They don't give Nobel prizes to places. That's too bad because I know of a place, thousands actually where the air is filled with good-natured conversation and banter, where people help one
another, a place where black and white, young and old, very rich and very poor, flaming liberal and staunch conservative, get along and get together to test their physical limits and exchange
ideas. Where is this place? The United Nations? Nope. A federal penitentiary? I don t think so. No, musclehead, its the gym. Your gym. The gym down the street.
Do you want to see camaraderie between total strangers, or a brotherhood which overcomes and overlays race, religion, politics, age or financial station, all the divisive factors in our
world? Whatever exterior we wear when we enter the gym, it is quickly shed and we become just one of the gang. Cares and worries disappear, flicked aside in the light of strong, healthy
bodies, loud music, clanging iron, the smell of sweat intermixed with cologne, chalk, farts, and sheer concentrated enjoyment. These people, whatever their shade of skin, are my people. These
people, whatever their religion, share with me a common faith. We have a common goal and lifestyle as brothers and sisters of the iron. In Honolulu? The same. Mexico City? Same. Hong Kong?
Same. Saigon? The same. Seoul, Korea? The same. Absolutely, astonishingly, kick-my-ass remarkable. A microcosm of world peace, if you will. Make no mistake. There is plenty of competition and
rivalry, and yet it's a healthy, friendly rivalry with the goals of personal lifting records and bigger muscles as opposed to body counts and land grabs. The gym.
This is not to say all bodybuilders in all gyms are somehow homogenous and have similar personalities. Goodness gracious sakes alive, no! The gym is chock-full of characters, every type of
yahoo that ever walked the Earth, which of course only adds to the flavor and enjoyment of training there. Here are but a few:
This guy lives and trains in his own unique world. Appearing to be either immersed in profoundly deep, meditative contemplation between sets or experiencing a total mind, body and soul
connection with whatever music is in his headphones, this dude is logged on. Talk to him and expect to wait a spell for your words to enter his consciousness, for him to pull back from planet
Zambros and become aware that an earthling is attempting to interact with him.
Polar opposite of the Zoner. This fella does a set about every 30 minutes, spending the other 29 minutes gabbing, blabbing, flirting, and otherwise attempting to converse with anyone who will
reciprocate. He never, ever, breaks even the rudiments of a sweat, not even a little glistening on his forehead or upper lip. He's a genuinely nice guy, but tolerable only for the couple of
minutes until our resting time is over and we're ready to hit the weights again. He's liked by everyone in spite of his insecurity issues, and appears to spend all day every day in the gym as
he's always there when you arrive and is still there when you leave, having done maybe 3 or 4 sets by that time. Sometimes he engages in conversation with a Zoner, and is busy happily chatting
away unaware that Mr. Zoner has not yet registered his existence. Most amusing.
Gyms everywhere in the world have the same breed: well built, handsome, somewhat young, short on higher education and yet awesomely knowledgeable about supplements, routines and drugs. Every
one of them, every single one, has good hair and teeth, and is usually accompanied at the counter by a few fitness babes. These guys often double as personal trainers, and are as likeable and
friendly as you are to them.
The Love God
This type trains in expensive track suits, wears jewelry, maintains a wonderfully coiffed 'do, is usually a dentist or chiropractor or some such professional, is well spoken, has a bit of money,
is a total gentleman to all females, and absolutely zeroes in on any new, single, attractive woman in the gym. Within a fairly short time they're working out together like the perfect couple,
the attentive, instructional and charming and she all aglow from being in love with her perfect man. Two weeks later, though, he's on the prowl again, having gotten enough of what he wanted and
sent her packing. We married guys think he's a bit pathetic, and the single fellas fake courteous admiration while inwardly hating his rotten guts.
