Over the course of the last year, I’ve lifted consistently three days a week.
For a good chunk of that, it was at-home full-body workouts with dumbbells, all I could afford. But back in October, my wife and I decided to get a YMCA membership, so I’ve been hitting the iron ever since.
I’ve never been much of an athlete and, with the exception of hiking or biking, I’ve never been one to perform physical activity outside the context of a paycheck.
But I got hooked on the endorphin rush of weightlifting, which given my history of chasing anything — I mean anything — that feels remotely good, is not a surprise.
Given the company I kept in my wilding years, not much surprises me.
That is, until I joined the Huntington Y.
None of this is a slight against the Y — I love it. It’s clean, the pools are nice and the weight room has enough equipment that during the morning rush, I’m never needing to wait for a squat rack to open up.
But good God Almighty, there are some characters down there — and, to be frank, it’s partly why I keep coming back.
Here are some notes directly from the field:
• Water sucks: So far, I’ve seen two guys down there who just refuse to drink water while they work out. One is a man in his late 50s/early 60s, who comes dressed in jeans, New Balances and a T-shirt. He drinks Mountain Dew. The other is a guy in his mid-30s, real fit and muscular, who bangs out pull-ups and sips hot — that’s right, hot — coffee between sets. It is my opinion that both these men have entered some type of a Zen state where the laws of hydration no longer apply to them.
• The Egoist: There’s this one guy who looks to be in excellent shape, but appears to want to prove it to everyone else. He’s not openly bragging or anything, but somewhere in his routine, he’ll collect every 45-pound plate in the gym and load them up on a bar. Everyone will stop and stare, because what he’s about to do next will either be a crowning achievement or a trip to the ER. So far, he’s pulled this trick on the leg press machine and on a deadlift — and both times, he couldn’t even bang out a single rep.
• The Expert: Now this fellow struts around the gym between sets panting and sweating, but critiquing everyone else’s form. He means well — in fact, my squats got a lot better after he gave me a few pointers. But if you don’t quickly jump back into a set, he’ll hold you hostage for 15 minutes discussing powerlifters you never heard of.
• The Spreader: Remember in the beginning of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” when Steve Martin locks eyes with Kevin Bacon and both rush silently to grab an available taxi? That’s what this guy is like — he likes to take over a squat rack, a lat pulldown station and an incline press bench and alternate between them. If there’s an open station and he spots it, you have to get some cardio in before he takes it like a territory on a Risk board.
• The Boss: To be honest, there are several bosses at my gym. These guys are the real deal — they’re squatting 350 pounds for a warmup before leveling to 400 pounds. They don’t brag; they might chit-chat a little bit, but they’re all business. One boss showed me the difference between barbells and the last time I was in the gym, he gave me a friendly nod. That was a good day at the gym.
• The kids: The times I work out in the evening, there’s always a gaggle of teenage boys trying to push one another to throw out their backs way before their 30s. Some of them coalesce around a boss, hoping to pick up some gains vicariously.