Workout 101: Characters Encountered at the Gym

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Workout 101: Characters Encountered at the Gym
(Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

If William Shakespeare was correct, and all the world is a stage, then your local health club might as well be Broadway.

I’ve belonged to the same gym for over nine years, and I’ve seen plenty of folks from all walks of life.

If you spend enough time in the gym, you’ll see a handful of different types of people flocking there daily. That’s not to say every member falls into one of those categories. The vast majority don’t.

Believe it or not, most individuals just go to get a good workout and do something healthy for themselves. Novel concept.

Before dissecting the different types of cooks one’s bound to encounter at the gym, let’s first define what exactly is a gym?

And let’s do it by stating what is not a gym.

A gym is not a hard core joint where bench pressing less than 300 pounds will result in the membership revocation.

A gym is not a place where Muffy and Buffy go for a very light workout with a $250/hour trainer. After which, the next three hours are spent on the massage table, receiving a pedi, and getting an exfoliating facial with cucumber wedges before heading home in time for Oprah.

Simply put, a gym is an establishment with all sorts of devices and machines designed to help one lead a more active, healthy lifestyle. It’s inhabited by men and women, young and old, singles and families.

You’ll find an assortment of free weights, weight machines, and all sorts of cardio machines.

Most gyms offer a variety of aerobics classes, too. If the building is big enough, you might even find a basketball court and/or a swimming pool.

Now that we’ve defined what a gym is, here’s a cast of characters that inhabits Any Gym, USA.


The Fat Guy Lifter

This is the guy who’s pre-workout meal consists of a half bag of potato chips—only a half bag; he’s watching his calories—washed down with two liters of Coke.

Needless to say, this man is big. But in the wrong sense.

Yes, he has big arms and a large upper body, but only in the manner that Dr. 90210 looks at him and sees a down payment for ocean front property.

In some cases, the Fat Guy Lifter can actually lift a lot. But, when you put enough mass behind anything, the object is going to move. That doesn’t mean he’s strong. Just don’t try telling him that.

Between sets, he tends to glare at you with a look that says “I know you’re in awe of me because of how much I can bench.”

In actuality, you’re really wishing he didn’t wear that tank top.

The typical Fat Guy Lifter is nothing more than a wanna-be Tough Guy. Speaking of…


The Tough Guy

Here we have the main staple of any gym.

Arrogance, thy name is Tough Guy.

Most Tough Guys march around the gym like they own the place.

You see, the primary objective of a Tough Guy is to let everyone else in the gym know there’s a Tough Guy working out.

How does one accomplish such a feat when there could be over a hundred people in the gym at once? Here are a few tricks of the Tough Guy trade.

Tough Guys often slam weights after each set. Most weight plates—free weights and machines—are made of steel, cast iron, or some heavy duty metal.

When you don’t re-rack them normally, they tend to make a lot of noise. A lot of noise.

In fact, slamming a loaded barbell on the floor after dead-lifting will echo throughout the entire building. Trust me. I’ve heard this from the opposite side of the gym far too many times.

Also, Tough Guys love to grunt. It completes them.

Due to strenuous exertion, a lot of people make some type of minor grunt when lifting heavy amounts of weight. Tough Guys take it to an extreme.

Some Tough Guys swear like drill sergeants. We’re talking the four-letter big boys.

And they swear loudly. At any time. In front of anyone. A true Tough Guy’s Tough Guy.

In addition, Tough Guys flock to Hot Chicks like buzzards to a corpse.

If you see a Hot Chick working out, there’s always a Tough Guy within earshot. Because naturally, she’s impressed by an F-Bomb after the Tough Guy has just curled 225 pounds for his 794th rep. Aren’t we all?

Lastly, if you have any questions about whether said character is a Tough Guy or not, here’s the ultimate litmus test.

Look to see if he suffers from I.L.S. (Invisible Lat Syndrome).

The sole symptom of I.L.S. is walking with your arms extended from your sides because your upper body is so big, it’s impossible for them to hang freely.

If you can diagnose a case of I.L.S., you’ve stumbled across a Grade ‘A’, 100-percent Tough Guy.


Steroid Freak

No gym is complete without a few Steroid Freaks.

Because after all, let’s face it. The point of working out isn’t about leading a healthy lifestyle. Not even close.

It’s all about how much you can lift and having the biggest arms, natural or otherwise, in the gym.

Here are a few telltale signs of Steroid Freaks.

Check the hairline. That’s not to say all bald guys are on steroids. Clearly, they aren’t.

But if one has a body that would make Vince McMahon throw a contract at him along with a hairline that’s shrinking faster than the stock market, sounds like X marks the spot.

Look at the chest. If it’s shaped like a round, wooden barrel that Friar Tuck used to imbibe a few spirits from, you’re in business.

There’s also the eye test.

If he’s 6’0” feet tall, works out on a regular basis, and isn’t a fat guy, he should probably be packing around anywhere from 170 to 190 pounds.

But if his frame is supporting around 230 pounds, he’s either a freak of nature (not out of the question) or he’s intimately familiar with needles. Probably the latter.

