Actually, Yes

June 3, 2008

This entry was originally posted on March 14, 2007. Updated at bottom.

The Rest Of The Story

My nightmare featuring crazed gym ball users keeps getting worse. Remember the guy standing on the exercise ball with his dumbbells? I guess balance really is an issue:

So I saw the guy on the swiss ball again today doing bicep curls, but this time he fell off, twice … The first time, I heard a loud clang as the guy managed to catch himself before falling right onto me by grabbing the top of the rack. The second time thankfully no one was near him as he had to actually jump off the ball and land awkwardly to the side of the ball. Scary stuff!

When this guy ends up seriously hurting himself, the key question becomes: Will he sue the swiss ball manufacturer because of the product’s round, unstable shape?

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UPDATE: My gym printed out this article and taped it to the mirror nearest its collection of exercise balls. The gym added a handwritten note at the bottom of the sheet of paper: Use at your own risk.

An excerpt from the article: “A man claims that an exercise ball he was using in a fitness program at a Jacksonville YMCA exploded while he was on it, sending him to a hospital with serious injuries and changing his life. Peter Royal said he broke both wrists and one forearm and injured both shoulders when the ball blew up like a balloon as he was on it while using about 150 pounds of weights … Nearly two years later, he and his wife are filing a lawsuit against both the manufacturer of the ball and the YMCA.”


Equipment Failure

October 7, 2007

There’s an old law school joke about the failing student with a bookshelf full of books. Performing terribly, he doesn’t crack the binding on the books he already owns, but instead goes out and buys more books.

At the gym yesterday, I noticed this scrawny guy with brilliant white running shoes striding into the leg area. The strap from his bulging gym bag cut into his shoulder. In one hand he clutched a sagging plastic grocery bag, while in the other he carried a full gallon jug of water. He also had a clipboard tucked under his arm that held a half-inch stack of papers.

I took a final swig from my own one pint water bottle and decided to grab a seat on a nearby machine. I knew we were about to see something special.

For nearly 10 minutes, this guy struggled to set the squat rack safeties to their highest position. He finally gave up and moved to the Smith Machine, pushing the bar to its highest setting and throwing a 45 lb plate on each side. With arms fully extended, he unracked the bar and held it steady for a few seconds, then let it drop back in place.

He sat down, grabbed his clipboard, and proceeded to take lengthy notes. Obviously, he needed a detailed record of this major progress.


Mind Games

September 2, 2007

People underestimate the mental soreness that follows from serious training. Just as the anticipation of pain is as bad as pain itself, the mental preparation required for a big lift – or an entire leg day for that matter – is as exhausting as the physical workout.

I know what happens to me when mental fatigue sets in and I start to lose my concentration. I’ll find myself doing presses with an 85 pound dumbbell in my right hand and an 80 pound dumbbell in my left. Or I’ll absent-mindedly load my barbell with a weight unrelated to what I normally use.

Of course, loss of focus is all relative. I had the opportunity this week to watch a fellow member do his best impression of staggering home drunk. What started as a normal walk from one machine to another ended with a sudden stumble, a flailing of limbs, and a water bottle spilling all over the floor.

At this point, you could see the wheels of indecision turning in this guy’s head. Should he compound his embarrassment by grabbing some paper towels and starting to wipe from his knees? Or should he just keep moving and put as much distance as possible between himself and the incident?

I thought to myself that there was actually a third way, an old trick that I learned in the huge, anonymous lecture halls at law school. When the professor picks your name off the roll to answer some obscure question – or you happen to spill your drink all over the gym floor – just turn sideways and stare intensely at the person next to you.


Tough Read

August 19, 2007

I’m always worried by the guys who bring bodybuilding “how-to” books onto the gym floor. My first reaction is similar to when I spot a car with a Student Driver sign: I slowly back away and give him a wide berth. Recently, I’ve been thinking about that scene from Spies Like Us, when Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd attempt an appendectomy by reading through the medical textbook they’re hiding under the operating table.

I’m fairly certain that reading material has no place near exercise equipment. You know what I think of the people who do cardio while reading People. Well today, I saw a guy working out on this “cross trainer” machine (envision a seated StairMaster) with a full blown hardcover novel, complete with tassel dangling from the bookmark. The guy supported himself with his right arm, while cradling the book in his left arm. He cupped his left hand around the top of the book to keep the pages spread open.

I walked by a couple times to see if I could nonchalantly pick up the title of the novel. Unfortunately, this gentleman was bored by his workout and his book, and succeeded in brushing me off with an evil eye.

So, does this man’s absent-minded, indifferent approach to his weekend hobby offend me as a bodybuilder? Actually, no. It offends me as a writer.


Heat Of The Moment

July 29, 2007

As I watch Seinfeld in syndication, I’m struck by how much of the show’s humor takes place at the gym. There’s George Costanza as the urninator: “It’s all pipes, what’s the difference?!” You’ve got Elaine Benes feeling up Teri Hatcher in the sauna. And speaking of saunas, how about Kramer’s greatest line, from the hot wooden planks of the steam room: “Whew. It’s like a sauna in here.”

Less comical, but equally silly, is the way some people engage the sauna as a weight loss tool. In fact, dehydration is in vogue. I saw a woman last week wearing the long-sleeved garbage bag that now masquerades as gym attire. The whole arrangement just seems gross.

Similarly, a number of people, generally women, transform style on the treadmill into something life-threatening. I’ll be the first to say that it’s nice to look at a long ponytail bouncing out the back of a baseball cap. Nevertheless, headwear clogs up the body’s main heat escape route, raising the risk of heat exhaustion, or worse.

So here’s the scene from last Friday: It’s Miami. In July. And this guy is walking the free weight area of my gym in shorts, a tank top, and a Ferrari-red ski hat. I’ve seen some wacky getups at the gym before, but I’ve always said that exercise is hard enough without aiming to overheat. Still, to be fair, I must point out that this guy has to be doing something right. He was working out alongside not just one, but two really attractive women.

Now then, I wonder where I can find a ski hat in South Florida …