The New Year at the Gym: Here We Go Again…

The new year is upon us, 2016 to be exact. As always, many folks have resolved that this is the year they will lose those unwanted pounds and get in top shape. How do I know? I’ve belonged to a gym for many years, and I see these folks every January. Today is January 1, and I saw them at the gym. Oh, they weren’t working out (after all, it’s a holiday). They were getting tours of the gym, meeting with trainers and signing contracts. Soon though, they will descend upon the gym like New Years Eve revelers.

I used to rail against the Resolvers, scoffing at their half-hearted efforts knowing that they would fall by the wayside within a few weeks. I’ve changed. I welcome them. Everyone should exercise. I am 53 and in quite good condition, especially compared to my peers. I feel good, both physically and mentally. Why should I begrudge that to others just because they get in my way for a few weeks?

Rather than resent the Resolvers, I want to help them. Understand that I am not an athletic trainer. I am not an athlete. I do, however, go the gym quite often–6 or 7 days week. If I’m on the road, I find hotels with gyms. If I can’t find one, I find a local gym that will let me workout for a small fee. I’ve been to gyms all over the country, from New York City to Hawaii. I know the rules, both written and unwritten. If you’re a Resolver, please read on. It will save us all some grief.


If you haven’t worked out in a while, act like it. “In a while” also means “ever.” Most people in the gym have been there before. They have workout routines that reflect their experience. You, on the other hand, need a routine that reflects your years of sloth. That may sound harsh, but it’s true.

You’ll see people who look like you want to look, with trim waists and rippling muscles. It is tempting to watch what they do and copy it. Stop. These people are working out like trim-waisted, rippling-muscled people. You need to work out like a flabby, doughy person. There’s nothing wrong with that, by the way. Your ideal may be doing 30 pound curls. You might need to do 5 pound curls. Do them.

You also must squash your ego. This is especially true for men. We want to throw around weights like they’re pie pans. We can’t, of course. Don’t worry about how much you bench press. Sure, it’s a tad deflating to realize you can only bench 50 pounds. Hey, 50 pounds is better than nothing. People aren’t watching you. The people who can really lift are concerned only with themselves. They don’t care what you lift. Note how often they look in the mirror. Trust me–they (we?) aren’t trying to catch a glimpse of you.

A good way to learn reasonableness is with a trainer. Trainers vary in skill. Some aren’t very good, but all of them know how to get a new person started on an exercise regimen. Maybe you have a friend who works out regularly. He or she can help you. Start slow. Workout warriors weren’t born that way. Neither were you.


Gyms are full of equipment. A lot of it is strange looking and not easily understood. This doesn’t stop the novice from climbing aboard and fumbling about. Usually, there will be an illustration on the equipment demonstrating proper use. If that doesn’t work, ask a gym employee. Again, a trainer can help.

If you don’t use a trainer, educate yourself on how to exercise. Weightlifting, in particular, requires certain routines for maximum results. You might work different muscles on different days. Rest is important. Strength training is different than toning or even muscle building. You have to know the differences.

Several years ago, I made the acquaintance of a former NFL player who also spent some time in prison. He described what he called a “jailhouse workout.” By that, he meant lifting with no program–a few curls, a few reps on the bench, a few random leg exercises. He said prisoners don’t have enough equipment or time to do it right. Hey, if you’re jail, do what you can. Otherwise, get a plan.

If you’re grossly overweight, you really must learn first. I know–it’s not good to say that people are overweight or “fat.” Come on, we know that’s the case. Losing weight is a process, not an event. You have to attack it a pound at a time. Becoming a crunch beast won’t help much if your six pack is buried under a foot of fat. Talk to a doctor. Get a trainer. Just get to work.


Your new gym will have an array of rules about attire, use of equipment and sundry courtesies. These are all good, but most gym etiquette is just common sense. Here are the big rules:

Clean Up: If you use free weights, re-rack them. It’s simple. Put them back where you got them. They’ll be on racks in ascending order from lowest to highest weight. An idiot can do it, but you’ll be surprised at how many idiots don’t. If you can help it, don’t be an idiot.

Seriously, Clean Up: No one wants to use equipment drenched in your sweat. There’s just no debate here. Wipe down the equipment.

Look But Within Reason: I direct this to my fellow men. Most gyms today are co-ed. Every gym has attractive women wearing attire not normally seen in public. It’s pretty cool. You can look. To some extent, it’s expected perhaps even welcome. Don’t go full-on perv. If you follow a woman around so that you can maintain a good view, it will be noticed. Much as it might surprise you, they aren’t looking back at you.

