August 28, 2012 by David Gillaspie
Rick Reilly, famous sports writer and fun guy by most accounts, wrote an espn.com column about gym characters.
He’s seen it all. Been around the block…more than once. He knows what you want to read and writes it.
But he hasn’t been to my gym. Or yours. He hasn’t met my regulars. Or yours. Did he make up his characters on the fly and present them as real people? Did he put words in their mouths?
Since he doesn’t write for the New Yorker or Time, he didn’t need to.
So I will.
Now presenting the Best of the Best Gym Boomers:
1. The Expectant Mother
A pregnant woman moved from a treadmill to the weight stacks. The stomach she walked behind looked like the star of “Octo-Mom, Plus One.” She hooked a rope with balled ends to a high cable and started repping her triceps.
Two boomer guys from the stationary bike row looked on in awe.
Boomer 1: “Would you look at that. What is she doing in the gym?”
Boomer 2: “Lifting more than you from the looks of it.”
Boomer 1: “She looks ready to explode.”
Boomer 2: “That’s not the way it works. First it’s labor, then waters break, then more labor.”
Boomer 1: “You don’t have to break it down for me.”
Boomer 2: “Get to 10 cm and it’s go time. Push, baby, push.”
Boomer 1: “What? How do you know this?”
Boomer 2: “It’s part of the package with two home births. There I was, facing the top of my son’s crowning head, and…”
Boomer 1: “Look at the time. Got to go.”
2. Boomer Bench Press
An older man, maybe mid-60s, set himself up on a bench rack. He hung a forty-five pound plate from each side of the Olympic bar. Then another and another, finishing with two twenty-five pounders on the outside.
The man, maybe 6′ 4″, 240 lbs, pushed up 365 pounds with apparent ease. Five times.
A younger man from the next bench over watched, then asked, “How can you do that?”
Boomer: “Yeah, I know. It’s disappointing. I can’t lift heavy anymore.”
Young Man: “What are you pushing, 365?”
Boomer: “370. I’ve got two and a halfs on the inside. It keeps the numbers at zero for easy math.”
Young Man: “And that’s not heavy? What is heavy?”
Boomer: “I used to do six hundred, sometimes six and half. I’ll never see that again.”
Young Man: “I’ll never see 370.”
Early Boomer: “You’re a young guy. You can’t say that.”
Young Man: “Oh, yes I can. You’re lifting a bridge worth of weight. If I tried that it would end up right on my neck.”
Boomer: “Naw. You can do it. I’ll spot you when you’re ready.”
Young Man: “Look at the time. I’ve got to go.”
3. Short Circuit
A middle aged woman parked her backpack and water beside the pull-up/dip machine. It’s one with the hidden weight stack to balance the load. If you weigh 170 and set the stack at 165 you can do pull-ups all day and look like you process super strength.
But that wasn’t enough for her.
She brought over a yoga mat, a medicine ball, a big blow up ball, kettle bell, three sets of dumb bells, a jump rope, and finally a colored rubber exercise band. The gear spread from one machine to the next and she started rotating between them all.
She jumped and lifted, pushed and pulled. She did forward lunges, back kicks, and side straddle hops. Her single minded focus created a bubble of protection around her. She was a woman on a mission.
Two Boomers from the bike row watched the show.
Boomer 1: “She’s got everything she needs one step away.”
Boomer 2: “Not everything. She could push one of these bikes over. You could do it for her.”
Boomer 1: “There’s not enough room.”
Boomer 2: “She’ll make room for you.”
Boomer 1: “That is gym hoarding.”
Boomer 2: “It’s a way to meet people like you.”
Boomer 1: “Better than a house full of newspapers stacked to the ceiling.”
Boomer 2: “That’s the spirit. Here’s what you do, pick up a flat weight and put it near her stuff when she’s not looking.”
Boomer 1: “Then what?”
Boomer 2: “Keep doing it until she does notice, then explain how you’re helping her.”
Boomer 1: “That’s how you do it?”
Boomer 2: “See her push and pull and jump? But she’s not doing her shoulders. Drop off light weights, then show her your routine.”
Boomer 1: “Look at the time. I’ve got to go.”
4. You see the same woman walking past. She’s fit. She’s good looking. But there’s something wrong. It’s her face.
She has the same smug expression every time. A straight smile and eyes that look like black lines because they’re squeezed tight.
If it was a man, you might say they have a complex. Since it’s a woman, she gets a pass. The world she sees through half closed eyes is not one you want to share because you’re not hustling her. She’s got the world by the tail and knows it.
You know it too, but you don’t know how it works for her. It would never work for you.
Then one day you walk through the gym door and hear a pounding sound, like someone swinging a baseball bat into a wall. It sounds like Rocky Balboa punching sides of beef in the cooler, or Mike Tyson going to the body before he became a tomato can for someone else.
It’s coming from the training area so you take a look. The smug faced woman faces a trainer holding pads while she kicks the crap out them. She punches with amazing power, delivers a forearm shiver, brings a knee up. She’s flying at the trainer in an MMA frenzy of violence that echoes through the room.
You’ve seen others do the same thing, but not with the same impact.
The lady is not smug, she just knows she’s got enough tools and power to knock you out if needed. You want to comment on her workout later, but don’t. She’s already knocked you out.
5. Final Conclusions
A gym full of boomers in mid-morning means one of three things: retired, cashed out, or unemployed.
Retired boomer works the hardest. They know the value of time and being on schedule. Science is their friend, and exercise science means they’ve learned how to move from large to small muscle groups, support neglected regions, and drink rivers of water.
They will wring the maximum benefits from their sweat time.
Cashed out boomer takes a longer warm-up, a careful stretch, and a direct approach to weights. They know their current lifestyle is a matter of luck and balance, mostly luck, and they don’t want to tip the scales the wrong way. While they may seem to move at a leisurely pace, in their mind they are stalking their next score like a lion does a zebra.
They’ve taken more kicks in the face than the other two, and don’t want another. But they’ll give one when called for.
Unemployed boomer has more in common with everyone else. They work to keep their edge, their profile, and they practice making connections that may apply to the real world. They are direct marketers of their product, which is time.
Boomers don’t workout any harder than other people, they just want you to think they do.
Look at the time.