Archive for the ‘Gym’ Category

Calculating Gym Vanity

Posted: October 31, 2016 in Gym, Lifestyle
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soyfcbmbip2lI am slowly beginning to get back into a semi-regular strength building program involving weights.  I genuinely like throwing around the heavy iron in the off-season as it makes me feel all manly n’ shit but, being in the gym with other people… well, not so much.

In fact, sometimes it outright pisses me off.

I actually do my very best to choose times to go to the gym and do my weights routine when I can anticipate that there – hopefully – will not be a whole lot of other people there.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m anti-social, or dislike other people (well, most of the time anyway), shit, sometimes, I even like to people watch in between sets.  C’mon, the gym is a pretty unique environment where, typically, people-watching is considered a total bonus.  Just search YouTube for videos on “strange gym behavior”; hours of endless entertainment, I promise you.

However, it doesn’t always turn out that way and sometimes I just end up getting aggravated as I did this past weekend.  Over the course of 60 minutes or so, I shared the gym with five other gym-goers and pretty much the whole time, they were just occupied taking selfies.

Here’s me standing on a treadmill; here’s me looking all fierce on a gym bench; here’s me posing with some dumbbells I might actually lift…

Why they were even there – beats the living shit out of me.

Once again, don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily “anti-selfie” as I have been accused.  I think selfies and “documenting the moment”, as you will, can be fun.  I get it, this is the age of instant expression and accessibility.  However, I don’t believe that every waking moment of every waking day 100% needs to be documented and posted for the world to admire…especially when you’re at the gym.

You’re supposed to be – you know – getting healthy.

So this prompted me to do a little “gym math”.

Hey, what else are ya gonna do when all the equipment is occupied with people zoned into their cell phones?

But I’ll come back to that.

First things first.

So of the five people present in the gym this past Saturday and over the course of the 60 minutes I was in the gym, I counted 47 different selfies.

Now, I’m sure I likely missed one or two seeing as how, well, I was WORKING OUT…so let’s round that number to 50, shall we?

That’s a stupid amount of selfies if you ask me.  It’s almost as if they’re operating under the pretense that if they didn’t snap that selfie to capture the moment, it (ie. the workout) didn’t really happen.

So, based on these numbers we can assume that the average gym-goer (at least on this day) took on the average, 10 selfies within that time frame.  So over the course of 60 minutes that’s literally one selfie every 6 minutes.

But let’s take it even one step further.

Assuming it takes, gee, let’s say 1 minute to pose (actually, I think it’s closer to two minutes, but I’m not going to nitpick and I’m choosing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt), snap and then post each of your selfies to Facebook, Instagram, or whatever other social media platform you choose to embrace and share each and every mundane detail of your life over, that equates to a mere 4 minutes between selfies in which to, you know, do shit.

Lift.  Crunch.  Plank.  Squat.

Whatever.

So of our original 60 minutes of “working out”, we’re already down to 40 minutes of actual activity…assuming, of course, that you take absolutely no pauses or breaks in between sets, reps, getting drinks of water, replacing equipment, setting up, moving about the gym or what have you.

In other words: impossible.

Maybe – at best – you’re actually engaged in lifting weights or otherwise doing healthy shit for about 20-25 minutes (and I feel like I’m being very generous here based on what I observed).  The rest of the time, really – exactly 40 minutes worth by my calculations – you’re basically just sitting there documenting your inactivity.

This is what annoys me about selfies at the gym.

I’m all for being proud of your progress and whatnot, but that’s what the mirrors are for (that, and making sure you’re practicing good form, etc.).  They were not initially intended as a photographic aid.    And did you really need to take a zillion shots of you making ducky lips with your half-caf mocha-coco-bullshit-ccino and fancy Beats headphones?  I mean, how narcissistic can you get?

Its grounds for instant “unfriending” in my books!

The other thing to remember is that while you sit there and take endless pics of your mug until you get just the right one that best encapsulates your lazy ass sitting on a bench thinking about getting all ripped, jacked or God knows what it is you’re trying to do, you’re occupying a piece of equipment that I might actually want to use.

It’s maddening.

Leave…the…phone…at…home.

But in the off chance you insist on taking your selfies, here’s a video offering you a little advise:

You’re welcome.

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(Click HERE for ‘Part 1’ of the journey)

For anyone who’s never stepped foot inside a gym, it can be a pretty scary place.

First off, there’s enormous muscle men all pressing weights as heavy as minivans, and then there’s the uber-fit cardio bunny’s all bustling and sweating away on machines of all shapes and sizes (click HERE for more of an insight in the particular ‘Gym Types’ you’ll encounter at your local gym).  To the uninitiated, the gym is like this Utopian society consisting of nothing but buff, beautiful people; Shangri-La all decked out in trendy compression wear.

I was pretty sure that the only reason why I was ever admitted in the first place was to serve as a walking reminder to all these perfectly toned fitness models of what would inevitably happen to them if they stopped frequenting the place.

I was a walking “Don’t Be This Guy” hazard sign, if you will.

But, despite this anxiety, I knew going to a gym was the next logical step in my new ‘Get Healthy” regime as, thanks to my daily walks, my skin was starting to hang off my body in the absence of not having all the usual layers of fat to cling to.  Don’t get me wrong, losing weight felt awesome but I was beginning to feel like one of those little Shar Pei dogs and I needed to start developing my poorly abused and under-worked muscles.

However, when I first contemplated going to the gym – as you might expect – I didn’t know my ass from a dumbbell.  I first searched out and visited a few prospective gyms in my area but they usually came with some unreasonable yearly contract, or demanded that you submit to an initial fitness assessment upon joining and there was no way I was going to have my health scrutinized by one of these muscle heads as I was already painfully aware of my current fitness level – pathetic.

