After a long day at the office—because, you know, I have one of those now—there is no better way to relieve stress than heading to the gym for a little hardcore fitness action.
But I have to say, evening gym-goers are hella-intimidating compared to the mid-morning retiree crowd that I typically ran into back in my days of extended unemployment.
Everyone has just gotten off work, and by the time they make it to the gym, they’re tired, angry, starving and stressed. Their patience is wearing thin, which is why they generally employ a “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” style of working out.
So when you rack the bench press after your final set, they will not tolerate the seconds-long break you take before finally standing up and stripping your weights.
Also, no matter what machine they happen to be on, you can bet they are using it as a substitute stress ball. In my highly professional and scientifically-sound opinion, at least 95% of all user-inflicted damage to gym equipment occurs between the hours of 5 and 9 p.m.
The other day, for instance, I saw some guy throw—not just drop, but actually launch in a forward projectile motion—a 60-pound free weight dumbbell. As it smacked the ground and sent a palpable shockwave through the rubberized flooring, the guilty exerciser—a thirty-something behemoth with a shaved head and a dark, perfectly-manicured goatee—yelled, “Aaaaaaahhhhhhggggggggrrrrruuuuuuhhhhhhhmmmmmm!!!!”
I was the only other person in the room, which made for an instantly awkward situation. I couldn’t just pretend like nothing happened. This guy was obviously under extreme emotional duress.
I thought about casually walking up to him and saying something like, “Rough day at the office, huh?”
Ultimately, I decided that when it comes to stress-ridden ogres with goatees, any form of social interaction could be a real gamble. Instead, I hit him with an emotionally neutral look that said, “If you want to chuck weights around the room, go right ahead. I totally understand where you’re coming from, and I will make no attempt to stop you because you are uncommonly large and brutish.”
The abuse of gym equipment is not limited to weight stations—cardio machines are equally at risk.
On this same occasion, there was a middle-aged woman power-walking on the treadmill directly in front of the elliptical machine I was using. I peered over her shoulder and saw that she was watching an episode of Say Yes to the Dress.
I don’t know if it was a particularly intense episode or if she had other things on her mind, but either way, she was walking the hell out of that poor treadmill. She had the front handle bar in a white-knuckled death grip as she violently swiveled her hips from side to side and stomped her feet against the belt with each hostile step.
At first, I was totally annoyed. I had my iPod turned up as loud as it could go without causing serious hearing impairment, and I could still hear her cross-trainers slapping the platform. Eventually, though, I was able to sync my breathing pattern with the rhythm of her unnecessarily heavy foot strikes.
Our symbiotic exercise relationship lasted over thirty minutes. At the end, we were both more fit and less stressed. As an added bonus, I’m pretty sure Jennifer from New Jersey ended up finding her dream wedding gown.