The Grunter at the Gym, and Other Annoyances

Me on Friday after work - all worn out

Today is Friday, mercifully. I know most people like Fridays, but it’s usually the hardest day of the week for me. By the time Friday rolls around, I’m all tired out. It’s not that I’m happy to start all over on Monday, but at least on Mondays, I’m fresh.

Maybe because it’s Friday, I’m feeling a little less tolerant of other human beings today. Here’s the shortlist of what’s irking me this afternoon:

1)  The grunter at the gym. He arrives at the gym at about the same time I do during the workweek. He’s a slightly-built, short fellow of about 28 who has apparently spent the last few years at the gym. Yes, he’s muscular, but overly so. I pity him. He wasn’t born with much in terms of height or bulk, so he’s overcompensated by bodybuilding. He looks like a fool. He’s not just a healthy guy going to the gym, he tries to make his body bigger and bigger so that he doesn’t seem so small. But he just looks smaller because the muscles bulge out and he looks like a little monster. He also has an annoying voice when he talks, which is frequently.

Of course, no one at the gym has a perfect body, and we are all there to feel better about ourselves. People of all fitness levels and ages go to my gym, and I feel a general goodwill toward all of them.

Except for toward the small man, because he grunts. Loudly Every single lift of every single set of every single machine or weight. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh. Ten loud “Uh’s” for each set. Even when I’m listening to my iPod across the room, I can hear the grunter. Why does he grunt like this? None of the other weight lifters, many of them strong men (and a few strong women), feel the need to fill my hour at the gym with their animal sounds. If the grunter doesn’t know that he grunts, then he’s just stupid. If he knows that he grunts and doesn’t care, then he’s also an idiot.

2) The talker friend at the gym. There’s another person who makes me slightly dread the gym, too—my sort-of friend Joan (not her real name).  She LOVES to talk to people—to anyone. I’ve been casually acquainted with this woman for a few years through some other friends, and she is one of the loneliest people I know. She is extremely unhappy when she’s by herself or not talking to someone. She never just spends a happy, quiet evening at home. If she spends the evening at home, it’s unhappy and lonely. I guess maybe she’s the ultimate extrovert—very sad when alone, very energized with talking with others. She’s literally told me she needs no down time at all. (It sounds more exhausting than being an introvert like me!)

I have no moral quandary with Joan. She’s a good human being who works hard at her job, and has always been friendly to everyone, as far as I know. My dread in seeing her at the gym is based on my own personality and my own feelings toward the gym. For me, going to the gym after work is a painful but necessary way for me to delay going home at the end of the day. All I want to do after work is go home and see my husband and kitties. But, I have to go to the gym first so I don’t get fat.

When I get to the gym, I just want to get through my workout and go home. I listen to my iPod, do my cardio, lift some weights, do some stretches, and then get the hell out of there. –That is, except when Joan is at the gym, too.

On the nights I arrive at the gym and Joan is there, I walk in the door of the gym and immediately, before the door even closes behind me, I hear a voice from across the room enthusiastically calling my name. It’s Joan. I smile quietly, escape to the locker room to change into my workout clothes, and emerge. Inevitably, Joan will do whatever she can to get a treadmill (or elliptical machine) next to mine so she can talk to me.

I’ve told her several times, politely, that I prefer to just listen to my iPod while I work out, that talking is difficult for me when I’m doing cardio, that I like to get a little “me” time while I’m at the gym, that I love coming to the gym during the “off” hours so it’s really quiet, etc. Either I’m too polite or she is oblivious (or, both), but I’ve never gotten through to her. A few times I’ve even cut my workout short because I feel too irritated with her wanting to talk to me. And this is hard to explain, but it feels like I’m conversing with Joan because she needs someone to talk to—it’s not just  a case of having a time-killing conversation with someone on the next treadmill. I can’t exercise properly when I’m trying to pay attention to someone else’s needs. Exercise is supposed to be for me and my health, not to help maintain someone else’s health.

It makes me laugh, in a way, because I am always pleased if I get to the gym and there’s hardly anyone else there—say, on a Sunday afternoon during a Minnesota Vikings game. Joan said to me recently, “I came to the gym the other day and it was packed—it was so much fun!”

Today’s humor – I ran across this comicstrip that says something about women talking:

3) Comments on my blog. I commented here about receiving comments from strangers on my blog, and resolved to be more openminded about comments that I may not agree with. Again this week I received a comment from someone who irrationally criticized one of my other commenters, and then asked her to be rational in the future. I had to reply to the guy and politely ask him to back off (and I also wished him well, as I’d resolved to do). I am not blogging to engage people who are interested in fierce political, religious, or intellectual debate; I’m just blogging to explore ideas and to keep myself awake during the “down” times at work. Why is that so difficult to achieve?

One thing about it also makes me laugh. I guess I am engaging with a different animal, entirely, when the person who I asked to “back off” wrote back and said, “cya.” Anyone who knows me does not use infantile abbreviations like “cya,” at least not to my face (or my monitor). The person can’t even write using proper English; no wonder he can’t hold a  thoughtful conversation. I realize I’m a bit old-school about this, but what’s his employer going to think when he uses abbreviations like this in company emails? And if he doesn’t use abbreviations like this in company emails, why bother using them when just awhile ago, he was trying to argue a supposedly well considered point of view?

4) No other annoyances today. It’s actually a great day. We are going out to eat with another couple tonight. My friend’s son is over the throwing up part of his flu. My family is healthy. It’s a beautiful sunny day and it’s supposed to be a nice weekend. I have a couple of rice krispie bars left at home.

And I don’t have to go to the gym after work tonight!



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