In short, none of them felt like a place where I would be able to confidently walk through the front door, much less workout in.  These places were full of the types of guys who inevitably tormented me at high school dances and in the change room with wedgies, nugies and swirlies, and there was no fucking way I was simply walking into the belly of the beast.  So I decided to settle for a basic monthly membership at my local YMCA instead.  That doesn’t mean that going for the first time was any less intimidating as there were still guys with arms the size of tree trunks grunting and groaning through whatever medieval torture routine they happened to be inflicting on themselves.

But there were other types of people there too; ordinary non-athletic looking people like me, and that was reassuring.

Oh, and the sole vending machine on the premises also had a distinct lack of cheeseburgers.

Perfect.

At first I just fudged my way around and tried everything.  I hopped on and tried all the elliptical, stair-climber and treadmill machines, pushed and pulled at some of the weighted resistance equipment and otherwise tried to blend in even though I really had no idea what I was doing.  At least I was being active and engaging my body in something resembling exercise.  My sore muscles the next day reassured me of that.  Most importantly, I was hoisting things that weren’t cheeseburgers and candy bars.  I was working up a sweat and so, little by little, the weight continued to fade away and in turn, my body started to get stronger.

I developed a healthy addiction to ‘Men’s Health’ magazine and tried all the recommended workouts and exercises aimed at burning fat, trimming my waistline, acquiring ‘ripped, xylophone-like abs’, and giving me the unlimited stamina to boff all my future girlfriends like the stud I was meant to be.

How could I resist?

I am a total sucker for effective advertising and these magazines definitely appeared to my damaged ego and sense of imminent horniness, what can I say?

Eventually my visits to the gym started becoming very emotional and often intense.  I began to go to the gym in the same way others frequented, say, church.  The gym had become my own place of worship where I could quietly atone for all my past years’ worth of sin.  I didn’t just saddle up to an exercise bike and go for a leisurely pedal anymore; I attacked it like a crazed Viking.  There were times, when in a fit of what must have been pure testosterone and soaring adrenaline levels when I thought I might fling the machine through the window, beat my chest like a gorilla and grab the nearest spandex-clad gym bunny and climb out to the roof to await the fighter jets.  It really got that intense and that was all very new territory for me.  Before, I’d be happy to just make it back from the corner store with a bag of Doritos before the season premiere of ‘X-Files’ started, and now here I was engaging in 30-minute Interval sessions on a treadmill.

I even returned to racquet sports and started to play squash regularly with a colleague from work (my boss, no less) and together we joined a friendly recreational group of players who played most mornings at 5-fucking-30am.  Usually, this would be the time I was crawling home from the bar…not heading to the gym for a round of squash.

This was a complete 180-degree turnaround lifestyle-wise.

Gradually, after frequenting the gym five to six days a week, I learned that there was a certain, delicate code of conduct that enabled everyone to play nicely with others.  The gym, after all, is a fragile ecosystem unlike no other.  All one has to do to validate this notion is to wander into the middle of their gym at its peak hour and close their eyes.  It’s like you’ve been instantly transported to the remotest, wildest, unexplored region of the planet.  Besides all the heavy clanging and clamor of heavy metal being mashed together, there are people making noises similar to hissing cats, growling bears, angry squirrels and what have you.  I’m pretty sure I even heard a guy fart through his nose once while struggling to finish his final set of weights.  It’s like you’re suddenly all alone in some weird alien petting zoo.   I eventually learned that while it’s perfectly acceptable to sweat, grunt and make unnatural faces, it’s still no reason to forget your manners.  Besides, if you cram large groups of narcissistic people into confined places with ample pieces of blunt iron lying around, you’re bound to have problems if there isn’t a proper predetermined code of conduct.  And given that even the old woman doing a zillion crunches in the corner could probably kick my ass I figured I’d better figure out – fast – the most effective way to blend in while still getting my workout in unscathed.

For this reason, I created and adhered to my own set of ‘Ordinary Man’s Guide to Gym Etiquette and Survival’ (click HERE – bearing in mind that I still smoked pot at this point so this old post was geared more towards hippies than “ordinary” guys).

Whatever, I still continue to follow these same principles today.

Anyway, the fat continued to drop off my body and I started to build some muscle and, consequentially, I was also beginning to develop something I hadn’t experienced very often:  pride.  Furthermore, and maybe most importantly, I wasn’t so immediately repulsed by my own reflection in the mirror and, believe me, there are no shortage of mirrors at the gym.  I figure this is the gym’s way of reminding you to work hard.

Yes, things were definitely looking up but I was becoming restless.  I still walked periodically, but these workouts had been mostly replaced by things I could do indoors at the gym.

And it was getting boring.

It had been nearly two years since my turnaround from my old habits and I was beginning to crave something new – a different challenge perhaps – something in which to show off my new athletic prowess, basic as it was.  I wanted something different to sink my teeth into.  I felt like I had something to prove to myself, I just wasn’t sure what it was yet.  It was around this time that fate finally stepped in and dropped the gauntlet down squarely before me by offering me the one thing that would eventually consume me for the seven years up to the present.

And it all happened innocently enough:

“Why don’t we do a triathlon”?

I looked at my brother like he had just suggested that we castrate each other in some ritual ceremony by the light of a full moon.  My physical reaction was probably akin to had he just tried to tie my nipples into balloon knots.

“Get the fuck out of here!”, I responded.

You see, my most vivid (and only) recollection of triathlon came at a very early age when I was just 10 years old.  Most likely, I was lazing around on the couch at home and hefting an Oh, Henry!  to my mouth to pass the time – doing as little as possible – waiting for the dinner bell to ring.  It was 1982 and TSN, which was new at the time, was broadcasting the live Ironman competition from Kona, Hawaii and Julie Moss was on the final leg of her marathon and wearing that geeky baseball cap.

I liked watching sports.

I just wasn’t very good at playing them.

What she was doing was completely lost on me as I had no concept then of the distances involved, or what the scope and magnitude of what she was attempting to accomplish was.  I don’t even think I knew where Hawaii was.  Sure, she was running…but she was also walking.  How hard could that be?  I probably would have likely changed the channel had there been something more interesting on.