Silence Is Golden: I’ve been going to the same gym for years. I’ve gotten to know some of the regulars. We’ll occasionally talk, but it’s always brief. Regulars are there to work out, not chat. You should do the same. Most gym regulars are glad to share pointers or answer questions, but we aren’t there to socialize.

Cover It Up: By “it,” I mean everything. No one is comfortable around naked people, even in a gym locker room. There’s no need to be naked for any extended period. Don’t strike up a conversation while you’re naked. Don’t get naked and then start rooting around in your locker. There should be absolutely no bending over. Don’t get naked and stand and watch TV. It’s just weird, and people hate it. Those who parade about naked are also men who shouldn’t do so anywhere. They are usually old guys with a variety of obvious physical flaws which are wholly unappealing.

Of course, I speak only of the men’s locker. Like all men, I imagine the women’s locker room populated by super models who wear skimpy towels when they aren’t showering together. An objective look at most women in the gym reveals that they may have the same unsightly issues as the men.

Dress The Part: Even being clothed can be done wrong. Jeans, khakis, work boots and other fashion failures must be avoided. Look the part. A t-shirt and shorts will work. Sweat pants are perfect. A middle-aged man in a wrestling singlet is not welome anywhere. Bicycle shorts, short-shorts and skin-tight apparrel must all be evaluated with an eye toward aesthetics. What is athletic–even alluring–on one person is vile and revolting on another. In these politically correct times, I realize that it is frowned upon to say that any one person is more attractive than another. Some people look better than others. Get a full-length mirror and judge for yourself.


I believe that no one stays with exercise if he or she doesn’t like it. Experiment with different routines. Maybe you prefer cardio work to weights. That’s okay. Better to do cardio alone, than nothing at all.

Nothing ends an exercise program as quickly as an injury. Injuries are different than some pain. If you haven’t worked out in years, you’re going to have some aches and pains. When you get to my age-53 at this writing–you’re going to have some aches. If you over do it–lifting too much weight, for example–you will get injured. An injury will shut you down. That’s the quickest path to quitting. Even if you get injured, there’ll be other exercises you can do. Do those.

So, there you have it. I welcome you to my world. Now, get out of the way, and let me work out. Good luck.

© 2016

The Gym Rant, Part II

I’m back with more ravings about the gym. Don’t get me wrong–I love the gym. But I spend a lot of time there, so I’ve developed certain likes and dislikes, even prejudices.  Many of these are just personal to me.  They might not bother a so-called “normal” person.  That matters not, of course.  What matters–as always–is me.  If you’re interested in things that bother you, I suggest you write about them yourself.


Your beastly author

A few months ago, I posted thoughts on a few things that bother me at the gym. Since then, I’ve thought of others. Here goes:


Every time I go in the locker room, there is a naked guy. Oh, it’s not the same naked guy. If it were, I’d make a formal complaint. It’ll be some dude, and he’ll be naked.  The locker really is a public area (public, not pubic).  The public–me included–is present.  How about covering up?

Put on a towel. Better yet–your damn clothes. You can towel off back by the showers. No one–NO. ONE.–wants to see you towelling your ass. This is especially true if we non-naked folks are sitting.  Oh, do you want to sit down naked guy? Put on your damn clothes first or lay down a towel. We don’t want your ass matter on everything.  I’m sure I speak for everyone on that point.

Hey, here’s another problem. Don’t talk to me. You’re naked. You want to talk? Here’s what I have to say: “Put your g **damn clothes on!” That’s the same thing I’d say to a dinner guest or co-worker under similar circumstances.  Simply put, I am incapable of engaging in casual conversation with naked people, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Do you really need to bend over? Then, you damn well need to cover up. Getting naked in front of strangers is weird enough, but bending over? Unless you’re planning on tucking bucks, that ain’t gonna fly. Stop.  And see the comment above about the rest of us sitting.  Please.

Finally, you would think that folks who parade around naked would probably have enviable physiques.  Nope.  It’s like a nude beach.  The people who do this have every reason in the world to wear many, many layers of clothing.

Until we join the 21st century and embrace my plan for non-sexist, unisex locker rooms, I’m not backing down on this one.  And, if I do back down, don’t worry–I’ll wear a towel.


If you go to a gym long enough, someone will ask you to spot him.  If you’ve ever lifted weights you know what that means.  If you haven’t, I’m sure it sounds vaguely obscene, but it isn’t.

Here’s how it works.  Someone is lifting, usually the bench press.  He is working with weights that are just slightly too heavy.  He needs a boost to get going. So, you spot him.  On the bench press, this means you hold the weights to give him just a little more lift to get going. Sometimes, the spotter needs to stand there for the whole set, you know, just in case the weights come crashing down on the lifter.

