On January 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

Four times a week I wake up early (5 am, sometimes even 4:45) to go to my neighborhood gym before I get to writing. I’m practically useless in the evening for anything except having dinner and going to bed. Whether writing or working out, my best performance is in the morning, so the maxim “early to bed, early to rise” applies to me.

An added bonus of going to the gym early is that there are far fewer people at that hour. In the mornings during the week through Saturday, it’s a manageable crowd compared to the corresponding evenings, which are a veritable zoo. Sunday early morning is an utter paradise, with sometimes as few as six to eight people, including myself, in the weight area at any one time, and this is one of the large-chain gyms.

But even with just a few folks present in the workout area, there’s still a substantial number of, shall we say, “unique” personalities. One of the most interesting at the gym I attend is a woman who comes in to “work out” for only about 15 minutes dressed in purple velvet trousers and a faded pink velour jacket. She smells strongly of cigarettes and keeps her large purse with her as she works out. In a mad rush as if she has an appointment in a few minutes, she goes from one machine to the next, performing four or five rapid and ineffectual reps. And then she’s gone.

Below are some of the categories in which I place “interesting” people in the gym. The large majority of them are men.

1) The weight-hoarder. This dude enjoys gathering three or four different levels of weights for himself, e.g. the 30-, 35-, 40- and 45-pound dumbbells, and keeping them with him for the duration of his sets, oblivious or unconcerned about the other gym users passing back and forth and giving him and his weights pointed looks.

2) The weight-scatterer. He may overlap with #1. He loves moving weights from their normal location, taking them to other sections of the gym and leaving them there all over the floor and in obscure corners. This is why you can never find the other 50-pound dumbbell or the 40 lb barbell. The weight-scatterer who works out at night delights in leaving the place as chaotic and disorganized as possible for the folks coming to work out in the morning.

3) The screamers. These guys are well known. They are generally the biggest and strongest in the gym and lift very heavy weights. As they perform their sets, they bellow and carry on as if their teeth were being removed without anesthesia.

4) The screamer-spotter. This one spots #3 and is probably a screamer himself. (Spotting is when a person assists another with heavy and/or final reps.) They usually work out together. As his buddy does a forced rep, the spotter behind him yells out, “Come on! Come on! It’s all you, bro’! It’s all you! F**k yeah!”

5) The preeners. This is a particular breed that are so in love with their physiques that they cannot help constantly gazing at themselves in the gym mirror. Sometimes they don’t get much working out done because they spend so much time in self-admiration. They are, however, not always beautiful. One particular preener at my gym has lots of fat and no muscular definition whatsoever, yet he constantly poses in front of the mirror and ogles his reflection.

6) The sports commentators. These are a group of guys (always guys) who ostensibly come to work out but end up congregating on the gym floor to discuss basketball and football. They talk at 100 dB levels and consider themselves experts in the particular sport under discussion, having various pieces of advice for professionals like Kobe Bryant or Adrian Peterson. They also know which NFL and NBA teams will win the next set of games for the entire year. These gym sports commentators don’t actually ever work out.

7) The crapapella fellas. These people can’t stop themselves from singing along to their iPods as they work out. Because they can’t hear themselves above the music blasting in their earbuds, they sing very loudly and completely out of tune. Engulfed in music, they are blissfully unaware of how ridiculous they sound.

8) The psychotics. Steer clear of these guys. They talk to themselves or no one in particular, muttering things like, “I love this routine!” or “That’s good for a warm-up,” or “F**k, I can do this. I got this!” Occasionally they will break out into song, but without an iPhone, unlike the crapapella fellas. One particular psychotic at my gym began singing and then blurted out, “I love you, Mary J!”

9) The dawdlers. They may be depressed, aimless, bored or just plain out of it, but the dawdlers spend a lot of time sitting at a machine staring into space or watching other gym users. Because of the long interval between their sets, they do very little actual exercise, if any.

10) The jump-ropers. This is a special category: people who love to show off their fancy footwork as they jump rope. Since they do nothing else at the gym, they could in fact stay home and do the same thing, but it’s important for them to impress everyone. I find them particularly annoying because I can jump rope for barely one minute.

11) The instructors. These can be either men or women who give unsolicited advice to others on how to do an exercise correctly. Sometimes they add medical tips like, “You could put your back out. I know because I had to have three of my vertebrae fused from doing that exercise.” Some of these self-appointed instructors are men trying to impress women by supposedly offering them advice on how to carry out an exercise, or guys showing off to their girlfriends.

12) The beachwear women. This is another special category–women who come clad in what can only be described as a bikini outfit. I am reliably informed by people in the know that these women are consciously or unconsciously trying to pick up men. They generally do not come to early morning gym, but rather show up in primetime evening hours for maximum exposure to the male species on the prowl. They are magnets for the instructor category, see #11.

13) The ultra-man. This male specimen is endowed with idealized masculine traits and perfect muscular development. As a doctor, however, I happen to know that when these ultra-men go to the emergency room for a medical problem, they are the first to faint at the sight of a little blood or even a needle, which their wives or girlfriends never do.

14) The last category is me, the categorizer, who observes all these people and categorizes them.