Looking good has never been so annoying. A lot of time and money is spent on physical well-being, from supplements to vitamins, yoga to aerobics, weightlifting to marathoning. And spin classes. I didn’t know what a spin class was going in, and I’m still not really sure, all I know is it wasn’t the kind of spinning I had in mind.

The gym is a manufactured institution that resembles a religion. You have the fanatic, cult-like people who workout everyday, and cannot function without their daily dosage of endorphins. Then there are the people like those that only go to church on Christmas. You’ve seen them, decked out in their brand new workout clothes, ready to get in shape. Stay away from these people, they are dangerous and way too enthusiastic. But a temporary problem, really. After a few visits, they most likely won’t be back.

I will never be huge. I have come to terms with this. I’ve been the same height and weight since age fifteen, and I will never have a six-pack stomach or bulging biceps. People find my mind attractive. Right? However, going to the gym has been a fixture in my life for many years, mostly under the guise of attempting to fight off old age, but also hopefully my dedication for maintaining a healthy disposition is potentially attractive to, well, someone. If you’ve read any of the previous entries, or even if you’re new and believe perhaps the name of this column is some type of misnomer, a decoy maybe, that perhaps this is some type of happy-go-lucky, positive self-help guide, or life affirming article. Sadly, no. I am here to go through a few of those little things that sometimes makes going to the gym more than a little annoying.

The Food Network

The gym I go to is a giant open space, the main area filled with treadmills, step machines and rowers. Running down the middle of the machines is a row of televisions, and on any given day, 75 – 80% of them are tuned to The Food Network. These poor out of shape people, trying to eat healthier and get some exercise. And here, they get on their treadmill, look up at the television, and some bleached-blonde spiky haired guy is grilling up a hamburger made with six patties, all meat chili and a bucket-load of cheese. Change the channel and six top chefs are frying up some gourmet meals. And then there is the woman who bakes desserts with obscene amounts of butter. Well, the other 20-25% of the televisions are tuned to sports, which is almost as bad. ANNOYING!

Muscle Mirrors

Many physical fitness practitioners will not be happy with the myth I am about to dispel. Most gyms have mirror-lined walls, the idea being people can watch themselves lifting weights to ensure proper technique. In reality, the mirrors are in place so certain large-biceped individuals can see just how much larger their biceps have gotten since looking at them two minutes ago. In all the gyms I have worked out in, there seem to be two general areas: one for weight machines and the other for free weights. The men can be separated from the boys. The strong from the weak. There is a fair amount of scoffing when someone of my stature enters the free weight area, and I guess in a way, I am still a boy. They grunt, sweat, swear and scream in the free weight area, which is all very primitive, but oh so manly. ANNOYING!

Hurry up and Wait

Even in the weight machine area there’s a hierarchy, and if you’re at the bottom, it’s a long way back up to the top. Seniors rule my gym, as I go during the day and there is a retirement residence next door. They certainly take their time on those machines. There’s one guy that runs around, and I use the word ‘run’ loosely, pumping iron on every machine once for about three repetitions, and he’ll hover around you until you’re done. I don’t like the hovering. Plus, he insists on using a yellow Sony Walkman circa 1997 and sings opera while speed walking from one machine to the next. He seems to have misunderstood the meaning behind personal listening device. ANNOYING!

The Left Lane

A swimming pool in a gym is a definite plus. Even if I never use it, I feel better knowing that I could if I wanted to. At my current gym, there are four lanes of traffic: fast, medium, slow and really slow. Of course, it’s called ‘Recreational’, and not really slow. Much like a highway, the left lane is the fast lane and should be reserved for those passing others or those who are just more important and need to get ahead of everyone else. In the pool, everyone crowds into the fast lane, well, almost everyone. In my unscientific observations, most of these people are men. Much like the mirrors, it must be manly over in that lane. When I have tried it out, I never really felt any different, but maybe I’m not trying hard enough. I’ll be swimming in my empty medium or recreation lane and watch while guy after guy jumps into the fast lane, all of them getting frustrated and mad because it’s so crowded. Then there are the people that shouldn’t even be in the pool, at least not during lap time. They move so slow, sometimes it looks as though they’ve stopped. But they insist on staying in the fast lane, because anything else would hurt their masculine pride. ANNOYING!

The Change Room

I fear the change room. I always wear a bathing suit, even when taking a shower. You never know what you’re going to see. Sometimes I envy the lack of shame people have about their bodies. On the one hand, all these naked men should be liberating, a celebration of the human physique. Then you see a man with his leg up on the sink doing stretches. This is not something you should do naked. And then he talks to you. This is also not a conversational position. A position to have a conversation about, maybe. The old gym I went to had a hot tub in the change room. I enjoyed using the hot tub but really didn’t contemplate the many potential liabilities. The last time I visited the hot tub, a man was sitting across from me, naked of course, and I noticed he was positioned awkwardly along the side. The look on his face registered more pleasure than you would expect out of a hot tub. From what I could determine, his rear aligned with the jet and he was pleasuring himself. It certainly wasn’t pleasurable for me. ANNOYING!

Now, doesn’t that feel better?