Spotting is considered a courtesy at the gym.  It’s kind of like holding the door for someone.  I don’t mind doing it on occasion, but really that’s not why I’m at the gym.  I would, of course, like to point out a couple of things to keep in mind.

If you weigh, say, 300 pounds and are benching let’s say 400 pounds, you might need someone of similar girth to help you.  I’m 50 years old.  I weigh 160 pounds.  I’m in pretty good shape.  In fact, for my age, I’m in excellent shape.  It’s a solid 160.  This does not mean, however, that I am the appropriate person to spot someone benching 2 1/2 times my weight.  If you start to give out and the weight is coming down, what can I really do for you?  Perhaps I can hang on to the weights and crash down on top of you.  Maybe I can throw myself between the weights and your body to cushion the blow.  That’s about it.  If you are a behemoth of some sort, bring another of your massive ilk with you.  You guys can put on those big leather lifting belts and spot each other.  Trust me, it’s a better plan.

Also, if you need spotting for your entire set, it’s possible you’re using too much weight or you need a permanent assistant.  I’m there to work out, not be your spotting manservant.

With those qualifiers, I’ll spot you, just not too often.  If you bug me too much, I could just drop the weights on you  anyway.


Maybe this guy is just at my gym, but I don’t think so.  He uses dietary supplements.  He asks me if I use supplements.  “Do you use creatine?”  “Do you load?” “What kind of protein do you use?” “Do you use a T booster?”  The list is endless.  He’s like a drug dealer.  He wants to know what you’re doing and then tries to get you to do something else.

My gym’s Supplement Guy doesn’t look like he uses any supplements, but he does.  He’ll tell me I need more supplements so that I can look the Michelin Men who work out at the gym.  I’ve told him, gently, that some of those guys are using REAL supplements, nothing you can buy at GNC.  He doesn’t care.  He needs to tell me what he uses.  What he uses certainly doesn’t work, but he doesn’t care.

Supplement Guy bothers me and not just because I don’t care for idle chatter at the gym.  I’m in far better shape than he is.  He has no business suggesting I do what he’s doing.  In fact, he should do what I’m doing.  Maybe that’s why he asks, but I don’t think that’s it.


We all reach a certain age where people become curious about our age.  I guess.  I’ve been asked on several occasions at the gym about how old I am.  Why?  It’s possibly because I am an Adonis of some sort.  That’s doubtful.  I think it’s because I’m there almost every day, and some folks are fascinated that an aging fellow like me would do that.  There’s one guy at our gym a lot older that I am–20 years at least.  I’ll admit that I want to ask how old he is.  Even though I’ve known this guy a long time, I still won’t ask his age.  It just seems awkward.

It’s not an awkward subject for some people.  They’ll ask without hesitation.  Sometimes, this can be misconstrued.  I will believe I’m being flattered.  A while back, I was approached by a comely lass who couldn’t have been more than 25 years old (at my age, I can’t really tell–she was no more than 40 for sure).  Here’s the conversation:

HER:  “Excuse, me.  I hope you don’t mind me asking, but how old are you?”

ME:  “49”

HER:  “Do you use a personal trainer?”

[Now, it’s clear that she has seen something she likes. I still got it!]:

ME:    “Well, no.”

[This is 100% ME, baby!]

HER:  “Oh, I just wondered.  My dad is 46, and I’ve been trying to get him to get in shape.  I thought I’d ask if you used someone here.  Thank you , sir.”

ME: [sigh] You’re welcome.

Oh, well.

Here’s another one:

Young Man:  “Hey, how old are you?”

ME:  “50”

Young Man:  “Wow.  No wonder you’re here all the time.  It must be hard to stay in shape when you get older.”

That passes for a compliment in some cultures, I’m sure.  Here’s the deal.   Unless you’re older than I am, don’t ask me how old I am.  It’s not really relevant to anything other than your morbid curiosity.  I will say this, however, to these youngsters.  Check in when you’re 50.  It IS hard to stay in shape at my advanced age.  It’s called OLD MAN STRONG!


I suffer from some genetic anomaly which results in my having oddly feminine-looking legs.  I know this, because I’ve been told so on many occasions.  Usually, someone will say:  “I wish my legs looked like yours.”  That someone is always a woman.

I’ve worked on my legs.  I’ve lifted with them, run miles and miles–they’ve never changed.  They get no bigger or smaller.  That’s just how it is.  I also lack superfluous body hair.  I like to think of it as advanced evolution.  My ancestors crawled out the primordial ooze a little bit ahead of yours.  This only adds to the girlishness of my legs.


