This past November the owner of the yoga studio we’d been practicing at for three years announced she was closing up shop. She was done instructing her mostly female clientele the proper way to execute downward dog and happy baby and child’s pose.  Guess she’d seen enough mangled poses for a lifetime and it was time for a major paradigm shift in her life.  End of December she uttered her last Namaste.

The closing of the studio was quite the shock for her small but devoted yoga clientele. My wife, along with many of the other MAFYE’s (Middle Age Female Yoga Enthusiasts….made that up, as if it wasn’t obvious) had countless discussion about where this left them.  Fortunately for us and several others the decision was easy.  Several of the instructors at the now closed studio were already teaching yoga classes at a big gym (similar to LA Fitness) just a short drive away. So we drove over to take a tour of the facility.  We immediately liked the friendly staff, low pressure salesman and the variety of other activities and gym equipment that would be at our disposal. Best of all the gym had a room away from the hubbub devoted to only yoga.  Did I mention that signing up would save us a small fortune?  Yoga, along with all other classes, plus access to all the gym equipment, would monthly cost us each about the same as two classes at the fancy, and now closed, studio we had been frequenting!

I’ve really liked the transition from fancy suburban yoga studio to the sweaty gym environment I’d only briefly experienced in past years.  I like that before or after yoga classes I could hop on the treadmill or stair-stepper or stationary bike and get a decent workout on days too cold for outside exercise.  I also feel more comfortable in the gym’s yoga classes, they’re not so female-centric; men just feel more welcome in the darkened room at the gym.  At our old yoga studio I felt like an outsider with the women only accepting me their male mascot….made me feel so cheap (haha).

What I really like about the gym, outside of yoga classes, is the sociological research I’ve been conducting while also getting a workout…it has been fascinating.  Well, it’s not really research, just great people watching. Most of the treadmills, stair-steppers, stationary bikes and ellipticals are on the second story balcony which looks down on the open weight room, exercise machines and other assorted torture devices.  The balcony affords great views of all of this. While anyone downstairs can look up to see who’s looking down upon them, they don’t.  I’ve observed some of the most interesting human behavior.  The men and women working out on assorted equipment appear to me as animals in the wild, mostly the big cats.  They quietly saunter out of the locker rooms, look left and right to take in the landscape. Their prey the perfect machine or weight bench.  They walk quietly and stealthily so as not to be noticed.  Once the perfect gym apparatus is in sight they walk up to it, circling several times (probably deciding if they know how to use it so they don’t look the fool). Sometimes they fetch one of the scented moist disinfecting towelettes to wipe off stray germs from the last lioness who used the machine.  Once cleaned to their liking they circle the machine one more time before they strap themselves in, making weight and position adjustments.  By this time they’ve spent ten, maybe fifteen minutes, just getting ready to do something.  And then it happens, they exercise!  The machine or weight is put into action….and then it’s over, the exercise is complete, all ten seconds of it.  At this point they catapult off the machine or weight bench as if an electrical shock has been administered.  And once again the walk around the machine begins, they eye it like a lioness eyes a recent kill.  The dance continues until another ten seconds of exercise happens and again up they spring!  Cracks me up every time.

There are also those who just have to watch themselves exercise.  Sorry, but it’s usually young women in great shape.  They stand in front of these huge floor to ceiling mirrors eyeing themselves as if watching an erotic movie.  They look left and then right and if no one is looking they flex a bicep or do a bend.  They lift some light weights and then stop to see if they look any more toned than ten seconds ago.  Some like stretching in front of the mirror; it’s uncanny how they can contort their bodies while keeping their gaze forward so they see every move (brings to mind Linda Blair in the Exorcist as her head spins around on her torso….without the green pea soup).  One young woman, who I admit has an awesome figure, actually executed perfect handstands against the mirror while looking at herself…she seemed fascinated by viewing herself upside down!

So next time you go to the gym to work out on the machines or free weights look around, and be especially sure to look up; there may be someone spying on your behavior, not that you’d look at yourself in the mirror, right?

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3 thoughts on “How I Became A Gym Rat

  1. That was a great read, Peter, because it captured the vanity and humor of a gym visit perfectly. I would add that, while women seem to exercise in very stylish attire, the average male gym rat (at my gym anyhow) seems to be shooting for a homeless look.

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