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.