But then the broadcast took a decided different tone when shit – actual shit – started to stream down Julie’s leg as she began to weeble-wobble, eventually toppling over completely…over and over again.  She would then get up…and collapse right back down again down (click HERE to see for yourself).

The fuck?

What I didn’t know then is that her body was basically beginning to shut down (referred to as “hitting the wall”) and she was ultimately losing control of her ability to function normally as a result of the extreme hardship that she had placed on it over the course of 226.2 kilometers of racing.

My thought?

“Eww”, immediately followed by: “is she retarded or something?”

Hey, I was 10 years old and it was 1982 so that was a perfectly acceptable thing to think.

Anyway, Julie would eventually lose the race to Kathleen McCartney only mere meters from the finish line but I didn’t care, I just knew that triathlon was definitely not  for me.  So when my brother suggested this very notion some 25 years later I thought:

“No fucking way am I ever going to risk shitting myself in public!”

Truth!

That’s fucking crazy.

Of course, my brother wasn’t suggesting we tackle an Ironman, he was suggesting we do something less than total batshit crazy, like a shorter (much shorter) “Try-a-Tri”…for, you know, beginners.  Once this was explained to me I began to give it some serious consideration.

I still had my doubts considering that I hadn’t swum since grade school, and even then it was just to play tag at the local community pool.  I didn’t own a bike.

And running?

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But I won’t deny it, I was curious.

I mean, how else was I ever going to put this newly acquired fitness to the test?  The distances seemed reasonable:  a 400m swim, a 10k bike ride, and a 2.5k run.  My walks around the neighborhood up to that point were easily longer than that so, hey, maybe this was  entirely possible.

Besides, I was beginning to feel the stirrings of sibling rivalry rear its ugly head.  My brother has always been fitter than me…always has.  When I was eating candy bars he was out playing.  Later in life while I was drinking beer, smoking pot and staying out late, he was in the gym or doing something active.  In university he studied physical fitness to become a phys-ed teacher for Christ sake.  Clearly, we were very different apples that just happened to fall off the same tree.

But here’s where fate really  steps in:

The very next day a poster appeared on the YMCA message board announcing that there was going to be a new triathlon club starting up…for beginners.  There was going to be organized swimming and running groups as well as a triathlon specific “Brick Class”.  I didn’t know what a “Brick class” was and it scared me to the bone.  It sure didn’t sound fun.  However, it was all going to be provided at my local YMCA for no extra cost aside from my normal monthly membership, so how could I refuse?

It was as if Fate itself had just stepped out from the shadows and bitch-slapped me.

Reluctantly, I picked up the phone and called my brother that same day.

“Okay, let’s do it.”

(to be con’d…)

After a long weekend and an even longer night on Sunday thanks to a whiney, grumpy 10-year-old with a bellyache that may or may not have been a real issue, I was feeling the need to burn off a little anxiety yesterday.  I decided then that I’d test the waters a little and try out the Circuit training class that runs for 45 minutes before my own Masters Spin class that I teach on Monday nights.  After all, I’m starting to gear up for the “big burn” which I know has to happen shortly so I’m exploring new options to add to the routine as per my 2016 goals (click HERE).

My only familiarity with this class for the past year or so, has been sitting on the bench waiting for the ladies to finish up so I can begin rolling out the spin bikes for class.  By the looks of things they were working pretty hard but it didn’t look too  challenging.  After all, I’m a triathlete and past Ironman right?  What real benefit could I gain from a 45 minute workout when my own “easy” workouts typically last nothing less than an hour?  Besides, it’s all girls. It can’t be that  hard.

What an idiot I can be.

I remembered way back when I tried “Crossfit” (click HERE) a few years ago but I realize now that what I was doing then wasn’t really crossfit (which was still relatively new and not as hugely popular as it is now), it was Circuit training.  This became all too aware to me about 5 minutes into yesterday’s workout, but I’ll get there.

The workout, lead by Andi, was designed to be 12 different plyometric exercises (click HERE) to be run for 1 minute at a time with a 15 second break in order to rest and move onto the next “station”.  I opted to start with the jumping jacks.  Yes, they were the easiest as Andi was quick to point out jokingly, but I figured I’d start easy and then build myself into the harder and more intense exercises I figured were to follow and end with the sprinting exercise at the end.  That’s my story anyway.

Remember, I’m an idiot.

Anyhow, 1 minute of jumping jacks was no big deal, but I did begin to sweat a bit.

Good start.

Next, I moved to the V-sit station, otherwise known as “Boat Pose” for all you yogi’s out there.  I have included boat pose into my usual off season core routine for years so I felt I was in a good position (no pun intended) to rock this shit out just as I had done with the jumping jacks.  However, 20 seconds into my V-sit and I was like, “hey, this is pretty fucking hard” as my core muscles began to bitch and complain.  Then it hit me: I haven’t really done any core or upper body strength conditioning since April/May when I switched my training to a more outdoor orientated endurance focused program.

Shit, this might really suck after all and the sweat just definitely beginning to flow.

The next circuit was side-planks which I can do fairly well, not that this prevented any of the sweat from flowing, that’s for sure.

Next up was Burpees.  Oh sweat Jesus, no.  Not the burpees!

FML.

If you remember anything about my ranting about burpees before (see link above), I hate fucking burpees.  I even hate Royal H. Burpee for conjuring up this god forsaken exercise.  Couple that with the fact that Andi added this new little kick out with the legs at the end and, yeah, it totally sucked balls.  After the 30 seconds or so, I was sweating like the pig who knows he’s dinner and my bandana was producing a slow and steady stream of sweat down my face.  By the 1 minute mark I felt 100% spent and was wondering how I was ever going to complete the rest of this circuit.  Making matters worse, the other 3 ladies in the class looked like this was just another day at the office and making it all look so simple.

My motivation was definitely beginning to wane some.

