Gym stereotypes – Let’s judge them!

I recently started working out again.  After bearing most of the brunt of a long, hard, snowy winter with a jar of Nutella and a spoon, my thighs have decided that I now must go back to the place that sends shivers of fear through my back fat.  The gym.

I hate the gym.  I hate it with the fiery passion of ten thousand suns.  I hate it as much as Jennifer Lopez hates sharing the spotlight with Steven Tyler on American Idol.  I hate it as much as Matthew McConaughey hates wearing a shirt (God bless him).  I hate it as much as Lindsey Lohan hates public decency.  But like those mentioned, sometimes we just have to suck it up and soldier on no matter how much it pains us.  Well, except for Lindsey Lohan.  I’ve given up hope of her ever embracing decency.

The only thing that gets me through an hour at the gym is the people watching.  Yes, I’m watching you.  I notice when you surreptitiously pick that wedgie and I notice when you don’t wipe the equipment.  But more than that, I’ve begun to see the gym, and the people in it, as a microcosm for the larger world outside its concrete walls.  It’s my impression that what you do in the gym speaks volumes about who you are in everyday life and most can be placed into distinct categories.

Let’s judge them together, shall we? (Note:  My gym is a suburban YMCA.  Your experience may vary.)

First up, everybody’s favorite gym rat – The Muscle Man.

Sure, he’s got a slamming body but he knows it and he wants to make sure you know it too.  He likes to draw attention to himself by parading around with his arms a minimum of six inches away from his body, making it impossible for you to walk down an aisle of work out equipment opposite of him without either turning sideways to let his glorious self lumber by or brush up against his glistening biceps.  He’s either a junior vice president of a major corporation or he lives in his mom’s basement.  Doesn’t really matter, in the gym he is a GOD.

The Workout Princess.

Not to be confused with another archetype, the Workout Queen, whom I will get to in a moment, the Workout Princess is 5’5, 115 pounds, and is named Kimmie.  She has the perfect casual ponytail and her capri length leggings and lycra tank top fit her like she was born with them on.  She’s adorable and it would be difficult to hate her if it wasn’t for her amazing rack and 20 inch waist.  It’s okay, hate away.  Because in real life she’s probably doing something noble, like working on raising the money for her 3 month trip to inoculate orphans in Uganda.  Or she works at Abercrombie and Fitch.  Either way, her life is more interesting then yours.

The Workout Queen.

This lady came to hardcore exercise later in life.  That body is hard won and she looks better now than she did in high school, dammit.  She’s got the comparison pictures on her iPhone to prove it.  If you engage her in conversation she will happily tell you all about her three hour workouts, her macrobiotic diet and exactly where all your trouble spots are.  No need to thank her.

The Hairy and/or Sweaty Guy.

Dude, I come from a family of sweaty/hairy people myself so no judgment here.  But please, for all that is good and holy, wipe down the fecking equipment when you’re done.

The Silver Fox.

The Silver Fox is charming, polite, looks great for his age and gives off a slight fatherly vibe.  He always inquires about your children, job, or your other interests he’s learned by chatting you up on the elliptical machines.  He’s sweet and always has a ready smile for you when you meet near the free weights… and he’s totally checking out your ass in the mirror.

The Grandparents.

Bless their silver hair, the Grandparents are my favorite gym stereotype.  They’re adorable in their clean sweatpants and pristine white sneakers.  If they recognize you they’ll give you a wink at the water fountain or encouragement at the nautilus machines.  It seems like the Grandmother never breaks a sweat and the Grandfather is so into his workout you just have to admire their determination.  But see that treadmill?  The third and fourth ones on the left?  Do not mess with those because those are the Grandparents favorites and they will stand behind you and sigh until you get off the damn things already.  Dear.

The Harried Parent.

You know them by the bags under their eyes or the Cheerio stuck to the thigh of their brand new yoga pants.  They carry a beeper in case they need to fetch their two year old from the childcare room and they hurry through the equipment as if their life depended on it.  You’d like to try to talk to one of them but you can’t because they’re wearing ear buds while flipping furiously through one of their five magazines or a just-started book.  It’s very likely there is no music being played through those speakers – who needs music when you can listen to the sound of silence for an hour?  It’s best not to bother them because the Harried Parent only has an hour and a half a day to themselves and they plan on making the most of it.  They’re using the gym as part mood lifter/part childcare.  They’ll talk to you when their kids are in school full time.

