I’m sorry, but this isn’t ‘working out!’

I was helping a friend make a dump run the other day when he asked if I was still going to the gym. Now, this could have been an innocent conversation starter or even a compliment, perhaps inspired by the sight of my bulging biceps as I heaved his old dining room table into the back of my pick-up. But of course I didn’t take it that way. To me, if someone has to ask of you’re still going to the gym, then clearly you’re not going enough.

But, I have been going fairly often. Maybe not often enough to make any noticeable improvements to my physique, but often enough to notice some fairly interesting things. Things such as:

• People are capable of some amazing feats while on a treadmill or Stairmaster.

I can barely jog and watch TV at the same time, but the people around me are reading magazines, checking Facebook, knitting sweaters, and, for all I know, doing their taxes. All while maintaining a faster pace than mine! If I so much as try to switch channels during a commercial, I know I’m going to lose my balance and go shooting through the wall like Wile E. Coyote. But the multi-taskers around me take it all in stride.

• People really don’t care what they wear to the gym.

Granted, I am one of them, but I’m still surprised at what others deem appropriate for working out in public. Basically, they see the gym as a showcase for all of their free T-shirts. Shirts with slogans from local radio stations. Sweatshirts advertising Warner’s Landscaping. Tank tops emblazoned with Mill River Fun Run 2002. Stuff most people wouldn’t use for a dust rag, they happily wear to the gym. But, strangely enough, while I have no problem sporting my “New York Giants Run On Dunkin’” freebie (thanks, Jeff), I would NEVER think of wearing the complimentary T-shirt the gym gave me for signing up. That’s just tacky.

• People like to relax at the gym.

I’m not talking about working out to relieve stress. I mean straight up relaxing. For every two people busting their butts on a machine, there’s one who seems to simply enjoy sitting on it. I know I take a break between sets, but some people just seem to set between breaks.

• Everybody works out.

The gym I go to caters to the non-jocks of the world, and is actually referred to in some circles as “Planet Fatness” due to its less than conditioned clientele. Which suits me just fine. But sometimes I feel worried for some of the people working out there. And other times I’m just worried about myself! The other day I was on the floor doing some sit-ups, and I look up to see an elderly gentleman, who clearly had suffered from a stroke at some point, struggling to stand on a balance ball while attempting to lift a 50-pound barbell that was directly over my head. I think it’s great that people of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities feel comfortable going to the gym, but at the same time, if you can’t pump your own gas, you probably shouldn’t be pumping iron.

• Everybody drinks water differently.

I’m pretty much a camel when it comes to water, where a few sips from the fountain will get me through a two-hour workout. But others have even stranger drinking habits. There’s the Triple Sipper, who takes three quick sips from his bottle every time he raises it. The Squirter, who likes to squeeze a stream of water into his mouth. The Mister, who rather than drink the water, sprays it into her face while lapping it out of the air. And The Guzzler, who makes a big show of draining his bottle in a single sip, while soaking the front of his shirt.  And don’t even get me started on the weirdos who carry around what are clearly steaming cups of coffee. I guess that’s one way to feel the burn.

So there you have it. I suppose if I spent as much time watching my weight as I do watching people work out, I wouldn’t need to go to the gym. But then where would I wear my Dunkin’ Donuts T-shirt?

Mike Wood is a life-long Shelton resident and author of the coming-of-age novel, Alchemy, available locally at Written Words, Linda’s Story Time in Monroe and nationally at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.