This column, which originally ran on a number of Patches, got me in a boatload of trouble with the rabble. I thought I was simply applying satire, but the folks who quit six weeks in took it quite seriously. But would that ever stop me from running it again? Nope! Enjoy!
New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions. – Mark Twain
So! We’ve made it through Halloween, somehow survived Thanksgiving, and suffered through Christmas, but the ordeal isn’t nearly over. No sir! Because New Year’s Day is rapidly approaching and those fine fit souls who regularly avail themselves of a health club are about to face a creature far more terrifying than anything the mind of Stephen King could possibly concoct.
Yes! It’s the dreaded New Year’s Resolutioner, or as a friend likes to call ‘em, “the six weekers,” because 90 percent of them will vanish by Valentine’s Day, never to be seen or heard from again.
Completely clueless and armed with utterly unrealistic expectations, they descend upon health clubs everywhere like a horde of January 2nd locusts whose sole intent is to make the rest of our workout lives as miserable as possible. They clearly believe “Gym Etiquette” is the guy who hosts the French cooking show on PBS, and if they succeeded nearly was well at working out as they do at wreaking health club havoc, they’d be an exercise force to be reckoned with.
It starts in the suddenly crowded parking lot with the kind of jockeying for the closest spot that would make a demolition derby sponsor proud. They apparently fail to understand the entire point of joining a health club is to get a good workout, so why not start with a longer walk from the car?
But no! They’d rather run over a slew of senior citizens and knock over every pregnant woman than have to take those five extra steps to the front door. And it doesn’t get any better once they’re inside the building, either! Let’s start with the running track!
How difficult is it to grasp the notion that walkers ply the inside lanes while speedsters take the outside ring? Posting signs to that effect seems patently pointless! But that regular annoyance pales in comparison to the resolutioners who:
- Stop to gab with friends smack dab in the middle of the track
- Switch lanes like a squirrel trying to cross a six-lane metropolitan highway at rush hour
- Walk right out onto the track completely oblivious to the runner coming directly at them
- Run three across while maintaining a loud conversation so everyone else has to slow to their pace
- Run in the wrong daily direction oblivious to the fact that everyone’s coming right at them
But my indoor track favorite is the mostly males who persist on proving their machismo by “beating” you in some sort of self-imagined race.
You see, regulars have a specific plan. A recovery day might require 9:30 miles, a tempo run could entail 8-minute miles, and a sprint/interval day might mean a 6:30 to 7-minute pace. Unless it’s a particularly crowded day, we’ll stick to that plan regardless of what anyone else does.
So, I’ll never forget the fortysomething gentleman who, finally taking offense at my repeatedly passing him, insisted on besting my 7-minute pace only to collapse in the corner when he pulled every muscle south of his waist upon hitting that first curve. I never saw him at the gym again.
The same phenomenon happens in the pool, too!
But while those track and pool foibles are mildly amusing, the weight room festivities will make you downright homicidal. Those include, but aren’t nearly limited to:
- Failing to understand what a set of “reps” really is such that they co-opt the machine for three straight days
- Loudly grunting as they struggle to do 10 reps with a weight stack that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger nervous
- Gabbing with a friend for 45 minutes while sitting on the bench press machine the entire time
- Failing to wipe their sweat off the machine despite the insistent signage instructing them to do just that
- Regularly letting the weight stack crash down such that it becomes a fascinating form of Chinese water torture
And let me tell you, despite the most diplomatic of overtures, our not-so-erstwhile resolutioners don’t take kindly to constructive criticism, either. I’m sure their surliness has something to do with the fact they’d rather be enjoying a colonoscopy than have to endure a five-minute walk.
When you politely ask them to relinquish a weight machine or follow the posted running track rules, by their over-the-top responses you’d think you just told them ‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ had just been canceled.
Our newbies do fare much better in any variety of the spin, aerobics, or yoga classes most health clubs offer, because their deleterious effect is diluted, and the teachers generally keep them from destroying themselves. So, there is hope for some of them.
But just when you think a few of ‘em will crack the 45-day mark, errantly believing they’ve created a catastrophic calorie deficit, they start capping off their workouts with a visit to the candy machine or snack bar. And when that kind of junk food binge adds up to a ten-pound weight gain by the end of the week, it demoralizes them to the point where they decide that working out is an exercise in futility (pun intended).
Thankfully, unlike most of the trials and travails that plague this planet, as we previously discussed, this New Year’s resolutioner scourge always seems to settle down around mid-February when most of ‘em go right back to their sedentary ways.
If only the plethora of tragedies that consistently befall curmudgeons had a similar expiration date, life would be that much more bearable.