Did I miss any?  Feel free to add your favorites.

About ChickyBaby


  1. Sharon Heg says:

    Oh HELL yeah! I’ve seen ‘em all. The only one missing is the “me”. I’m there because I need it because I have to lose “this many” pounds but I hate every single second of it. I guess you could call me “The Ghost” because I’m only there 3 times a week, only stay for a half hour before I go home and I finally canceled my membership when I hadn’t been there in 10 months ;-)

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  2. Rachel says:

    The competitive gym go-er. quotes from these wonderful people include “Oh you have only been her 45 min, I just hit two hours, and I’m not done yet”
    “6.5 on the treadmill, thats my warm-up level too” and my favorite “I was an athlete” too, doesnt mean I am in shape anymore!

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  3. Penbleth says:

    See, not one of those is the Fat Woman With Too Many Kids Who Doesn’t Get Sleep And Really Needs To Workout. Because that is me and I don’t go to the gym and I should but I would probably drop dead if I did anything.

    Medicority – I am it.

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  4. Amy says:

    Oh my gosh, im the Harried Parent. Except I would kill to get 1.5 hr to myself!

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  5. I love people watching in the gym and this is now going to be my new past time when I am on the bike…deciding you I am going to label who!! At least there will be something to do when my ipod dies!

  6. I think you should have pointed out that Kimmie never ever sweats. Or pants when running. Or stops smiling. And she knows everyone and can do a flawless squat (without looking all awkward and obscene).

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  7. Julie Marsh says:

    Let’s see…

    Phone-it-in Jane (or John) wears Dockers or a J. Crew sweater while reading on the treadmill at 2 mph or chatting on the iPhone while barely completing revolutions on the elliptical. They will pat themselves on the back for working out even though they probably should have stayed home with the Nutella.

    Corollary to the competitive gym-goer – the gym-fly who appears to actually live at the gym, because they’re always there, never seem to be doing much, but they wander around looking good and chatting everyone up. It’s like Cheers, except at the gym.

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  8. Lisa says:

    Not sure where I fit in…I’m really there because I want to get away from my kid by putting him in Kid Stuff for two hours (which I prefer to call working on his socialization skills). But I loathe the fact that in exchange for childcare I am supposed to be working out. I’d rather just sit in the lobby and play Angry Birds and check my Facebook.

  9. funny!
    I know all these people very well…at least until I canceled my gym membership in December. Bills to pay, mortgage to catch up on, kids to feed (dammit they eat everyday!)and now college tuitions (times 2 in the fall!) to pay forced me to end my gym membership and relationship with these awesome folks…except when one or two of them show up at a local 5K or 10K race I might be at.
    I now workout at home on my old elliptical and treadmill where I can adjust my wedgie in the privacy of my own workout room…one perk of paying that college tuition.

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  10. Jessica Bern says:

    yes, there are the people like me who go religiously (4x’s a week for me) because they are trying to regain their sanity back and look good b/c they are in their 40′s, living in Los Angeles and if they ever want to get laid again they better be hot.

  11. IzzyMom says:

    In my mind, they all break down into two distinct groups…

    Those who actually don’t hate exercise and get that endorphin thing and enjoy going there.

    And people like me, who despise exercise and are really just biding their time and waiting for the day they can give up…AGAIN…without too much shame because they have a REAL excuse.

    (Most common REAL excuses that I live for include “I’m sick…I can’t work out with a had full of snot. I’ll come back when I can breathe again” or “I kinked my back last night and it’s killing me…I’ll totally come back when this spasm calms down”)

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  12. Along the lines of Phone-It-In Jane/Jack, I often see “the VIP.” He (it’s always a he) appears to take his workout seriously, dresses the part, cranks up the treadmill. But you’ll notice that his cell phone/fancy tech device is perched perfectly within reach. And without fail, 3 minutes into his run, he takes a call. And then another call. And then another. Then he might send a few texts. And before you know it, 30 minutes have passed and he’ll do a few good stretches and scamper back to the locker room. He’s obviously much more important than the rest of us.

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  13. I work out at home – its much better. no waiting for gear and no distractions. When I travel I do hit the commercial gyms but if I have the time and energy in between sets to judge and criticize others, then I’m not working out hard enough.

    If what other people are doing in the gym is bothering you so much then you could always join a hardcore gym though be prepared to endure a level of scrutiny equal to (probably greater) than that which you are currently applying to those at your gym.


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