HotundertheCollar

The gym gets me hot under the collar

A lot of things belt up my heart rate at the gym. And my workout is the least of them. This is the stuff that really revs me up…

1. There they are, over on the exercise bikes: the man and wife who go to the gym as a twosome. Look at them! So chic, so side-by-side, le duo dynamique, perspiring pedalling partners puffing in perfect harmony, reddening unattractively together. Why do they do this? Are they so joined at the hip, so ostentatious in their cutesy coupledom, they must be seen to share even the innermost agonies of their respective workouts? Surely the gym is one of the few places where a person – man or woman – is permitted to suffer in solitude, without helpful hint (or sidelong snidery) from anybody, other than a trained instructor?

2. Behind me, but well within earshot, those he-men (and he-women, too) loudly crashing their balls and barbells down as if, Ozymandias-style, proclaiming to we overweight underachievers, “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!” They’ve probably learned it watching the low-browed, splay-legged, weight-dropping squattoids in Olympic lifting events. I’d like my gym to put up a sign in the free weights area: “Performing against the pull of gravity is the essence of weight training. So don’t drop, dumbbell.” There’s also a young bloke at my gym who thumps his chest like Tarzan when he’s completed his set of bench presses. Don’t like him either.

3. Now listen! Yep, there it is again! True Colours by Cyndi Lauper. I liked it, I think, a bit when it came out 31 years ago. But I don’t want to hear it – yet again – today, at 6.55 a.m., spearing at ear-bleeding volume through my own playlisted old-bloke selection of Stones, Waits, Cave, Cohen, et al. And if it’s not Cyndi, it’s one of those modern-day “divas” who specialise in the enraging melisma technique where one screeched syllable is skidded down the octave through half a dozen or more excruciating notes. (I think the late Whitney Houston is ‘credited’ with inventing it.) Anyway, I notice we’re all wearing earphones, so why play anything at all through the PA?

4. That person over there enjoying a shouted conversation with a friend three treadmills away is getting my attention. So is the laugh-out-loud personal trainer who seems to find every client comment so gut-bustingly hilarious. Not to mention the other trainer whose quacking castrato urgings manage to scythe right through whichever of Cyndi’s Gratingest Hits is playing at the time. Now, whatever it is going on upstairs in the ‘group’ room – Pump or Zumba or Body Blitzkreig or similar – seems to require non-stop near-hysterical rhythmical bullying from a high-pitched, crazed dominatrix, amped to eleven-plus.

…the other trainer’s quacking castrato urgings manage to scythe right through whichever of Cyndi Lauper’s Gratingest Hits is playing at the time

5. Getting a gusted faceful of fusty talcum powder or the foetid slap of stale after-shave when you’re near death on the cross-trainer is a vomitous offence. So is the ghostly B.O.-miasma hovering khakily over the rowing machine, the seat of which is still damp with the derriere-DNA of the hairball hipster who just up and left without wiping off his traces.

6. People, often as old as me and just as squelchy, who insist on describing their unco efforts at the gym as… ‘training’. “Oh yes, I train three times a week and do pilates twice. It’s done wonders for my wellness and well-being.” Well, now you can do us all a favour and shut up. Thank you.

7. And, finally, the smirking phone phreak sitting there, arrogantly occupying the machine you need to use, interminably checking his or her texts or tweets or chatty snaps or whatever else it might be that demands such urgent and immediate attention before the sun has even said good morning.

Phew. Tired now.

John Box is a writer who resides in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton. He once searched interminably for a replacement bootlace in the Italian city of VernonaHe also heartily advocates this breakfast and isn’t a fan of Melbourne’s much-hyped coffee culture.

The Emperor’s New Coffee




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