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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Survival of the Fittest

When men enter a gym, we go back 100,000 years. We stop being polite, modern human beings and turn into prehistoric hunter gatherers. Or in the case of those who oil themselves up for Mr ______ contests, punter latherers. Do you even lift bro? ROAR.

I've heard from lots of people - especially girls - how intimidating they found gyms and for the longest time I couldn't understand it. I've been going to the gym regularly and really enjoyed myself. After a long, shitty day, channeling your anger and frustration into an uphill bike ride is a great way of saying "fuck you" to the world. I find myself feeling lousy and bloated if I don't do some kind of physical activity by the end of the day - no matter how tiring my day has been. I love the post work-out high: the feeling of lightness and energy that gives you a great night's sleep.

But today at my beloved Gold's Gym at Elphinstone Road, I found that the entire bottom floor had been rearranged. The rowing machine - a piece of equipment I really love - was gone. The steppers had been moved and weren't plugged in for some reason; on battery power they restart each time you stop pumping your legs. The only two good cross trainers were taken. I was faced with only one option: leave the civility of the cardio floor and go upstairs to the weight room.

The weight room is an incredible place. It's a metal obstacle course full of giant pulsating limbs with bits of hair and human jammed between them. If you're not ripped like Arnold Schwarzenegger then you're not welcome. The guys look at you with a mixture of pity (and hunger because you're probably decent sized for an evening snack).

And God forbid a girl stumble into there. It's like the Serengeti. Imagine David Attenborough narrating a scene where a young gazelle has strayed too close to the lions. 20 pairs of sweaty eyes track her as she tip toes nervously across the floor. But they only look at her for a second before their return their attention to the mirror and the glistening contours reflected in it.

The trainers are generally nice but I've seen them hitting on girls shamelessly. I've heard this from girls too. I think the best course of action if you're an unfit writer (who has experienced one moon-landing too many) is to walk in like a flaming diva and tell the trainer you know absolutely nothing about doing weights and have the upper body strength of a wilting daisy. Then they kind of take you under their wing. Even then, as you strain under the weight of the dumbbells, the juiced up guys continue to look over in your direction before glancing at the (much higher) number on their weights.

The neanderthals come in all shapes and sizes: some are short, some are tall, some have wide shoulders and some are just ugly as sin. You can tell that some of them were pot bellied accountants a few years ago. The only remnant of their love handled past is, in fact, their face. There is one guy who, if you saw from the neck up, would imagine is a retired milk man or something. He is balding, wears glasses and generally looks like an IT worker who got lost in the H1B visa queue. Yet he has the huge chest and biceps that pins back every torso in the weight room.

What is it about gyms that makes guys need to compete against each other? It is the last bastion of male narcissism - the macho men's version of "selfies". The atmosphere is generally one of "I am stronger than you, let me prove it by picking this heavy thing up and putting it down again several times".

Please, Gold's Gym, fix the damn rowing machine.

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