After those stupid burpees, it was skipping.  Now I can’t skip to save my life but, actually, it wasn’t so bad and I was able to more or less keep a decent skip going without too much interruption.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Take THAT you Grade 3 playground bitches!  FINALLY!  Something that was better suited to my preference for cardio-related exercise; a singular repetitive action held for a specific duration of time.

By this time the sweat was now volleying off my brow with every hop, skip and jump as my bandana had reached its maximum saturation point.

Next on the Devil’s circuit was push-ups.  Thank Christ!  Something I can do to show off my imminent manliness.

I assumed the position and on the final count of 15 seconds, started to put on what I figured was going to be a total display of upper body uber-awesomeness. “Hey ladies, check this shit out”, I thought.  After all, I like to rock out the medicine ball push-ups in my workout warm-ups, so normal push-ups would be easy right?

Wrong.

I got to about 18 and my arms and shoulders started to give out.  Ho-lee shit.  By this point, a pool of bodily fluid had formed under my forehead where the sweat was now cascading off in a complete Angel Falls-esque deluge.  After 22 push-ups (about 45 seconds into the circuit), I had to take a break.

Not. Good.

Next up was the “Up and Down Plank”; rising and lowering yourself up and down on your forearms which, after all those push-ups ranked up there with dipping my forearms in battery acid.  I think I managed for the whole minute but, truthfully, I also think I was hallucinating by this point so I may not have.  I don’t rightly remember.  What I do remember is that the mat underneath me was a total lake of sweat and tears meaning, of course, that all the other ladies coming into the station after me would now have to do their own routine in a pool of my rankness.

Sorry girls.

The side-to-side bench jump was next; hopping back and forth over a bench.  As much as this sucked, I know from my limited experience with plyometrics that this is an ideal exercise for runners so I tried my best to cinch up the ‘ol apple sack and get ‘em done.  I think I managed about a dozen or so before having to take a quick break lest I suffer a total cardiac arrest and end up doing a face plant into the bench.  By now, I was dripping fluids from just about everywhere and my shirt, shorts and bandanas was now carrying about 10 extra lbs of moisture.  I swear, I think even my eyeballs were sweating.

The other ladies though were still smiling, joking, and chatting amongst themselves.  Me?  I had forgotten what my name was and my motivation was somewhere between “fuck this shit”  and non-existent, particularly since I realized that only 10 minutes had passed.  So much for being an Ironman, ha!

The next 15 second transition couldn’t come soon enough.

Mountain Climbers” were next.   Now, it has to be said, I like my mountain climbers like I like my burpees like I like hot lead being poured down my pants. “Andi, you suck”, I thought to myself.  Luckily (or ‘unluckily’, depending on what side of the tipping point you prefer to look at it), my Morton’s Neuroma didn’t bother me so bad and I was able to do about a dozen without much pain or discomfort.  I confess though, I did cheat a bit when Andi’s back was turned and I assumed the child’s pose for a few seconds.

I was dying.

After what seemed like an hour, she blew the whistle signaling us to move on.

The wide grip “lat pull down” with bungee strap was next on her hit list.  Any thoughts I had of this being easy were immediately shot down when my chest muscles were aching after about 20 seconds.

Jesus.

Stop the madness.

“Bent over row” with 15 lbs weights were immediately afterwards and, while not torturous thanks to my swim conditioning, they certainly weren’t “easy” after two minutes of lighting my chest muscles on fire with that damned bungee strap.  A lake of pain and disappointment was now forming on the floor underneath my brow while I struggled through this second to last exercise.

The whistle blew again and I moved to the last exercise to complete the circuit: sprints.

Well, they weren’t sprints so much as they were a slow, painful shuffle between gym walls.  However, I gritted through it as, like the skipping, this was within my endurance-based wheelhouse.  I will admit though, I’ve never been happy to hear that final whistle blow completing…the first  circuit.

Fuck. Wait.

You mean I have to do this all over UH-again?

For the past 15 minutes, a not-so-small snail trail of sweat and tears was being left behind me in a grosser, moister breadcrumb trail from station to station.  How in the Sam hell was I ever going to do this one more time?  Maybe I would be lucky and Andi would offer us a 13th exercise, a Colt 45 to the temple in order to put me out of my misery (I’d say “We” here, but the other ladies looked perfectly fine).  So much for my thinking that this wouldn’t be “too  challenging” and I made a mental note to never believe myself again.

My realization here is that endurance training is fine and dandy, and I have taught myself to endure long sustained painful efforts, but this short and fast circuit shit really fucking sucks.  Meaning, it’s perfect for what I believe I need right now in order to begin rebuilding my fitness base, lose weight and start preparing for more the focused strength training to come.  I wasn’t terribly happy with this realization at this particular point in time, mind you, but there it was.

Somehow, through the grace of God, I managed to persevere through another round of torture, being mindful to flip the mats after me for the ladies since I was by now leaking profusely from every pour.  So much so, it was hard to not slip and slide all over the place during some of my exercises (again, that’s my story).  As a warm down we had to do 5 minutes of abdominal exercises including reverse and bicycle crunches.  Basically, this was just adding insult to injury by this point as I could barely hold my legs in the air and lied there like a bloated beached whale.

Finally, the 45 minutes passed.

The bad news: I need work…LOTS of work.  The good news: I now have my inspiration to get back at it if any of this Ironman business is ever going to happen in July.  My goal now (as much as I am loathe to say it), is to join this class each week for the next few months to begin burning off all the craft beer and tapas plates I’ve indulging in lately and build back my core strength that, somewhere down the road, I’ve managed to lose altogether.

Yup.  One thing is for certain, it’s going to be a long, upward (not to mention wet) struggle this winter.

God help me.

So it seems to be, that every few months or so, I tend to encounter some sort of bizarre behavior at the gym as I document as acknowledge with a ‘Gym J. Bullock’ (click HERE) award, or as simply another story in my on-going ‘Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…’  series (click HERE and HERE).  Oh, and lest we forget the Black Mamba (click HERE).