These guys are either under-weight or overweight trainers with a raging case of denial, desperately needing regular Bodybuilders Anonymous meetings. They wear skintight spandex and either train
in a tank top or go bare chested. They strut, show their stuff, flex their necks in whichever mirror they are closest to, wear no underwear (embarrassingly to all), work out hard, sweat
copiously, and try to look tough while doing it. They even act a tad condescendingly to men with 50 pounds less fat or more muscle than they themselves possess, as they see themselves as better
built than almost everyone in the gym. They are, for the most part, good spotters if you manage not to look up and slightly back while benching. Can wreck your whole damn day.
They are seemingly incapable of doing an exercise in good-much less strict-form. They swing barbells and let them rebound off collarbones. They bounce benches off sternums. Squats have about
an eight-inch range of motion (with knee wraps!), and lateral raises are a whole-body compound movement. In fact, come to think of it, all their exercises are compound movements. We've tried to
politely explain proper training mechanics to them, but our advice falls on deaf ears as they are totally convinced they are doing the exercises exactly right, doing them the way Levrone and
Nasser do them. Else why would they get so sore, right? These dudes are always bugging the countermen to sell them Dianabol or give them a discount on supple- ments, and are always politely
These are ladies with very highly appealing figures who train hard and frequently, mostly on aerobics, and always in a revealing, distracting, butt-hugging, boob-baring outfit like a unitard or
skimpy shorts and tank top. Nothing underneath. Showing hints of this and that. They produce serious motivation for most of the male members (no pun intended) on days when the desire to train is
weak. They're strippers, CPAs, waitresses and college students, and all eventually cross paths with one of the Love Gods.
The Very Serious Female Bodybuilders. Deep tans and voices, muscles galore, veins, skin a little rough and zitty, they work out very, very hard, usually with a personal trainer, and also seem
to me to be both the nicest and the horniest, most available women in the gym. Maybe it's the drugs. I don't know. The horniness is almost always unrequited, though, as most of the single guys
are way too scared to try.
Kids under 20 doing 4 bench reps on their own and 10 more forced, back arched like a rhythmic dancer at the Olympics, and going into and through the pain zone as the spotter does bent rows.
Metabolisms on hyperdrive, they eventually learn about proper diet from reading MMI and talking with us, and then start gaining real muscle.
Every gym has a couple of guys who simple do not comprehend the fact that the act of sweating radically com-pounds their BO and causes it to change from a minor annoyance to a major health
hazard. Married men know the truth: Shower daily or sleep on the couch. These guys are clueless.
In almost every gym, especially large gyms, you'll find serious competitive bodybuilders. Very strong, very intense, all business. Even the yakkers don't dare. They pose in front of the mirrors
while covered neck to ankle, and always succeed in making a fairly hard, 240-pound middle-ager (me) feel like a newbie. Large, large muscles, small waist, thighs that force them to waddle like a
penguin, and lats which make doorways dangerous for their elbows. When these fellas train, the intensity in the entire gym picks up noticeably. They really have an amazing effect on all of us
as they are the living, breathing embodiment of what practically every male in the gym aspires to. How they got that way and how they maintain it is another issue entirely however, and one which
nobody in the gym addresses or worries about. We just love that they have it and pump it up with us.
The flamboyant mixture and A-to-Z assortment of society give the gym stew its wonderful seasoning. You know what I'm talking about. It's what you love about it, too. Of course, these characters
are only a small percentage of a good gym's clientele. At least 80 percent of us are just normal, regular, sane people trying to lose or gain weight, put on a little muscle, and get healthier.
We may be trying to compensate for various insecurities, or maybe a fella's wife is getting into her sexual peak years and he'd better shape up or he'll find himself in some serious trouble. But
where else are you going to see a biker with tattoos not found in Dennis Rodman's dreams politely asking an investment banker for assistance, getting his saddle-shaped butt totally kicked with a
perfect spot, thanking him, and asking for another just like it in a few minutes? Where else will you see an Afro-American dude on the treadmill ask a Middle Eastern man questions about Islam
and what he thinks of Osama bin Laden? Nowhere, I think. Nowhere else is this type of freedom found, or this kind of permission granted. That's why I love my gym.