Gym and Haircuts

On my recent post about returning to gym after a prolonged (4 years) absence, I got a comment from Damien Tomaselli, a personal trainer, a part of which I have faithfully reproduced here:

I’m a personal trainer. I like to know what peoples attitudes towards exercise/gym are. You mentioned you don’t like the people at gym. I know your not alone in that. May I ask what it is exactly that you don’t like?

So, Damien et al, here’s the deal. For me, going to gym is like having a haircut: purely functional.
It’s a pain to have to do and I dislike actually doing it, but I enjoy the results. Generally, anyway. No-one can do it quite like Precious from Partners on the Waterfront and if she’s not around, it all goes a bit Pete Tong. (And have you ever seen his hair?)

The problem with gym is one that runs through any physical activity in South Africa: that is, the perception that if you’re not doing it completely full-on and seriously, then you might as well not do it at all.
Take a couple of sports I have dabbled in back in the UK: mountain biking and golf. I actually find myself scared to start doing them here, because then I have to join the club which talks about Shimano GT220-R gear sets and the new Ping carbon-fibre graphite shafted driver with the elliptical sweetspot.  I don’t care about all that crap – I just want to do it for some fun and exercise.

The same goes for gym, but the problem is exacerbated by the sheer arrogance of the gymming class. If you’re not bench-pressing 105kg, sprinting like a cocaine-snorting, demented hamster on the treadmill, wearing an understatedly cool baggy vest to show off your pecs or have the latest ever-so-small iPod attached to a big alice band around your sweaty bicep, then what the **** are you doing in there?
It’s like you’re suddenly part of some underclass for not being healthy or trendy enough or just not fitting in with the unwritten rules of serious gymming. But you still pay the same money as them to use the same equipment while having their sneering superiority complexes forced upon you.
Yeah well, sorry I’m not as super fit as you, but I actually do other stuff besides exercise. I have family, have braais, have friends that I can talk to without having to be running along a suburban pavement in a group of twenty runners, talking about running. I can drink a beer without having to feel guilty about the extra 3 kms I’ll have to do in the morning to run it off. I have a life.

And that’s why I only go to gym when it’s quiet: Sunday afternoons or weekdays at 11. It’s why I plug myself into my music before I go through the door, why my distinctly uncool but ever so practical 120GB Classic iPod remains tucked into my pocket, playing distinctly uncool but ever so enjoyable music. Sure, I’m hugely unfriendly – I don’t make eye contact, I don’t talk – I just do my cycling or circuits and I leave. It’s not a bloody singles club – it’s purely functional.

Like I say – I hate gym. But I’m already starting to like the results. And that’s why I’ll be back again tomorrow afternoon: head down, training hard and ignoring the twats.

UPDATE: Gym Bunny “Come Sweat With Me” online dating ad sounds death knell for all things gym.

15 thoughts on “Gym and Haircuts

  1. Since I have been going to the gym (cardiac rehab is my excuse!), I have noticed that there is a “gym community” who seem to silently challenge each other, either by what weight they can “press” or how cool they can look sitting on the “pec-dec” without actually doing anything at all.

    I don’t want to be part of that either. My i-Pod Shuffle is my friend.

    (However, I wouldn’t compare going to the gym to a haircut, but there is a readily apparent reason for that as well you know.)


  2. Thank you for your ever so colourful response. “… cocaine-snorting, demented hamster” – lol.
    I also have a bulky 30 gig Ipod. The Ipod isn’t a major problem because I have this nifty little cover for it but I go through about 3 x R500 earphones a year and then I keep hearing about how they damage your ears. So no more training with the pod, except for cardio. It’s just too damn boring without music.

    I will admit I am one of the guys who might get irritated if people aren’t taking training seriously, which is something I expect at ‘health clubs’ like virgin inactive. I don’t mind someone using ‘my’ weights or ‘my’ machine as long as they are using it. Like you say it’s not a social club.

    I agree with much of what you say, the more seriously you take your training the more it inhibits your lifestyle, as you say, family, braais, drinking beer ect. I get the same thing but from the other side. If I’m even at the braai, which I’m probably not because I go to bed early, am tired from training and have little time for anybody else, then I have to endure constant interrogation about why I don’t want to drink. It takes about 20 times to answer this question before they stop asking, not because they are satisfied with the answer but because they get tired of asking it. It almost always ends with a lecture about how I must live my life, as if empty calories are the solution to all my problems, and that I am doing something morally wrong. I wouldn’t be surprised if some went to church and prayed for me over my evil obsession. I once dated a girl who had a fight with me because I didn’t go out of my way to buy and eat chocolates. I never realized I was obliged to do so. Thing is she did eat them and I think every time she did she would feel guilty when she saw me not eating them, despite the fact that I never once told her not to. I understand that there is a large social (and economic) sacrifice to make living the lifestyle I do and I understand it’s a personal decision which is why I don’t inflict it on people who don’t want it, but it’s still hard for me to believe how upset people can get with me for living it.