And as far as weird-ass behavior goes, today was definitely the day.

Now, for matter of reference sake, I recently just moved my gym membership at the YMCA to the more local branch since HRH  is no longer taking swimming lessons through the original branch.  It’s all good though as I genuinely love this new branch. I like their approach to creating and supporting the local community, I like the people who work there, and I like that they let me yell at people for 60 minutes every Monday night as a spin instructor.  The only downside is that they don’t have all the frou-frou amenities that the other gyms provided, like a “Member’s Plus” change room to use; it’s “gen pop” all the way.  Now, a locker room is a locker room at the end of the day with all the usual assortment of wacko’s, weirdo’s, and people for whom there are really no words, but now that I’m without the beloved safe haven of the “Member’s Plus” change room, I have about a dozen pre-pubescent boys staring at my junk every time I change and get showered.

“Hey peanut, quit staring at my lunch box.”

Awk-ward!

Anyway, it is what it is and usually I’m there early in the morning or later in the evening so it’s not so bad. This morning, however, the gates didn’t so much ‘open’ as they completely and epically failed on a grandiose New Orleans levee scale and a total watershed of imminent craziness flooded out all over the place. I guess that didn’t sound so good, so allow me to explain…

I finished my morning swim workout as per usual without incident.  Of course, there were all the usual “swim types” to deal with as well as all the typical issues as they relate to lane swimming, but I just consider  these things now as an occupational hazard of being in the pool.  I like to think it teaches me patience.  Anyway, after I finished I made my way into the showers – as you typically do – and that’s when all the craziness started.

In the shower already was an old guy who looked as if he’d already spent the better part of the morning there.  He didn’t seem to be washing, rinsing or any other of the standard things you might expect to see someone doing in the shower.  No, he was just kinda standing there…passing time.  Even more disconcerting was the big shit-eating grin that he had spread over his face as he stood there loitering away under his stream of water.  Seriously, he was the kind of guy that my teachers in grade school warned me about getting into vans with.  Had there been anywhere else to shower at the time, certainly, I would have been there.

As it is now, the shower area is pretty small with only 5 shower heads so even if you’re at opposite ends of the shower area, you’re still in close proximity with anyone else who might also be sharing the vicinity, as this guy was.  So I returned his creepy ass smile politely (and modestly I might add) before immediately casting my eyes to the floor and started making with the suds.  Now it also needs to be mentioned here that the showers at this particular gym also utilize a “water conservation” approach, where the facet shuts off after a minute or so and therefore reducing the amount of water waste.  That potentially means that mid-suds, you might have to reach over and reactivate the shower head should it turn off in order to resume your rinsing.  No big deal though, right?  And it’s usually not.  However, as I was “sudsing up” on this particular occasion the flow of water on my shower temporarily cut out, and out of the corner of my eye I see the creepy old dude in the corner come hustled over to reset the water flow for me.

Did he….just….???

Yup.  He did.

And now he was standing there grinning at me like a total psychopath waiting for some sort of friendly acknowledgement.

Great.

“Umm, thanks?”, I offered nervously.

Strange behavior as it was, I tried to pretend it didn’t happen and simply returned my eyes to the ground and proceeded with the business of scrubbing my privates.  He genuinely looked very pleased with himself though, as if he had just something incredibly noble like assisting a helpless turtle cross a busy highway or rescue a kitten from a tree, and so he continued to harbor that weird ass grin on his face as I returned to my shower.

Usually – in my experience anyway – heterosexual naked men don’t like to go anywhere near other heterosexual naked men and we approach these situations very delicately, as if coming in too close to another man’s nekkid bid’ness will result in our automatically becoming gay or something, like one of those Reed frogs who will spontaneously change  sexes for whatever reason.  Clearly, this old guy has never read the “Man Code” as it relates to these types of exposed situations.  Hopefully, though, this was just one of the “one off” circumstances that I could just laugh off (later of course) and carry on with my day.

However, in another minute or two he did it again. The water cut out and before you could say “rub a dub dub”, he comes over to reset my water…UH-again!

The fuck?!

The water  cut off as I was scrubbing my ball sack and there he was, coming to my apparent “rescue” again with that helpful expression that seemed to be fishing for some sort of acknowledgement like he had just done me this huge favor.  Bizarre!  This time, I was less cordial and gave him a strange look and proceeded back to tending to my sack.  Clearly this was not the reaction he was hoping for…not that it stopped him any.

It’s also worth noting here that, for the record, I wasn’t actively seeking this specific reaction by purposely allowing my water flow to cut out.  No, sir!  It’s just that after 90 minutes to a few hours in the pool, and I like to give myself a thorough lathering so I don’t go home smelling like the battlefields of Ypres so I often opt to let the water cut out as I’m lathering up and then just restart it when I’m ready.  Besides, I’m all for the water conservation thing anyway, so it’s no big deal.  So, for whatever reason, this guy now felt like it was his civic dude to help out when I didn’t really need or want  it.  Suffice to say, I was less than thrilled about it.

Usually, I am big advocate when it comes to “love thy neighbor” and “be kind to strangers”, but this was fucking ridiculous.  Now the guy was simply standing there desperately waiting for the opportunity to present itself so he could rush to my aid and lend a helping hand.  On the third and even fourth time, I awkwardly smiled appreciatively, but by the fifth time, I stopped acknowledging him altogether as this was beginning to get out of hand (no pun intended) and I was getting pretty aggravated, if not completely freaked out.  Clearly this guy isn’t dealing with a full deck if his morning is spent in the Men’s showers helping other dudes with their shower facets.  That’s some fucking strange ass shit!

So, now, here I was showering with someone who, for all I know, is also picturing my genitals as a potentially nice addition to his basement rec room as a lamp shade or something equally decorative.

“Yes, that’s it buddy. Get all sudsy and smooth. Here, let me help reset that water for you. Yes, that’s it.  Go on, get all sparkly clean and baby-smooth.  Boy is your nut sack going to look nice on my trophy shelf.”

