I belong to a fitness club; one of those national brands where the facility is many floors and many rooms. It’s so big you sometimes feel like you’ll get lost.
For the most part I stick to the cardio area because I like the treadmills. And here’s an interesting observation. If you choose to work out towards the back of the room you are witness to more than a hundred other machines in front of you: treadmills, steppers, rowers, and cycles, all standing in neat rows and ready to use. Late on a weekday afternoon when the place is at capacity we have the look and sound of a hive of bees hard at work, each with his or her own task. We move in different ways and at different speeds, but it’s as if we are working in harmony towards a common goal. We are in consonance.
Here’s another observation. Watching others work out can be entertaining. I am one of those who prefers to keep my eyes and ears open while I huff and puff. I don’t wear ear buds nor do I bring an iPod. I don’t get lost in the dozens of televisions (big screens on the wall or small screens on the machines). Instead, I just observe those around me. There is an endless variety of behaviors. Last week I jogged next to a singer. That was a first. He was listening to something on his iPod and singing along without a care in the world. Another day I noticed two women walking side-by-side on the treadmills, lost in conversation with each other. They were practically turned toward each other as they talked, which made me wonder how they didn’t fall off and whether their mouths or their bodies were getting the better workout.
Invariably I see people staring straight ahead into their little televisions, headphones firmly in place, glazed look in their eyes, lost in some program or music video. Like my singer friend, the room around them could be on fire and they probably wouldn’t notice.
Inevitably, someone will take a call on their cell phone during a workout. I’ll give that person about thirty seconds before my body language starts to say “annoyed”. Anything considered an emergency can be communicated in thirty seconds or less. Anything that really is an emergency should have the person jumping off their machine and heading out the door. But most cell phone talk in the gym is worthless, of course. Do these people prolong their conversations just to make sure the listener knows they are at the gym?
Lastly there are those who simply overdo it. You know the type. The super-athlete who cranks up the treadmill so high his legs are a blur and he’s just short of flying off the belt. The older guy whose breathing is so labored you wonder if he’s about to keel over. The girl who dresses in bright colors, and you wonder if her slow, deliberate pace on the stair-climber is because she’s tired, or because she simply wants you to notice her.
It used to bother me if someone came to the gym and – like the examples above – showed some indication their workout was not necessarily their first priority. Now I realize I’m just observing coping mechanisms. There is a physical component and a mental component to working out, and yes there is sometimes even a social component. Whatever the ingredients, the unintentional entertainment provided by my “coworkers” is enough to make my workouts faster and more enjoyable. I thank them for that!