Rant of the Week – Gym Squatters

I work out at a local gym two days a week. I don’t particularly enjoy the environment or the workout itself. I do it purely for my overall health and fitness. So when I’m there, I’m all business, or at least I try to be. I have a set number of stations I use, the sort of things you’d expect, with names like Chest Press, Rowing station, slant board, etc.

What gets me riled is when people monopolize these stations without even using them. I don’t mind waiting my turn while someone is exercising. I don’t even mind when they do a set, stay on the station while they rest and recover for a few minutes, and then do another set. But when they just sit there doing nothing, or use their smart phones to read email or texts or whatever else, I get peeved. I can’t blame it all on smart phones, although that development has certainly exacerbated the problem. There is one guy who uses one of the most popular stations, and when he finishes his set, there’s a woman friend of his who usually stops by and they start talking while he remains sitting on the station. I’ve seen them do this for over twenty minutes at a time, never using the machine. There’s a woman who likes to go back and forth between two stations, so she puts her water bottle on the seat of one while using the other, then switches them when she moves, so that both stations are “taken” the entire time. There are two middle-aged women who work out in full heavy makeup on the only two full-size mats available, and by “work out” I mean lie out full length, taking up both mats, while they talk about their boyfriends or husbands or daughters’ boyfriends or husbands (in loud, unflattering terms), never moving a muscle, and believe me, they could benefit from quite a bit of muscle moving. There are a bunch of chairs by the front desk, people! If you want to talk or read your email, do it there and leave the exercise stations for the people who actually want to exercise.

Why not go up to them and ask if you can use the station, you say? In fact, I do. And most of the time people are gracious about it and let me use it. But they nearly always stare blankly at first, oblivious to the fact that a bunch of people have been waiting for them to get their [expletives deleted] off the equipment. I have had some people bark at me, though, like I’m the pushy one, which is why no one else ever seems to have the courage to ask someone to use it or move it. (Of course I ask more nicely than that). I’ve even had people come running over from the other side of the gym when I’ve gotten on a piece of equipment that was not in use yelling at me that they’re using it, usually pointing to a towel or water bottle on the floor there to “reserve” it. I have news for those people: no, you’re not using it. I wouldn’t be able to get on it if you were. In those cases I politely get off, apologize, and tell them I’ll wait for them to be done. I stand as close as I can without being arrested for stalking and stare at them while they do a few reps. Sometimes I count the reps sotto voce. They always quit the station quickly and grumble that it’s my turn now. I’ve noticed that as soon as I finish, which is usually within one or two minutes, there is always someone who jumps on immediately, which tells me they were also waiting for the first bozo to finish but didn’t want to face potential confrontation or embarrassment with the remote “reserver”.

That brings up a related gripe. No one talks to each other any more. Certainly not at the gym. I qualify that statement, because people who already know each other talk to each other there all the time, like the women I mentioned above. But if you try to chat with a stranger there, good luck with that. They’re mostly plugged into some device and don’t hear you or they look at you startled like what in the world is this guy doing interrupting me. If they aren’t plugged in, they’ll think you’re hitting on them, male or female. I’ve seen the same people there almost every workout day for years but never exchanged a word with most of them. I tried doing that too with a friendly “Hi”, and only got the cold shoulder versions I’ve described. I gave up doing that.

Hi! Have a nice day. And please, use it or move it.