Or, worse yet, he was going to come at me with a chainsaw a la Scarface.  Now, where he might have been hiding a chainsaw exactly is totally beyond imaging but the point is, had my shower not ended right then and there I was forced to spend a single moment longer with Joe Creepoid, I might have gone all Norman Bates right there and ended up beating him mercilessly within an inch of his life for violation of space, not to mention shower privacy.  After all, I’ve seen too many grizzly bathroom shower scenes that didn’t end so well in B-movie horrors (click HERE) as a kid to not take this lightly so, now, I’ve added a new rule to my ever-growing list of Locker Room Commandments:

“Thou shalt NEVER fuck with another man’s shower facet…EVER!”

Lord knows that the gym is a literal breeding ground of schmucks. From your typical bevy of weight room goons (which are many – click HERE), to the girls who monopolize the machines in order to take selfies of their boobs, to the guy who likes to trim his pubic hair on the changing room sofa, and lest we forget the Black Mamba.  Shit, you can probably even add me to this cast of characters as well given I’ve had my own fair share of awkward moments (click HERE).  And now that it’s winter and most people are taking to the indoors for their workouts, never mind the influx of current New Years Resolutioner’s, that pool of schmuck’s is a-plenty for sure.

For me, part of going to the gym is the morbid attraction to scope out these schmucks in their natural habitat.  I consider it as something to do between sets on my mat, and such was the case yesterday on a recent visit to the gym to complete a short functional strength and core routine after work. To say the gym was “busy” would be like suggesting that Miley Cyrus is merely a bit “off”.  Suffice to say, it was fucking crazy.  I could barely squeeze myself into a corner without also rubbing asses with either the tweener in neon spandex and the scary looking bearded guy in the gnarly, stained “Tap Out” t-shirt who looked like he’d sooner eat me than offer me a little room to workout out.  So, while the schmuck-watching was great, it was with great haste that I ran through my series of planks, push-ups and crunches to get the fuck out of there…which I did.

Now, if you think the actual gym floor has its fair share of wacko’s, than the locker room would be the Ground Zero from which all the imminent wackiness emanates, and yesterday proved no different. My basic strategy on any given day is to get in and get out as quickly as possible without making eye-contact, or being forced into any “howdy do’s”, etcetera and so forth; less is definitely more when it comes to the locker room in my opinion.  But, every now and again, you see something that will suddenly make you freeze in your tracks and gape in bewildered astonishment.  And such was the case yesterday, when I spotted this years’ winning recipient of the “Gym J. Bullock Award” for total and complete gym buffoonery.

It has to be said, it’s a total crap shoot each and every time you walk into the showers. It’s like blindly walking into a crime scene in that you’re never really going to know what you’re going to witness. It could be something mundane and ordinary, or it could be a total bloodbath.

And yesterday was a total bloodbath.

Upon walking into the showers and retiring to a corner showerhead I quickly and discretely took stock of my surroundings as men are prone to do when naked and, therefore, feeling vulnerable. In there with me at this specific time was the requisite old guy, some dude on the opposite side of the showers minding his own business, and…that’s it.  Perfect!  And so it went for a few minutes or so until another guy entered and sidled up to the showerhead directly next to mine.

Immediately, I was like:

Nevermind that there were any number of showerheads available elsewhere that he could have easily chosen from (seriously, choosing shower facets is like choosing urinals, you select the one as far away from everybody else as possible), it’s what he did next that completely freaked me out, earning him this years’ award hands down.  No contest.

At first, he just stood there under the cascading water, dousing himself as one typical does, but then he proceeded to fondle his junk for the next few seconds or so.  And not just “fondle” fondle, but literally tugging at himself like he was playing with a Stretch Armstrong (click HERE) or something.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I realize your frank and beans need a thorough cleaning as well – they get sweaty too – but there is a very specific point at which it becomes too much. When it comes to washing your privates, I like to observe the “five second rule” similar to when food falls on the floor; providing it’s retrieved within the allotted five second time frame, it is still safe to eat.  Well, in this case, after five seconds of scrubbing your junk, it’s no longer cleaning…it’s just fucking weird.  And this guy was the epitome of weird in the way he was pulling at it, rubbing it, and whipping it around like he was going to lasso a steer.  Honestly, it was very disconcerting.

But then seconds turned into, well, minutes, and there he still is…thwacking at it like he was trying to punish it for some misdeed or other.  Although it seemed like hours, I’m sure it was only three to four minutes he was doing this but, still, that’s a fucking long  time to spend playing with your genitals in a public shower!

But he wasn’t done yet, oh no.  After the initial round of yanking and tugging during which I was sure he was going to rip it off, he proceeded to get a fistful of soap from the dispenser and started to lather it all up…like, seriously lather up.  Okay, weird just turned to extremely awkward as, suddenly the shower area turned into an Ibiza foam party.

At this point, I had to vacate the premises…quickly. The sounds of slapping and flapping were simply too much to bear.  It was freaking me out to be perfectly honest.  And I wasn’t the only one either, as just about every other guy in the shower decided to join me in my exodus, so, clearly, I wasn’t the only one who thought this behavior was inappropriate.  Hey, when you actually manage to scare old dudes out of the showers, you just know that whatever it is you’re doing is fucking bizarre.  And this guy brought it in spades.

I think I may actually need therapy now.

Despite blogging candidly about peeing, pooping, the time I seemingly shit myself in the locker room (click HERE) and, oh, let’s not forget about being perceived as some deviant who likes to watch roadside animals fuck (click HERE), I am actually a somewhat modest person, especially when it comes to nudity as I’ve already discussed in my post about locker room etiquette.

In high school Phys-Ed I would marvel at the other boys who’d casually stroll around the locker room buck naked while I showered in my underpants.  Yes, I was one of those poor shy bastards.  Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against  nudity; I just prefer to keep my shit covered up to everyone who’s either not my doctor or my girlfriend because the general public doesn’t need to see my intimate bits.

