The Jerk Store Called

Taking a break from the gym is great not just for the physical rest, but also for stepping away from the mental grind. I’m not even talking about what’s required to motivate yourself day after day. The gym environment itself creates anxiety and stress.

One major hassle is the way you must compete with other members for equipment—like an open squat rack, or a barbell bench press station. In fact, gym etiquette is so bad that performing the actual lift is the least of my problems.

Take for example the couple sets of incline dumbbell presses I plan for my chest day. First, I have to time my routine so that the gym’s sole incline bench is available at just the right moment. Then, I have to find not one, but two 70 lb dumbbells. The scavenger hunt can lead me around the gym—back by the Smith Machine, next to the treadmills, into the aerobics room. At the end, it’s a Gift of the Magi situation: By the time I gather matching dumbbells, someone else has taken over the open bench.

I’ve realized that a home/garage gym is best. Whatever you give up in terms of trendy equipment, you get back in a low stress experience.

It’s possible I’m the problem: If you meet one jerk during your day, he’s the jerk; if you meet jerks all day long, you’re the jerk. Still, my aggressive use of the equipment is a completely different situation from the way others transform the gym into a pigsty.

As a matter of fact, this morning I was so taken aback by a simple act of kindness, that I wanted to give the story its own paragraph.

I got to the gym at my usual 5:XX am, yet all three squat racks were already in use. So I stood there waiting my turn. The guy in the middle rack acknowledged me, and then asked if I wanted to work in with him. He was even happy to swap his weight plates on and off the bar while I used light weights to slowly warm up. “No reason to waste your morning waiting for a squat rack,” he said.

Maybe the gym is like a microcosm of society: mostly jerks, but a few good eggs. And in case you were wondering, no, I wouldn’t have done the same.

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