My penchant for sitting like this certainly doesn’t help with the girlishness of my legs.

I don’t need to hear this anymore.  If you see a man with girly legs at the gym, it is probably me.  Don’t tell me.  I know it’s a compliment, but it doesn’t come across that way.


My gym used to have cubbies.  You know, the little cubbie holes like elementary school kids use to store their stuff.  They were great.  They were in the work out area, and you could just toss your coat and car keys in one and be done.

This past year, my gym was sold to a large, national gym chain.  Overall, this is a good thing.  Whether it was the economy or just poor management, the gym had slipped some.   Equipment was in disrepair and cleaning was poor.  Plus, our gym’s owners had been subject to many complaints over their business practices.  It was probably a good time for a change, but it came at a price.

The price was our cubbies.  Why?  No one seems to know.  If the workers at the gym know, they aren’t telling.  Oh, we tried to protest, but it was to no avail.  Corporate America often ignores the little man.  Now, even if it’s just a light jacket, we must use the lockers.  Not only does this expose us to naked people, but we also must hang out in the stench of the locker room.  Do we need locks now?  So far, no.  At some point, they’ll probably force that on us, too.  Frankly, I thought my stuff was more secure out in the open where I could see it–in my precious cubbie.


Despite our begging, the cubbies are no more.

So, the cubbies are gone, and I’m none too pleased about it.  Sure, there was the time someone took my car keys, but they returned them several hours later.  And, yes, someone took my lifting gloves once.  I consider this a small price to pay for the convenience.  Oh, well, I’m glad I had the foresight to take pictures of them before they were gone.


Even this last ditch appeal to the Christmas spirit failed.

You might have read this and thought “He hates the gym. Why does he go?”  No, no, no.  I love the gym. That’s why these little imperfections bother me.  It’s just like with my children.  I dearly love them all, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have traits which make me curse them.  Much like the gym, I’ve spent quite a bit of money on them and gotten much enjoyment out of it, but they can and should do better.  I would blog about them, but the Draconian “rules” of the so-called child welfare authorities prevent that.

I could go on about such things as people working out in jeans or couples who hog up machines for 30 minutes at a time, but I think I’ll stop.  By the way, I just got back from the gym.  I’m pleased to report that I remain clothed the entire time.

© 2013

The Gym Rant

The Man Whose Arms Exploded

Gregg Valentino is pictured above.  He and I have something in common.  No, it’s not the gun show.  We both work out a lot which means we spend a lot of time at the gym.  One difference is that he took dangerous amounts of steroids, got a hideous infection and his arms exploded, thus his nickname “The Man Whose Arms Exploded.”  Otherwise, we’re pretty similar.  That has nothing to do with this blog.  I just think it’s interesting that his arms exploded.

I spend about 10-12 hours a week at the gym.  That’s 500-600 hours a year.  As a result, I have reached certain conclusions, developed prejudices and pet peeves and have other observations which I will share with you.  This is the type of information which my wife calls “trivial BS that no one wants to read about.”  Indeed.

In that spirit and in no particular order, I offer:


Gyms are like nursing homes.  Regardless of cleanliness, they don’t smell good.  The reason is simple.  The gym is full of sweaty people.  Sweaty people smell bad.  Thus, … you get the point.

I’m not talking about that smell.  I’m talking about SMELL.  The kind of smell that will cause your lungs to seize up and your eyes to water.  I believe it was comedian John Fox who described something as smelling of “ass and cat food.”  That’s the smell.  If you smell like that, do something about it.

Some people smell like food.  I was on the treadmill next to a guy who smelled like an Indian restaurant.  Another guy smelled like gasoline.  WTH??  Some people are just plain rank.  Bad. I don’t have any recommendations, other than just ‘do something about it.’

Here’s something NOT to do.  Don’t bathe yourself in perfume or cologne.  If you’re really exercising, you’ll smell funky during and after.  Crippling your fellow gym rats with overpowering “cover” does not help.  Plus, it gets on the equipment.  Then, we get to smell like that.  Again, don’t do it.


People sweat or at least they should.  It’s good for you.  It cools your body down.  I know a dude who claims he can’t sweat.  That’s a bad beat.  Personally, I sweat profusely, so I have no prejudice against those who do likewise.  At the gym, sweating is acceptable; however, there is one boundary you should never cross.

