Thursday, July 29, 2004

Working Out - A Novice's Primer

When I was in my 20's and playing ball, I used to look at all the old fuckers on my team (read anyone older than 30) and think, "why the hell do those guys need to work out so much?" I used to play ball 5 nights a week, most weekends, go out after, close down a bar, and get up at 6 to go to work the next day. Day in, day out. Never ever affected me one single bit.

Now that I'm an old fucker myself, I finally understand. I started working out when I was 32. I would have started sooner, but I was still able to move around pretty well at short and I wasn't resigned to the fact that I was becoming an old fucker myself.

Like most people that go to the gym for the first time, I had no clue what I was doing. I'd go do some cardio and then do the same lifting routine day after day. I never felt the need to educate myself on the proper way to work out. I wasn't looking to become a muscle bound, cock diesel motherfucker, just looking to gain back some of the strength and flexibility I seemed to be lacking. So, I began my quest for the fountain of youth.

Fast forward to today, three years down the road. I have educated myself on various training techniques. The workout that has given me the best result for what I do is the Core Workout (www.coreperformance.com). Gives me flexibility, core strength and a good nutrition plan. That's all in the book.

What they don't tell you in the book is what people act like in the gym. I have broken them down into categories.

Category 1: The Socializers. These people go to the gym to meet with friends and talk with everyone (could be translated to mean guys trying to pick up chicks). You hardly ever see them touch a machine and when they do, it's usually a treadmill, which they keep to a slow walk. They hog machines that they're not really planning on using - one trick I've learned is to pass some gas (for lack of a better phrase) in their general area, that'll clear em out in a hurry. Stay away from these people. They will make your hour long workout take three hours. This is evidenced by the fact that it takes them two hours to watch 60 minutes.

Category 2: The Executives. These are the rich fuckers you see pulling up to the club in their Lexuses and Mercedes SUVs, even though they've never seen dirt in their lives. They're usually over 45 years old and play tennis and have all the cute, stylish workout outfits that we just want to throw a jar of spaghetti sauce on. They come complete with all of Andre Agassi's latest line of Nike tennis clothes. They also dress better than they play. Their childrens' names are usually Dylan, Dakota, Skylar or Porsha. These people only talk to their own kind and they're very territorial. Do not intrude on their space because they will look down their nose at you while they're drinking their designer fitness water. These people also congregate at an upscale bar afterwards for a bottle of Merlot or two.

Category 3: The Aerobics Instructor Wannabes. You spot these people, usually women, by their clothing also. The women wear spandex capri pants and sports bras only. The men tend to wear baggy t-shirts over spandex shorts. They bounce around from machine to machine and wear a permagrin on their face. Never, and I repeat, NEVER get on a cardio machine next to these people unless you want to spend the whole time talking about protein drinks, pilates and yoga classes instead of watching the latest episode of Nick and Jessica on the big screen TV.

Category 4: The Muscleheads. You can always spot these guys a mile away. They are wearing a Gold's Gym tank top, circa 1980, spandex shorts and wrestling shoes and they walk like penguins. Their IQ is inversely proportional to that of their bicep size. You can hear them put 45 pound plates on their bars and their loud grunts as they do their "Strongest Man" competition imitation. They use roughly ten of those plates per side for each exercise. After they get off a machine, they walk around the apparatus they're using like their nuts and underarms are chafed. Never engage these people in a conversation when they're working out, unless you can spot them when they bench press something that's roughly the weight of your car.

Category 5: The Youngins. This tribe breaks down into two sub-categories: The Well-To-Dos and The Jocks. The Well-To-Dos usually show up with The Executive. Like their mom or dad, Hunter will be wearing the latest line of LeBron clothes, even though he can't dunk a basketball and doesn't come from an impoverished background. He spends a lot of time at the juice bar, running up a bill on his parents' tab. You will never see this tribe work out. You can usually find them talking trash and throwing up bricks on the basketball court, however. Conversely, you have The Jocks. These Youngins travel in packs of 3 or 4. They have a workout sheet from their school, and they follow it to the letter. They try to outdo each other on each machine. They can bench press the combined weight of your entire family. Never ever work out by these kids, unless you can handle the fact that they can lift five times as much as you ever will and they never pull a muscle.

Category 6: The Turkey Necks. These are usually the older guys of the gym. They do their cardio and toning workouts, but that's not why they're there. They go to the gym just to walk around the locker room naked. They flop this way and that. Nothing's ever in the place it should be. They usually look like a bloodhound wearing a towel. They will come up to you while you're getting changed, put one leg up on the bench next to where you're sitting and try to tell you how good Metamucil works. The one thing this group is good for is finding out where all the good bargains on different food items can be found around the city, as they will drive ten miles to save five cents on a gallon of ice cream.

Category 7: The Aging Jock. This is definitely where I fit in. These guys are the ex-high school superjocks that try to recapture their youth by working out. They usually think (i.e., hope) they can cheat Father Time. They try to eat right, take vitamins and drink protein shakes before, during and after workouts. They are usually not quite fit, but not quite fat either. That's usually because they refuse to give up drinking beer, which is really detrimental to their desire to someday have a washboard stomach. Do not try to reason with this group by telling them that they will never play as good as they once did as they've convinced themselves that they're the rare breed of athlete that can play at a high level until they die at age 120. They try every workout they can get their hands on, stick with it for a month and when they either get bored or don't see results, they switch up the routine. This group would mainline creatine if they could.

Category 8: The Defeated Jock. This group was the Aging Jock group of five years ago. They have figured out that they cannot recapture their youth. They keep going to the gym because by now it's habit and their wives threatened to kill them if they didn't quit bugging them every night about how they look. They usually wander the gym floor with a dejected look, manage to do a moderate hour long workout, then go down to the bar and drink the calories they just burnt up. The people in this group will eventually be absorbed into The Socializer, Executive or Turkey Neck groups, perhaps all three.

I hope this helps anyone that joins a health club navigate what can be the angry and somewhat confusing seas of groups there.

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