Gym Watching

I admit it. I have been slacking!

I have not been to the gym regularly lately. Like in the month of January, I think I only went to the gym three times for the whole month. Well, it was bone-chillingly cold. I was jet-lagged from the Philippines’ trip. I was busy in my ICU rotation. The dog ate my alarm clock (we don’t even have a dog). Black Ninjas barricaded the gym……

No more excuses!

In reality I miss going to the gym, not just for the health reasons, but for the amusement as well. Because I am a gym watcher.

My first gym experience was right after I finished my undergrad course in Manila. I asked my father if I can use the refunded laboratory fee deposit of 400 pesos from my tuition, to sign up to a gym for the summer. I then enrolled in a gym located somewhere in Quezon Avenue.

On my first day, I was intimidated by the hunky muscular guys and athletic-looking gals working out in the gym. I was a measly 115-pound in a 5′ 8″ frame person. I was a wimpy kid! In fact, I spent more time in the gym that day, sitting in a corner, watching people.

Fast forward to today (25 years later), I may have gained 40 more pounds of muscles (and bilbil) and I may be more adept now in using the gym’s equipment and machines, but that has not stopped me still from watching people in all sort of shapes and sizes, and the different personalities and their idiosyncracies.

Here are some of the personalities I have observed over the years. Though they are real people, they may not be just one person, as in every gym there is a similar version or so, of them.

1. The gym rat. She goes to every exercise machine, from the treadmill, to the stationary bike, to the elliptical machine. She looks emaciated, like she just got out of the concentration camp. I guess she doesn’t know when to stop. She doesn’t look healthy at all. Just like everything else, even if it something good (like exercise) if it is done in excess, it is not good.

2. The chicken-legs guy. He has big burly shoulders. Heaving chest and pectorals. Hulking biceps and triceps. But thin legs. Chicken legs! I think he forgot that he needs to exercise his legs too. Legs are important you know. They hold you up against gravity.

3. The perfect make-up gal. It is 5:30 in the morning and she looks perfect with her full make-up on. Going where? To the gym! To sweat! I think appearance is so important to her. Aside from exercising, she also socialize, as she seems to know and greet everyone in the gym. Maybe she’s running for a popularity contest.

4. The slob. Almost opposite of #3. He looks like he just rolled out of bed, with his bed hair and clothes that he seems to have worn to sleep. The shirt is an old tattered college shirt with a visible food stain. Maybe he really slept in the gym. Maybe he really don’t care what his appearance is. Maybe I should cut him some slack. What is important is that he gets his exercise.

5. The grunter. He grunts when he stretches. He grunts when he runs. He grunts when he lifts weights. And not just silent grunts, it is a guttural noise that you can hear across the gym. It is as if calling attention to all, how fast he is running or how much weight he is bench pressing. It is kind of uncomfortable to be near him. Sometimes the grunting sounds he makes is as if he’s choking and I wonder if I need to jump behind him and do the Heimlich maneuver.

6. The hog. When he uses a machine, he hogs the equipment and does not let others  use it in between his 21 reps (or that’s how long it seems!). He will definitely make your gym time longer. Make sure you get ahead of him or you’ll wait till kingdom come. He doesn’t know how to share.

7. The silent observer. He seems to be minding his own business yet he is keenly observing all the people around him. He is not a stalker, but beware of him. He will write about you in his blog.

Muscles and Luxury Cars

I have read in the news that the number one New Year’s Resolution in the US, is to lose weight. In fact, it was the most popular resolution every year for more than a decade now. So it is not surprising that the attendance in a fitness club is the highest during the month of January. However, according to one article, by April, there is already an average of 20-30% dropout rate for those who started their membership in January. Really? It takes them 3 months to quit? I was expecting it to be shorter.

If you are a member of a health club, you are among the millions of people who do. I hope you are not one of those who will drop out by April. According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, the membership to a gym reached an all-time high of 50.2 million last year. So fitness clubs, sportsclub and racquet clubs are such a lucrative racket. Sorry for the pun, it was intended.

According to that article also, different states in the US have different participation rates. I find it interesting to learn that Iowa was ranked 24th, with health-club participation rate of 14.8%.  That was better than I thought actually. I was expecting it to be worse, with the high percentage of obesity here. We are not the number one producer of pork chop for nothing, you know. Massachusetts was the number one gym-friendly state with 25.1% consumers.

As I pulled up in our local YMCA parking lot this morning, I have one observation that has been consistent over the 10 years and more, that I have been a member of a fitness club. I have observed that there is a higher proportion of expensive vehicles or luxury cars and SUVs in a gym’s parking lot compared to other parking lot, like the hospital’s, or the mall’s, or Wal-Mart’s. Lots of BMW, Mercedes, Cadillac and Porsche. (No Batmobile though.) Do you know why?

this Wal-Mart parking lot is an exception

The first possible answer is that, with cost of fitness club membership, that is about $30-$60/month for general purpose gym, to about $50-$200/month to a Spa/Country Club/Racquet Club gyms, that attendance to this clubs are skewed to the more wealthy portion of the population. And therefore these rich people also own those luxury cars in the parking lot. Or maybe the club’s owner owns all those expensive vehicles, and just parks them outside the gym.

The second possible answer is that people who join these health clubs are people, who are very particular on their outward appearance, thus they go to the gym to look trim, hunky and sexy. These people also have the propensity to choose luxury vehicles to project their classy image. I tell you, people can be vain. Or maybe they just feel good about themselves. But hey, it’s a free country, they can do whatever they please.

The last possible answer I can think of, is that maybe, people who go to the gym are more driven individuals, who strives to be in their best, including their health, and thereby they exercise routinely. These motivated individuals, are also likely to be more successful, and thus the more luxury cars in the gym’s parking lot. In fact, there are several studies linking regular exercise and business success.

Whatever the real reason behind the link between toned muscles and luxury cars, I am really not sure. But maybe you can join the gym too and find out for yourself. Or perhaps you are already one of those driving a hot, exotic car.

(*image of Batmobile from here)

Busy Gym

I went to the gym yesterday for the first time this year. Yeah, first time for 2011. I have been slacking lately. Well, I got sick. And I was so busy. And it was cold and snowing. Excuses, excuses, excuses. Well, I got lazy (that’s the real excuse).

I ran in the tract for a mile. I rowed in the rowing machine for about 10 minutes. I rode the stationary bike for 4 miles. Triathlon eh? (I should have swum instead of rowing.) I did pull-ups, crunches and bench presses too. I tried to make-up for lost time. No wonder my body aches now.

I was surprised how the gym was crowded for an early Sunday morning. All the treadmills were occupied. Then I remembered, it is a New Year. Many new faces. Many are there because of their resolutions. That’s alright. The more the merrier. (That’s the hopeful side of me.)

Since I have been going to a gym for about 10 years now, I am very familiar to this New Year’s phenomenon. In the following weeks though, I expect fewer and fewer people. It’s a guarantee. (That’s the cynical part of me.)