Nowadays I’ve gotten pretty skilled at slipping out of a wet swimsuit or soggy exercise clothes and into a dry outfit without exposing so much as a random fold, pube or crack.  Of course, I shower and everything but, even then, it’s all business.  I keep my head down and focused on getting back to my locker (discretely wrapped in a towel, of course) and into my street clothes and out of the locker room as innocuously as possible…

…unless someone takes it upon himself to strike up a conversation with me while his monster schlong dangles in front of me like an uncaged python.  That’s  when things tend to get a little awkward.  Because you know what? If you’re naked and you’re talking to me, I’m probably gonna stare at your unmentionables.  How can I not?  You’re freaking naked, for crying out loud, and you’re talking to me about the weather and how humid is out today while I try not to gawk at your junk.  It’s human nature to stare at something that’s out of the ordinary, and an old dude (honestly, this guy was probably older than fire) with a penis you could use for home defense qualifies as being a bit on the “abnormal” side of things.  Typically, my encounters with old dudes at the Y never go well.  Click HERE  for a little reminder.

Take this most recent encounter.  Today I went to the Welland International Flatwater Center for an early open water swim which is one of the true joys of triathlon training if you ask me.  It’s just you, the mist, the ducks and the peaceful serenity of still water.  Afterwards, I made my way to the YMCA for a sauna, shave and shower before heading onto work.  Because, you know, nobody wants to smell canal all day long.  Anyway, as I plodded towards the shower portion of the program I noticed an old black guy engaged in his own morning cleanse ritual which, apparently, included lathering up his asshole but, hey, who’s judging?

I think it’s an unwritten rule that if given the opportunity to allow for a little distance to exist between exposed naked bits then it is ones responsibility to take that initiative and position themselves as far as possible from the other exposed bit.  I call this the ‘Urinal Philosophy’ that guys typically observe at ball games and such.  You don’t use the urinal directly next to another dude doing his business if there’s an opportunity to use a free urinal elsewhere and thereby allowing for some ‘privacy’, what little it may be (unless, of course, it happens to be John Stanton).  I take this same philosophy to the showers at the gym: NEVER shower directly next to another dude if there’s the option of showering one shower head over, or elsewhere if possible.  In this case, I made my way to the other side of the showers altogether as I definitely have a limited quota of soapy bungholes in my day (i.e. zero).

The guy was naked, obviously, gettin’ his scrub on.  I quickly glanced in his direction as I walked by when I entered the shower room before looking away because I didn’t want to stare at his ridiculously huge cock.  I mean, seriously, this thing was scary. Like way scarier than anything I might have encountered in the canal (for example).  It was like a policeman’s baton with a nutsack that resembled something a bank robber might be carrying had it a dollar sign tattooed on it.  It didn’t.  I checked.  I fumbled with the shower faucet and began my quick rinse.

And then:

Dandy McDinoschlong: “You think it’s gonna be hot out today?”

Oh god.  No.  Don’t do this.

Me (staring at the farthest corner of the room): “Hmm?”  Maybe he wasn’t talking to me.  Maybe he was…talking to himself?  I dunno.  I just hoped he wasn’t trying to get a very exposed me to talk to a very nude him.

Dandy McDinoschlong: “Do you think it’s gonna be hot out today?”  Damnit.  Now he had moved over to, you know, talk.

I shot a brief glance back at him and my eyes tractor-beamed back to his gigantic Johnson before I forced them to pull their gaze up towards his face.  He was staring at me inquisitively while sudsing his crotch.  I flashed back to a previous experience in the locker room a few months ago (click HERE) and, honestly, this couldn’t have been anymore awkward had the ‘Crying Game’  started to play over the muzac system.

Just excellent.

Was he lonely or what?  Why now of all times and places to strike up a conversation?  At the very least, couldn’t he choose a moment when he wasn’t also rubbing and fondling his pet anaconda?

Dandy McDinoschlong: “I don’t mind the heat, but I can’t take this humidity”, he continued.

He bent down and started washing his knees and – I swear – his gigantic disco stick plonked itself down on the floor with an audible ‘thud’.  I bet this man’s poor wife hasn’t walked right since their honeymoon.

Me: “Uh huh”, was all I could muster in response.

Maybe if I ignored him he’d simply go away back to his own shower head.

No dice.

Dandy McDinoschlong: “Yeah, I used to live in Florida so I know humidity and this is about as bad as it gets.”

My brain: “Goddamnit, eyes, stop looking at his dick! Look anywhere else! ANYWHERE!!”

My eyes: “You got it, boss!” (immediately flicks gaze to his crotch)

My brain: “Oh for crying out loud…”

Dandy McDinoschlong: “So, you going to work then?”

Me: “Uh, yeah.”  Maybe this was my way out but he wasn’t having any of it.

Dandy McDinoschlong: “I’m retired now so this is my only workout before going home to watch television.”

My brain: “I bet just lifting that thing to scrub yourself is a workout!  I wonder if you can use that thing to change the channel too?”   Damnit!  Shut up brain!

Me: “That’s great.  I’m late as it is so…”

At this point I would have literally limbo-ed my way under his monstrous black mamba just to get out of there.  I was that desperate.

Dandy McDinoschlong: Oh yeah, well don’t let me keep you. Welphaveagoodone”, he offered.

Me: “Thanks! You too!”, I replied as I made my big prison break towards the shower exit, desperately trying to keep my eyes forward on where I was going.  I failed.

My brain: “C’mon, one last looksee…”  Fuck!

This man’s phallus will forever be etched in my mind.  I probably know it better than my own now.

Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe every other dude on this planet enjoys chatting with his peers in the shower while nude, furiously washing every wrinkly nook and cranny like a raccoon on crack while discussing the weather, the local sports team, or what have you.  Maybe I’m  the weird one because I don’t particularly like partaking in conversations while my taint is exposed and vulnerable.

