-getters who vowed on New Year’s Eve to finally use their gym membership and the chubby girls who swear this is the year they will finally drop that 20 extra pounds and meet the man of their dreams have given up. They come in all fresh-faced and doe-eyed for the first few weeks of January and I’m kind of proud of them, despite the fact that my gym triples in population and getting a treadmill is about as easy as getting a heart transplant.

As February rolls around, the numbers start to fall as people’s schedules suddenly fill up or some grave injury has forced them to stay at least 100 yards from the gym that did them wrong. Still, there are some troopers and I think, “we were all there once” so I root for the ones I think will really make it. But by the end of February, they’re all but gone.

At first this change of scenery seems nice. I no longer have to eek past the gaggle of confused girls trying to figure out each machine or the 20-something-year-old man inexplicably using the one set of ten-pound dumbbells. But as they depart, that pleasant din of hope and determination gives way to the ugliness of the gym locals.

Don’t get me wrong, gym locals are like the locals in any community, meaning they aren’t all the same. There are dedicated body builders and marathon runners mixed in with elderly couples and new mothers. There are fatties and too-skinnies, republicans and democrats, even Packers and Vikings fans all mixed into one place.

Like in most communities, we all strive to politely get along and even help each other out when need be. So why did I call these locals ugly, and why do you have the sure sense I’m about to go off on a rant? Because, also like all communities, we have some bad apples that dominate the gym atmosphere and ruin the experience for everyone around them. I call these the gym jerks.

Gym jerks should not be confused with the naïve and dimwitted, as Webster might define “jerk,” I have no problem with such individuals. In fact, I find them rather sweet. No, a gym jerk refers to the over-compensating, there’s-no-such-thing-as-too-much-attention, super annoying, exceedingly loud, overall bad human being who should be put down.

The most classic example of a gym jerk is the guy who packs 400 pounds onto the bench press, hoots and hollers for ten minutes about it, then proceeds to perform ONE rep (not one set, literally just lifts the bar up one time), pats himself on the back and walks away, leaving the poor schmuck who wants to actually use the bench press for exercise with the daunting task of putting away said 400 pounds.

Another prime example is the chick who clearly has never had to work out in her life either because she has a great metabolism, she doesn’t eat, or she’s 18. Whatever the reason, she thin without trying, but can’t lift more than 3 lbs. Now, she’s not a gym jerk for being naturally thin. I applaud girls who come in and bust their butts trying to tone or stay healthy even though God gave them a pass in the cellulite department. No, this gym jerk wears the equivalent of a string bikini and too much make-up. She never actually exercises, she just parades around the gym like a peacock in heat, squealing loudly at everyone she recognizes and pointing in disgust to the signs reading “please don’t stare at other patrons, it’s rude and distracting” anytime a man glances in her direction.

By his or her very nature, the gym jerk is someone who is loud, self righteous and rude.  This morning I was met with a trifecta. They’re always worse in teams.

Upon arrival, my husband and I went to use the bench press and saw that three of the four had people actively lifting on them and the last one had a towel and water bottle sitting on it, but no person. We wandered over to the bench and looked around to see whose stuff was on it.

“Hey! Hey!” we heard a voice shout from across the room.

Keep in mind, we’ve touched nothing, simply stood near the bench and looked around.

“That’s mine! I’m using that!” A heavyset black man with “take no prisoners” tattooed across his forehead pushed his way across the gym. Okay, maybe there was no tattoo, but there might as well have been based on the look of hatred and death he was shooting our way.

He finally reached us, panting from the 50-yard dash he’d just made.

“Yo, I’m using that,” he said directly to my husband, while doing his best to flex what little muscle he had under the flab he called arms.

“Can we work in?” asked Mat, a very common and respected question in the gym world.

“Nah, man. Nah. I’m using it.”

Because we’re those community members who never like to make a scene, we simply shrugged our shoulders and made our way to the dumbbell section of the gym and proceeded to do something else.

