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Two Strange Stories From The Gym

handkerchief shirt


Lifting weights in a gym is an odd activity if you think about it for too long. So try not to think about it if you want to keep exercising in the gym. Between the outfits, the music, the posturing, the trainers, and the people who are all trying to get their I-got-to-be-seen on, the modern day gym is the nexus of the absurd. They’re still awesome, but outside of the public library, I can’t think of another place where so many weird things are all happening at once.

I submit for your examination two tales from the gyms where I am either currently pursuing my strength training, or have done so in the past.

1. That’s not how you use a hamstring curl machine

One of my pet peeves is people who give unsolicited weight training advice when I am in the gym. I’m looking at you, personal trainers. From “no dude, you’ve got to hold a barbell like this” and “Bro! You are not allowed to press overhead in here!” and “You should seriously go into the pro shop and get yourself some sweet muscle-building supps. Time to get HYOOOOGE! Bro.”

But sometimes, bro and broettes, there is an abuse so egregious that someone really does need to step in before someone dies. In this case that someone was me. An elderly Asian man was lying down on the hamstring curl machine when I started paying attention. He was lying on his back. Here is how those machines work:

Sorry, the only video I could find featured an attractive female:(

The man who was lying on the machine now put his neck under the leg attachment–his Adam’s apple was on the pads where your calves go. He was about to start doing neck curls.

I am proud to say I interrupted him and put a stop to it. I have no idea if he understood me–he may even have died on the machine the next day–but I felt like I had done my part.

2. Tee-hee! It’s too hot in the aerobics room! Tee-hee!

A lot of “real men” go to the gym to prove their realness. Well, at the Gold’s Gym in West Valley City, “real men” do biceps curls. In fact, that’s all they do while the rest of the building might as well have eerie ghost-town wind for its soundtrack.

And yet, I wonder if the fact that the glass-walled aerobics room is right next to the free weights might have something to do with the preponderance of chest-thumping apery that goes on in that packed-to-the-gills 20×20 space.

You mean I can do curls and watch a bunch of sweaty ladies do leg raises and hip bridges? Dude-bro!

About a year ago I was pulling heavy deadlifts near the curling academy. I will not lie: I did occasionally glance into the aerobics room, mainly because there were only two women in there prancing around for the teacher. They were both from a band of lady-lifters Janette calls “The Hankie hos.” This is because they never wear shirts–they wear these weird oversize backless bandannas. Also, whenever Janette lifts, they materialize behind her. This enrages her and she’s always threatening to knit them appropriate triceps-kickback shirts, but has not delivered yet.

Anyways, I was pulling deadlifts, shifting my gaze from Curl World to the aerobics class. There had to have been at least 15 guys all doing curls, when the glass door opened and the leader of the Bandanna pack came out.

“Tee-hee! It’s too hot in there. Hope you boys don’t mind if I do the routine out here with you. I know it be heart,” she said in what I believe was meant to be a conspiratorial whisper.

It was true, she did know the routine. In fact, she parked herself right in the middle of all of the men doing curls and started dancing. The routine had a lot of hip gyrations and pelvic sass. And Tee-hee! She just couldn’t possibly have done it indoors. Oh, she also tucked a diminutive iPod into her cleavage. Very subtle.

It was like going to the zoo and watching the male baboons when the female with the reddest rump walks in. All of the guys increased their groaning and sweating by ten orders of magnitude. Brows were furrowed. Teeth were gritted. Hips were swung. Curls were sped up and slowed down, depending on exactly how hardcore everyone was feeling. Zero muscle was built.

Mistakes were made.

Meanwhile, I was still doing deadlifts in the corner with four plates on each side. Madame Hankie didn’t notice me. I watched the poor aerobics instructor training the one remaining student while on the other side of the wall, the chest-pounding reached a feverish pace.

I can’t prove it, but I’m fairly certain that she was bitterly ruing her career choice. I should have gone and offered her a hankie.


