health & fitness

“Gym Class Hero” February 2009

Mine was your typical rural gym; unpretentious, friendly and above all – quiet. For five evenings every week it was almost my own private gym – my personal demesne. Sure, I’d have to share with the occasional rugby oke or the group of older ladies who did their free weights class but I could generally strike my poses in the mirror secure in the knowledge that I wouldn’t get busted by a fellow gym goer. But gymming as I knew it was all about to change one day…

In my usual state of pre gym pep I jogged down the stairs to the weight room only to be stopped in my tracks by the strangest of sounds emanating from the room. A thudding, crashing and grunting racket, foreign to my ears . “Hang on” I thought, “this isn’t gorilla mating season” ”nor for that matter is it the Ugandan rainforest”. So what in the name of all that’s holy was it? I paused by the double doors and cautiously swung one open to reveal the biggest gym rat ever to be seen west of Vanrhynsdorp.

There he was – hot off the cover from “Roids Weekly”. A man of such stature and size his arms alone could have fed a small family for a week. His abominable set of abdominals protruded out of his string vest and when he walked he moved in a curious chimp-like manner to prevent his oakish thighs from chaffing. I gave him a welcoming nod which milked no response but I figured he was just one of those silent gymmers who kept to himself. That was until his cell phone rang. What followed was a lengthy chat about “what a bad f***ing day he’d had at f***ing work”. Even my iPod was struggling to drown out his expletive strewn meanderings. But it was about to get more frustrating when he decided to monopolize the cable-cross for a good fifteen minutes. I was getting antsy – it was triceps day for me and I needed to do pull downs. Clearing my throat in a conscious attempt to take my voice down an octave, I moved in for the kill…

“Excuse me, do you mind if I work in with you bru”? I said with a nonchalant flair that he’d surely respond to. I figured it would be a watershed moment for both of us. We’d start waxing lyrical about exercises, diets and the latest supplements to hit the Dischem shelf and hey – we’d probably end up being gym partners.

“Still have two more sets!” he bellowed truculently, clearly not intent in sharing the machine with a guy 30kgs his junior.

“Say what?” I thought. That wasn’t in the script. There I was offering an olive branch of sorts, so why the attitude? Did his mama not hug him enough as a little nipper? Was his man handle even smaller that the tiny Fiat hatchback I saw him squeeze into after his session? Whatever the source of his obnoxious behaviour I decided that my gym was no place for his muscle-head diva antics – I was gymming with the bodybuilder equivalent of Mariah Carey and I’d had just about enough of it.

The next evening at the gym I’d an added adrenalin rushing through my veins and it wasn’t because the Phedra-Cut pills I’d popped were kicking in. As I entered the weight room, the perfect scene was set: he had just finished benching and decided to leave all 120kgs of weights in his trail. “Hey man!” I called. “Dontcha wanna take all your weights off the bar please – if I wanted to do arms I’d be at the preacher curl machine”.

“Erm, oh, yeah okay” He grunted. Clearly irked but getting the message nonetheless – he never did it again. Touché! I had reaffirmed my territory in the gym. And while it was gratifying to exchange high fives with the old “free-weight ladies” after they witnessed my heroic stance, I’d stood up to the bodybuilder bully for nobody really but myself. He may have been able to bench press me single handedly but he still needed to know that when it comes to gym “right of way”, both of us animals were equal.