If that’s the case, so be it.  Personally, I don’t relish being naked in front of strangers and I don’t particularly enjoy naked people talking to me, so if you’re thinking of striking up a convo with me while you’re bent over with your leather Cheerio thrust up towards the ceiling, please grant me the courtesy of throwing on a pair of pants before chatting me up.  Because contrary to what you may think, I assure you that I don’t  want to see any of that.

As you may or may not already know, in the past few months I have been frequenting a different gym.  It’s a little further to drive, but it’s a pretty cool place complete with an entire Aquatic Center, an indoor 200m track, a clean and spacious weights area, an engaging Kids program, and a very distinct lack of annoying meat heads.  Plus, the staff is pretty nice as well.  All definitely perks in my personal checklist for a successful gym.  There are a few drawbacks in that it doesn’t have a Member’s Plus change room for gym snobs like me, and there isn’t a dedicated spin studio.  Oh, and for whatever reason, they don’t have a swim suit spinner/drier in the Men’s or Women’s change room but only in the Family change room which is a bit weird.  I hate walking into the Family change room after a swim to dry my suit while mothers are trying to dry and clothe the naked little bodies of their kids…and then I go strolling by.  It makes me feel weird and you should see some of the surprised-slash-concerned looks I get sometimes.  Anyway, it’s a minor thing and the advantages of the place definitely outweigh the disadvantages and, so, I’m sold.

However, I’ve been finding it a bit hard to establish a positive reputation.  At best, I’d be happy to just slip by under the radar completely.  Not that I go to the gym to socialize or attempt to impress anybodye but, hey, when you start going somewhere regularly people begin to recognize you just as you begin to recognize them.  We may never actually speak or even make eye contact but, still, there’s a certain distant rapport being established.  Depending on how you conduct yourself you might come across as annoying and obnoxious, or polite and respectful.  I definitely strive to be the later but, hey, things happen.

Now, you might recall my little incident last month, or what has now become known as my “post swim locker room shit story”, right?  Click HERE  for a little taste, err, reminder.  Yeah, its totally things like that that don’t exactly win you many friends at the gym but I can’t fault anybody but myself here.  It’s just one of those things.  Having a chocolate protein bar smeared all over your bare ass, well, it could happen to anybody. Likewise, today’s locker room misadventure was just one of those things, but it does bring up my first real complaint for this new Shangri-La I’ve been going to.

You know what should NEVER be played in the Men’s change room?  Bette Midler.  Yeah.  So not cool.

I mean, picture it:  you’ve just finished a tough weights workout, completed a hard spin class or track workout, or otherwise accomplished some other manly task of Herculean proportions and you’re jacked; endorphins and testosterone are absolutely coursing through your veins.  throughout the workout, you’ve probably been listening to your own macho playlist (click HERE  for an ongoing account of my own) of music through your ear buds to keep you motivated, alive and kicking ass, right?

Of course you do.

Those tunes could be absolutely anything you find inspiring (either passively or actively) but I’m guessing not many people choose to listen to Enya while throwing around the heavy iron.  No, it’s more likely you’ve been listening to AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Metallica, or whatever else that might float your boat.  Well, a man’s man would anyway. Shit, I know a guy who loves his Janet Jackson (right Devin?).  Not that I’m judging him or anything, but as long as it keeps him stimulated and rocking the shit out of his workout, so be it, power to ya tough guy.

Personally, I was in the pool today.  Not exactly the kind of workout that one might need motivational music, but when I do long or speedy sets, I tend to hum ‘Just Got Paid’  by ZZ Top, so I’m including it as a manly Herculean deed.  Anyway, upon leaving the pool and entering the locker room I immediately noticed that something was, well, ‘off’.  I couldn’t place my finger on it right away so I made my way to my locker and proceeded to get to the business at hand of drying off, changing, showering, getting dressed, what have you.  But then I noticed it, everyone is looking at me strangely, and I back at them. We must have look like a bunch of startled rabbits.

WTF?  Did I “shit” myself again…no.  So what gives?

Then it hits me, Bette Midler is playing on the internal music system; in the MENS change room!  A little disconcerting?  You betcha!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Bette hater and I have no problem with the stereotypical type of fella that might enjoy himself a little Better Midler.  Shit, I’d get naked in front of a gay guy no problem as long he observes the universal law of ‘Feast your eyes, brah, but no lookee no touchee’.  But, still, as it turns out not everybody else might feel that way.  It’s not exactly a comforting thing to listen to while in the vicinity of other naked men.  I’m sure there is a time and a place for Bette, but this definitely isn’t it.

And here we are, several dudes in varying stages of undress all trying to carefully observe the cardinal locker room vow of ‘Ignore thy Neighbor’  and, suddenly, Bette Midler comes on the radio.  It’s may as well have been this:

 

Suddenly, we’re all eying one another suspiciously and trying to cover ourselves up a little more than normal.  It’s true!  It happened!  I swear.  In fact, a few of the other guys were dressed and scurrying out of there within the first few chords of ‘Wind Beneath My Wings   quicker than I could say, “We’re Here; We’re Queer…”, well, you get where I’m coming from.  Talk about awkward!  Hey, it’s not like I requested  it or anything.  Seriously, you’d think they were trying to escape a hostage crisis, or as if I was all up in their face like this:

 

Anyway, not being particularly embarrassed about my shame, I went on about my business in all my naked glory to the chagrin of the few other fellas who were either not so quick to depart, or were waiting to see where this goes.    Maybe I should have followed suit and immediately got dressed myself and vacated the premises lickety-split rather then make eye contact (a huge no-no in the Locker Room Commandments), smile sheepishly and simply carry on carrying on.  I don’t think the remaining guys were seeing the situation in the same humorous light as I was.  So now, to some, I might just be ‘that’  guy.   Oh, well.  I’ve been worse I’m sure.  Anyway, I’m now thinking of filling out a comment card requesting a the gym adopt a “No Bette Midler” policy in the change rooms.  I wonder how that will be received?