Remarkably, the gym jerk didn’t do a single rep, didn’t even lay down, rather, he returned to the area he had leapt from to defend his bench. An area where a woman wearing a micro half shirt and booty shorts was straddling a machine she clearly had never used before and wasn’t planning on using today.

“Sorry about that, “ he said leaning up against the machine.

Another man was already there chatting her up. Now I was forced to hear the uncomfortable flirting of a woman desperate for attention, but not willing to sleep around to get it, and the competing men who actually thought they were going to get to have sex with her.

It went something like this:

Man one: “So, you come here often?”

Man two: “Of course she does, look at that fine physique.”  

Woman: (giggles) “I’m a skanky whore.”

Okay, my dialogue might be off a bit. I was working out, not taking notes! You get the point though. Now you may be thinking, wow, what an eavesdropper, but these three are gym jerks, so they keep their volume level at a place that makes it impossible for you not to overhear… no matter how much you beg for deafness.

Now I might have let this all pass without a blog entry, but then they started in on workout tips and gym etiquette and my brain began to short circuit, and, of course, the only cure for a short-circuited brain is to punch someone in the face or write a good rant. It was a really tough decision.

“I hate coming to the gym and seeing people just sit around,” said the woman who not once attempted a single repetition on the machine she sat on for at least an hour. “And what’s with all the grunting?”

Okay, sweetheart, it’s the gym, not the club. I show up in by husband’s old basketball shorts and a ratty tank top because nothing I’m about to do is sexy. I workout, so LATER, in an appropriate setting, I can look sexy. Bottom line, if you’re not sweating and grunting, you’re doing something wrong at the gym, and you’re probably doing something wrong in your personal life as well.

Guy number two, the one who isn’t even pretending to exercise, explained the finer points of working out to her. “Well, it’s all about form. A lot of people don’t pay attention to their form and that makes the exercise seem harder. It’s not supposed to be that hard. But if, say, you’re lifting with your back instead of your arms, you’re going to grunt because you’re hurting yourself.”


For the record, the man who chased us off the bench, went back about every five to seven minutes and performed ONE rep. It wasn’t even a lot of weight. I mean, it was completely pointless. In the end, he “occupied” that bench for 45 minutes.

When the trio finally left, about an hour into our workout, I let out a sigh of relief and was finally able to unclench my fists. On the plus side, all that pent up rage gave me a damn good workout.

Here’s the moral of this tale, kids – don’t be a gym jerk. If you want to be loud and make friends and get the attention daddy never gave you, go to a nightclub. Go to a bar. Go on the Internet. Go to the library for all I care, just please, please stay out of the gym. Because eventually I won’t be able to hold all my rage in and I’ll either be put in jail or become one of those muscleman ladies – neither is a road I’d like to take. So, do it for me guys. Thanks.

Dr. Em 


  1. Em,

    Maybe the gym girl does sleep around but just waits for the guys she meets at night in the club. You have to remember that there are no daytime clubs for these "single and looking" individuals to go to. You've been married forever and have totally forgotten what the single life is like. These poor girls require constant sexual attention from men to feel validated, which why they are usually single. It's like having a disease...

    And they guys? Well, they're of the breed that has no interest in a real person; they only want an easy hook up. You wouldn't fault a tiger for having stripes would you?

    Why not solve this anger problem you seem to have as I did...don't go to the gym. Sweating on purpose is bound to make you cranky.

    Princess WeeWee

  2. Going to the gym relaxes me. If I didn't have that stress relief I think my head would implode. On the other hand, if the gym wasn't so filled with morons, I'd get the full therapeutic benefit from it and might end up so happy I sound like you.... not sure which is worse. Let's call gym jerks a super annoying balance.

    BTW, If the stripes annoyed me, then yes, I would totally fault the tiger. Why do you think I hate Dalmatians? Too many spots.

    Dr. Em