DON’T LEAVE THE EQUIPMENT ALL SWEATY!!  Do you urinate all over the chairs in restaurant?  (By the way, if you do, please explain).  Every gym has paper towels and disinfectant to wipe down the equipment.  They also have signs telling you to wipe down the equipment.  So, WIPE DOWN THE FREAKIN’ EQUIPMENT!  There is nothing grosser than to sit on equipment and realize that you are in a pool of someone else’s filth.  STOP!

Done properly, abdominal crunches are very good exercise.  If, like me, you have low back pain, they are especially good in relieving stress from your back.  Here’s what they’re not good for:  Giving washboard abs to a person 200 pounds overweight.

If you are at the gym to lose weight for beach season or just your health in general, I applaud you.  What you are doing is admirable.  Unfortunately, the crunch machines are not your first priority.  Monopolizing the crunch equipment does not help you lose weight, and it angers those of us who need the equipment.  We’re glad to share with you, but this is not the way to flatten that belly.  Get rid of the belly first.


Weight lifting is, by its very nature, strenuous.  That’s the whole point.  You breakdown the muscle through lifting.  As the muscle repairs, it adds bulk.

There are many theories on the best way to add bulk or gain strength.  Some say a full body workout every other day.  Some say 3 or 4 days a week rotating different muscle groups.  Some suggest lighter weights for more reps, while others recommend heavier weights for fewer reps.  All have their advantages and disadvantages.  One thing I haven’t seen recommended is screaming your head off like a third-rate porn actress while you lift.

You know this guy.  If you belong to a gym, he’s there.  You can spot him.  He’s usually BIG.  Maybe not cut, but BIG.  He wears one of those weightlifter belts that look like some sort of leather truss.  He walks funny, kind waddling side to side. He drinks odd sludge-like drinks out of a plastic cup with a lid on it.  He’s usually in the company of another one of his ilk.  They “spot” each.  They may even ask you to spot them.  They put all the available weight on the equipment and maybe even throw a human on top as well.

Then it happens.  He starts to lift. He has these strap things to tie around the weights to secure his hands to them.  GRRROOAAWEHHHH!!!! The yell or scream or whatever you call it starts.  It’s a guttural sound that will blast through your iPod music and startle everyone in the gym.  That’s just the first rep.  It will continue until he’s exhausted.  You will be jarred each time.

Here’s the deal.  If you’re using that much weight, how about dropping a few pounds? I suggest that any amount of weight which requires you to scream like that may not be all that good for you.  Plus, it annoys the living hell out of everyone else.  I don’t like it, and it must stop.


They arrive every year like the swans returning to Capistrano or the latest installment of the Saw film series. They will appear just after New Years Day, walking around with a gym employee.  They stare at the equipment, nod their heads and then sign up for their new membership.  They have resolved to lose weight, get in shape and become new people.  They are the Resolvers.

They will invade the gym, usually in pairs (husband and wife, typically).  They fumble about the weight rack and machines.  They huff, puff and sweat.  You, as a regular gym patron, will find parking to be at a premium. Your favorite machines will be monopolized.  You will hate the Resolvers.

The good news is that the war of attrition takes its toll.  Their numbers wane over the weeks.  By mid-February, the herd has substantially thinned.  By the time March rolls around, only a few remain.  It is Darwinian.  The gym will be yours again by Spring.  Oh, a few of the Resolvers may become “regulars.”  You will accept them as one of your own.  In the meantime, don’t lose heart. Time is on your side.


A picture is indeed worth a thousand words:

Your author channeling Larry Bird, circa 1982.

If you have shorts like these, do not wear them.  Yes, there was a time when this was acceptable, much like child labor and public executions.  One exception:  if you are female, a lot of us will be okay with this look.


I belong to a gym in the suburbs.  Most of the people there are around my age–the Middle Aged.  Unless I live to be 100, I’m not middle-aged, but you get the point.  These are my people, and we’re not an attractive lot.  We want to get in shape, but time and bad habits have caught up with us.  So be it.

We are often subjected to Pretty People.  They are usually–but not always–young.  They are as tan as John Boehner. The girls wear lots of make up. The guys probably do, too.  The girls have matching, color-coordinated assembles.  The guys have ripped t-shirts.  They are pretty, pretty people, and they know it.

Leave my gym.  Now, I appreciate lovely young ladies as much as the next man, but I know that I am at the age where I am essentially invisible to them.  The Pretty People annoy the Middle-Aged.  We are not pretty.  We are not going to become pretty.  In fact, how we look today is probably the best we’ll look for the rest of our lives.  We don’t need to be reminded of this.  Pretty People need their own gym–or better yet–town. Leave us alone.  Thank you.


This is but a small sampling of my random observations.  I’ll likely post others from time to time.  I could add dozens more, but I just got home from the gym.  I’m tired.