    Anyways enjoy the gyming. Oh and for the record, haircuts can be a petty cool experience. Not the actual haircut itself but the part where they wash and massage your head. In fact I think I’m going to open up a business where they do nothing but massage your hair into your head. I’ll call it headhairmassage pty ltd.

  3. I hear ya… and as you know, I work at one, five days a week, and even when I’m not working, I’m there, as Son is a lifeguard there.

    I’m thinking it depends on the gym (chain), to be honest. Our brand is BIG in the UK, and we’re at the top end. We’re about the overall experience, so we market ourselves as a family-based health and racquets facility, and we get all sorts. The people who only come to play tennis/squash, the people who only come to use the pool (aqua ladies, all “retired”, who bob up and down in the pool, kidding themselves that they’re exercising), the yummy mummies who drop their little brats off at the crèche, disappear for an hour with their personal trainer, and then the actual gym buffs and bunnies. The buffs hang around the weights area, puffing and preening in front of the mirrors, and the bunnies bounce around the studios, puffing and preening in front of the mirrors.

    The rest of us just lurk around the cardio suite, keeping our eyes fixed on the tellies (either on the walls or on the actual equipment). I’ve never felt uncomfortable – but then I’ve not really worked out that much! 😀 Perhaps you’d have a better experience at a H&R club?
    .-= Helga Hansen´s last blog ..I am currently reading… =-.

  4. “everything in moderation” – That’s the other line I have to listen to. Is it a sin to be dedicated to something>? Arnold Schwarzenegger trained 5 hrs a day. When he didn’t initially make it in acting he said it was because he wasn’t dedicated enough, eventually he became the highest paid actor to date. If someone wants to push themselves at something why should they need permisission from everybody else?

    I will leave you with this thought, ” ‘Obession’, is a word used by the weak, to describe dedication”

  5. At least you have an iPod. I don’t. Now try to imagine that scene without even the untrendy type in your pocket and not on your arm. Count your blessings.

  6. Yup Damien, I’m afraid you sound like one of the reasons I don’t like going to the gym. Nobody needs permission to push themselves at something – that doesn’t quite entail the pushing yourself to be admirable, or something to emulate.

  7. Jacques I never said that it was something to emulate, but you go to a movie to watch a movie, you open a book to read it, and you go to gym to exercise, otherwise what are you doing there?

  8. No, see Damien – that’s where you’ve gone wrong.

    Of course, one goes to the gym to exercise. But two points there: firstly, is that the primary reason that some people go to the gym, or is it to see and be seen? And secondly, there’s a big difference between a normal person exercising and a gym freak exercising.
    Just as there is a huge difference between “dedication” and “obsession”.

  9. ooooo – I don’t know know about some people. People are different hence my question in the first place. I know you get all sorts of weird , wonderful and annoying people in the gym. As for dedication and obsession, well that’s all relative.

  10. Damien > You asked why I don’t like gym – I answered. And then several people agreed with me.
    Which was nice.
    Look – it’s this idea that if you’re not serious (obsessed) then you must bugger off.
    Just wanting to keep oneself healthy (dedicated) is fine, as far as I’m concerned.

  11. I did ask, and you and everybody else did answer and it’s been quite helpful to me. As I said I like to understand the attitudes people have towards gym/gym environment. I don’t train clients from a gym. I train them from their homes and I think they would probably agree with you. I’m also interested to know how many others feel the same? I can certainly see where you’re coming from. I get the same ‘vibes’ from many gym goers.
    The reason I went on about my little blurp was that I thought it might be interesting to hear. The points that you made about what you dislike about people at gym, I think I can relate to just from a different angle. I often receive personal criticism, some of which has been reiterated in the various responses of the blog, for my dedication to my training. As a personal trainer I would agree that being healthy is a must, anything more than that the sacrifices that need to be made become increasingly severe. I say each to their own. I don’t believe that there is anything morally wrong with anyone who wants to take themselves a little further. Some people tell me I’m obsessed but I honestly don’t see it that way. I see it as dedication. That’s why I say what some people see as obsession, others will see as dedication. Why must those who are dedicated apologise for it?

  12. I say that no matter what you do in life,rather do it 100percent of ur ability and fail as oppose to 20percent and succeeding.mediocrity is the breeding ground for failure.If you are going to party then party hard and if you are going to gym then gym hard too

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