Gerbils and Dumbbells

I have now been working out at the gym for a few weeks. I have made 10 or 11 visits, each of about an hour. In that time I have observed a few things worth mentioning here.

The first thing I have noticed is how most of us resemble gerbils at the gym. Where I work out (as I suspect is the case in most gyms) there are rows and rows of machines. There are stair climbers, treadmills, stationary bikes, rowing machines, ellipticals, recumbent bikes, and so on. Often when I am there it is quite busy, and 60% or more of the machines are in use. As I look around and think about how I look, the idea that we are all just a bunch of gerbils comes to mind. We all mindlessly peddle, pull, climb and walk, without any of us actually going anywhere.

In the winter this is quite understandable. The weather isn’t conducive to outdoor hiking, biking or rowing here in the Upper Midwest. Mall walking is nice, but not as valuable as a trip to the gym. Even when the weather is nice, the variable resistance and speeds offered by the machines drive us to better work outs.

I am not sure what it means that we all look like gerbils on the machines, probably nothing. I just know that when I look around and see us all busily going nowhere, it makes me smile.

The other thing I have observed at certain times of the day are dumbbells. A dumbbell is, of course a somewhat antiquated name for a set of free weights. I am sure that those who use them have devised a more high-tech, less demeaning name for these hand held devices. Dumbbells also has a connotation as being someone who isn’t particularly smart.

The reason the word comes to mind has to do with the amount of smashing and crashing I hear when I am working out near the weights area. Now, I am not a lifter and likely never will be – at least not seriously. My reason for being at the gym is to lose some weight, and become more healthy. I occasionally work out some upper body muscles with machines, but I am not very serious about it. I do remember one thing that I read somewhere though – if you cannot control the weight, then it is too much for you. If you are trying to increase your abilities, and have to push the limits, it seems to me I remember reading that you should have a spotter to help out.

I would think that 200 pounds of weights that are crashing to the ground might be a bit of a safety hazard. Having these weights hit the ground so hard that the floor shakes, and I am startled even though I have music in my ear buds seems a bit much. I guess it is possible that mistakes happen, that people extend to the limit of their abilities and end up dropping the weights. But it seems to happen with alarming regularity. I suspect there is something else going on.

I suspect that lifting so much that you need to literally drop it to the ground might be some sort of way of showing off. It lets those around you know that you are really pushing the limit. And, in case they aren’t looking at you as you check yourself out in the mirror, the dropping of the weight on the floor makes a very satisfying sound.

Maybe there is a subculture in the gym of which I am unaware, but I must say that I find the whole practice of picking up and dropping weights to be annoying at least, and unsafe at worst. To me, it seems that there are some dumbbells on the loose in my gym.

I have heard stories of other gyms having a strict rule against this sort of behavior. Some see it as intimidating or showy. Maybe that is true. Like I said, I just think it is something that a silly dumbbell does.

I'd love to read what you think. Feel free to comment. You can do so anonymously if you like, but I'd really like to know who you are if you don't mind. Thank you for reading! :)

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