March 31, 2007

I always get a kick out of watching big burly guys use the seated leg curl. Few people realize this machine was designed specifically for pregnant women (who can’t lie on their stomach to perform a traditional hamstring curl). Still, the machine does a good job of targeting the hamstrings; it’s a respectable alternative to the horizontal version.

I’m not nearly as positive about the stationary hand cycle. The hand cycle provides a cardiovascular option for wheelchair-bound athletes. The able-bodied person using the hand cycle has skipped the treadmill, the StairMaster, the elliptical machine, and of course, the stationary bike, in order to experience a workout that is literally handicapped.

I notice two kinds of laziness at the gym. There’s typical sloth, and then there’s why bother to show up at all. The woman sitting in the hand cycle today most definitely burned the bulk of her calories walking from the parking lot to the gym. It’s one thing to choose a machine that uses only the body’s smaller muscle groups when your focus ought to be maximizing calorie burn. It’s quite another to rotate the crank so slowly that the fat hanging from your upper arms doesn’t even jiggle.

No matter. I think it was excellent training for repeated lifting of her TV’s remote control.

International Health Emergency

February 5, 2007

An actual reader directed me to a thread at Men’s Health’s U.K. discussion board about ridiculous behavior at the gym. Sounds like stupidity at the club is something of a global epidemic. A few highlights.

Cell phone abuse:

Right fellas, I’ve been working out for 4/5 years now and I have seen a lot of funny/stupid stuff in the gym, but today’s incident takes the biscuit. I was coming out of the changing rooms and I saw a guy on his mobile phone … normal enough so far you might say. Well how about the fact that he was also on a rowing machine and rowing one handed???

… One day when one of these idiots was on the running machine and as usual on his mobile phone, he was getting rather animated and dropped his phone. Human instinct being what it is he quickly reached down to try and catch it as he did he forgot to keep moving his legs, anyway there is one almighty crash as his face hits the treadmill and he gets flung off the back and is laying in a heap at the end … bloodied nose and serious bruised ego, but he only tried to style it out, went back on the runner for about 30 sec’s, hobbling, then gave up, I laughed so hard I nearly pissed myself.

Treadmill issues:

I was on a treadmill once and the guy next to me thought he’d jam his speed up to the max … next thing I know he’s making some god almighty noises and trying desperately to stab at the controls while continuing to run. Several seconds later just when I thought this guy’s head was gonna blow off he managed to slam his hand down on the emergency stop and the sudden deceleration launched him into the mirror in front of the machine … don’t you just hate trying to cover up a major attack of hysterics?!?!

On bad form:

This one male was doing dumbell lateral raises (shoulders) with weights far too heavy. In order to raise the left one he leant to the right then, breathed in, took two massive steps left, screamed, swung them above his head, and brought them down in front of him, in an almost windmill action … my god.

General absurdity:

Oh, and there was this severely ugly guy who weighed about 120 lbs who used to go up to the mirror and lift his shirt up after every set. Who knows what he was expecting to see, huge pectoral development in the space of 3 minutes? Unlikely.

My old gym had not long opened when I joined and they insist on showing people around. There was a salesman who wanted to show off the swimming pool which you had to access through the changing room. While he was showing a group of attractive young women around he made the mistake of not telling them he would meet them around the other side of the changing rooms. So 6 teenage students followed, walking boldly through the men’s changing room while around 20 of us had just finished a circuit training session.

You gotta love the Brits – both their speaking and writing. It’s their language after all.

Heart Attack

January 28, 2007

Given the far-reaching ignorant and even reckless use of gym equipment, I write the following with a full understanding of its magnitude: No equipment in the gym falls victim to more mistakes, blunders and downright wasted motion than the poor cardio machines.

First, a simple tip. When you ride the stationary bike, always use the pedal straps. If you start wheeling around like a three-year-old on a tricycle, you deprive yourself of 50 percent of the workout – the stress on the hamstring that comes from the upstroke.

On the treadmill, keep your hands to yourself. Every day, I see hands locked to the top of dashboards, fingers wrapped around front handles, and hands gripping side rails. When you use your arms to pull yourself along, the solid workout that comes from even a simple brisk walk gets transferred to a bunch of rubber and plastic. Remember, until Skynet goes active, we still control the machines. If you can’t survive your workout without clinging to the treadmill, lower the incline, reduce the speed.

Then there’s the StairMaster. We’ve got riders draping themselves over the machine like an oversized towel; people inverting their grip – with elbows locked out – so feet barely touch pedals; folks engrossed in books, journals and all manner of periodicals propped up at eye level while supposedly “working out”; and people cranking machines to a speed that forces them to hang onto the stepper’s front handles for dear life. Guys: head up, back straight, side rails used only for balance. I know it’s hard. That’s why it’s called … exercise.

One last thing. If you’re staring at a row of empty treadmills, don’t climb onto the one exactly next to me. Put at least one machine between me and your coughing and sweating. This same rule also applies to seating in a movie theatre.*

*Sophia Vergara exempted.