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  • Ted Hessing October 4, 2010, 1:00 pm

    I’ve never seen neck curls but my personal favorite are people misconstruing the calf raise machine for a squat rack…

    However, I’m sure somewhere, on some personal trainer’s blog is a story (or perhaps a series of stories) of earlier this year when I tried out the “cardio sculpt” routines. The goal was to drop a few pounds before my wedding. As this class is usually entirely populated by women I of course brought my hardcore Marine buddy. We “thought” we were in shape. We were oh-so-wrong!

    • Josh Hanagarne October 4, 2010, 4:39 pm

      Oh, no doubt. those up-tempo aerobics classes look like killers. I was always amazed that the teacher could do it all at speed and talk everyone through it.

  • Dan October 4, 2010, 1:19 pm

    From now on, I’m picturing anyone that criticizes anything I do as a fratboy PT.

    “That’s not how you write an article, brah! You need some Adsense in there!”

    “Dude, don’t hold old for that career you want, take that crappy job and make money now! Eye on the prize!”

    Also, “Dude-bro!” cracked me up to no end.

    Great stories! Talk about re-telling value.

    • Josh Hanagarne October 4, 2010, 4:38 pm

      Now I’m going to think about it like that as well.

  • Diggy October 4, 2010, 1:55 pm

    Hey man,
    haha awesome story, I can totally relate.
    I go to gym 1-3 times a week for a short 30 minute session, just to get some exercise, but there are other reasons to go to gym like you mention (staring at the gorgeous female bodies).

    Like today, I was running on the treadmill, and this genetically perfect girl was on the stepping machine in front of me. Her pretty behind was right in my face, so I couldn’t help but stare at it for 10 minutes:)

    Keep up the cool articles!

  • Dean October 4, 2010, 4:35 pm

    I don’t think I’ve EVER struck this sequence of characters on my keyboard but, ROTFLMAO……… your a funny dudebro:)

  • Casey October 4, 2010, 11:00 pm

    Dag Josh, I’ve seen some goofy stuff in the gym but that story takes it. Thanks for sharing, worth a hell of a laugh! How has training been going and what are you working on?

    • Josh Hanagarne October 5, 2010, 3:58 pm

      Training has been great, but my focus has been forced to change. I was chasing Max through our backyard when I took a step off a depression and banged my tailbone but good. I’ve been doing tons of bodyweight stuff and rolling patterns, smoothing out both quite a bit.

      tonight’s going to be my first heavyish night back. One of my major goals right now is to do the 5 minute snatch test with a 24 in each hand. I’m currently at 77 in 5 minutes.

      • Casey October 5, 2010, 4:15 pm

        Bummer about the tailbone but I am glad to hear you are still making progress despite it. During the double kb snatch test, are you dropping both bells from the top or down to the rack before you backswing? I am going to want to give this a try myself, sounds like a riot. Great numbers by the way, 100 will fall soon.

        I’m closing in on the one arm chin and the training for it has been easy. This move seemed impossible until I started biofeedback.

  • Asatar Bair | University of the Heart October 5, 2010, 7:57 am

    I’m actually going to go to the gym and use a hamstring curl machine to do some neck work. That sounds awesome. And I challenge you to try to stop me. Your article reminds me of why I dislike gyms. Kettlebells are a great solution for the home gym, because they’re so versatile and take up so little space.

    • Josh Hanagarne October 5, 2010, 3:55 pm

      Sure! Don’t forget to put a tourniquet on your neck if you start to feel weird.

  • Heather October 5, 2010, 10:16 am

    You have Hankie Fembots in YOUR GYM TOO?!?!?!?! They’re the whole reason I stopped going to my gym. That and there were all these teenagers lounging around on the equipment, trying to ask out this one girl, who apparently lived in a filthy hovel (“Uhm, like, I”m sewwww, like, saw-ry, but, like, I can’t go out this week-end? I have, like, cleaning ta-dooo?” Hah! And I didn’t even think it sounded like a question! I’ll be damned!). Yeah, I know, poor thing. . . . Janette should knit her something decent to wear. At least it’ll be clean. This was hilarious! Thank you! 🙂

  • brad October 7, 2010, 7:26 pm

    Dudebro—That story makes me want to go back to Gold’s for some laughs–different Gold’s same people. No one ever wants to join me for deadlifts or screaming cleans either.