The Boys in Testosterone Corner

I was the only one to turn up for the Spinning class at the gym on Wednesday evening.  It’s not a good sign, and at first I felt a bit sorry for the young guy who was meant to lead the class; the cycling workout sessions run during the day are very well attended, so he must do something to have alienated the members.  It was clear from his demeanour that he didn’t want to do the class with just me in it; and in the face of that sort of attitude I didn’t much fancy it either.  Instead I went upstairs to the gym floor itself.

It’s many months since I’ve been up there, initially because I had grown so tired of the inadequate ventilation and excessive heat, and then I simply fell into the routine of going to classes instead. Returning after such a long absence brought odd feelings of nostalgia.

When I still had a more than full time job I used to ‘train’ late in the evenings, with the assistance of P, a  personal trainer.  Because my main problem with the gym is boredom, when I had the breath to do it, I used to encourage P to talk to me, even though this went against his strict philosophy that serious concentration was required at all times.  I pointed out that he had control of the speed of the treadmill, I had to keep running, and therefore the least he could do was entertain me.

Over the 5 or 6 years we spent sparring in this way, the various characters in the gym gave plenty of material for comment and discussion.  There were the chatters, two middle aged men who progressed slowly around the weight machines, taking it in turns to sit and chat, or stand and chat with occasional tiny bursts of effort to move a weight up and down.  It always reminded me a bit of the character in ‘Brokeback Mountain’ who tells his wife he’s going fishing for the weekend, but never opens his fishing gear.  The chatters went to the gym for hours but never broke sweat.

Then there was the Competitive Elf, a small muscle bound young guy who looked like he might be missing a pointy hat, who was often on the adjacent treadmill, and was always checking over to look at what P was setting my machine at, every time I had to go faster, or more steeply uphill, he tried to go one better.  How competitive do you have to be to need to worry about the middle aged woman next to you?  (Oddly it probably helped me improve, as although I’m not that bothered about competition, it amused both P and me to watch the Elf struggle so much that we kept upping the ante.)

But my favourites of all were the boys in Testosterone Corner.  If you’ve ever been to a gym with free weights I’m sure you’ve seen them;  tight vests over huge pecs, tattooed biceps, spindly legs under baggy tracksuit bottoms.  You never see just one of them; the essence is in the collective, the comparing and competition, the ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ escalating rounds, as heavier and heavier weights are hoicked up and down to guttural grunting, ‘huer-huer’.  So fabulously camp and louche, leaning on spare pieces of equipment, chewing invisible cocktail sticks in the corners of their mouths, flexing their arms and chests at each other.

It was all so entertaining, I must go back again soon.

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