Another hint. Steroid Freaks tend to congregate together since they share the same habit.


Executive Social Butterflies

While most of the other characters listed here can be found at any time and any day, the peak time to catch Executive Social Butterflies occurs Mondays through Thursdays from 5-7 pm.

For the most part, Executive Social Butterflies head to the gym straight from the office, hence, the time frame mentioned above.

You’re probably wondering why they won’t be found at the gym on Friday evenings since most of the free world works on Friday.

Friday night is martini night with their other Executive Social Butterfly friends, therefore, the gym can wait until Monday.

Alone, an Executive Social Butterfly is harmless.

Combine him or her with two or three other Executive Social Butterflies, and now you’ve got a problem. For example:

You’re just about done with your workout. You have one machine left before you hit the treadmill for a half hour, and then you can call it a day.

But that last machine is occupied. Normally that isn’t a problem because of the gym etiquette most people observe. You’d have to wait a few minutes or the other person will let you work in with him or her.

If the machine is taken by an Executive Social Butterfly, well, “Houston, we have a problem.”

And the problem is this:

The Executive Social Butterfly will do a set. The rest period lasts about seven minutes while he or she chit-chats with the other Executive Social Butterflies standing around the machine.

“Boy Gene, tough day on Wall Street today.”

“Tell me about it, Stew. My stock options are totally in the tank. To make things worse, my BMW is in the shop. On top of that, Buffy told me last night that membership dues at the club are going up.”

“Wow, that’s too bad. Will you and Buffy still be able to afford the ocean front summer home on the Vineyard you’re building?”

“We closed last week. My yearly bonus, while down because of the economy, was still enough for us to buy it outright. Mortgages are for poor people.”

(The Executive Social Butterflies burst out in laughter as they’re oblivious to the economic plight of the rest of the nation.)

Blah blah blah blah blah. This moronic banter continues on and on about topics that the average person doesn’t care about and will never experience. The entire exchange takes approximately 11 minutes. Time for his second set.

Meanwhile, you’re fuming as you contemplate how a 25-pound weight plate would look planted upside each of their heads. You could’ve completed your four sets in the time he talked between his first and second set.


The Hot Chick

She is the female version of The Tough Guy.

While the typical Hot Chick doesn’t slam weights every time she finishes a set, she, like the Tough Guy, craves attention. Attention is her drug.

Hot Chicks manage to garner attention using other methods.

Now, let me issue the following disclaimer: There are attractive women (and men) every where you go, so why is the gym any different?

It isn’t, to a point.

What sets the Hot Chick apart from any other attractive woman working out is that she knows she’s hot, she knows that you know she’s hot, and she knows that you know that she knows she’s hot. And you bet she capitalizes on that.

First requirement of being a Hot Chick is she must be in phenomenal shape. Don’t worry. She will be.

Second, once she has ascertained said body, she’s obligated to show it off. Showing skin has been Hollywood’s secret for years, so why not adapt it to the gym?

The typical Hot Chick outfit involves a spandex sports bra as her top combined with spandex workout pants. This outfit allows for a good nine inches or more of abdominal and back reveal.

The goal of such an outfit is two-fold.

Most guys in the gym rubberneck and drool like babies when they see her and a lot of the other women in the gym glare at her like she’s a boyfriend-stealing hussy.

Just for the record, if you are a man or woman who works hard to stay in shape and wants to show off the fruits of your sweat, I’m all for it. I really am. More power to you. There are too many obese people in the USA as it is.

But just don’t think you’re smarter than the rest of us. You’re not. We know what you’re doing. We’re onto your game. Enjoy the attention you’re seeking.


The Naked Locker Room Guy

I understand that in locker rooms, you’re going to come across naked people. That’s the way it is. But quite honestly, some behavior is completely unacceptable. That being said, there are several ways to identify the Naked Locker Room Guy.

He’s usually a minimum 50 pounds overweight. The fatter, the better.

What’s more, he feels it necessary to parade to and from the shower area carrying his towel as opposed to wrapping it around the heaving pile of lard that protrudes from his waist.

When he returns to his locker after showering, he doesn’t hesitate to perform the straight-leg-bend-over in order to dry his feet. As if anyone else in the locker room ever wants any part of that sight. Come on buddy, cut it out.

He takes an inordinate amount of time to get dressed after his shower. This guy’s body is usually so bad that he’s the last one who should be standing there naked any longer than need be.

Every so often, two Naked Locker Room Guys will come across each other. This is a recipe for disaster.

They’ll stand there and have a conversation totally naked without making any effort at all to get dressed. Again, no one else in the locker room wants to see that. Believe it or not, it is possible to put your clothes on while communicating with another person at the same time.

Such behavior is intolerable and violators should be subject to prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.


My dad once taught me that “it takes all kinds.” He’s right.

So the next time you come across a collection of Fat Guy Lifters, Tough Guys, Steroid Freaks, Executive Social Butterflies, Hot Chicks, and Naked Locker Room Guys, mind your surroundings. You’re probably at the gym.

Enjoy your workout. And feel free to laugh at the scenery.

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