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First Person

Their Gym Habits Cause Her Acute Pain

October 30, 2000|JANET EASTMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The last week has been horrible at my gym, and it's not because of butt-burning squats. Rather, it's hygiene avoiders who exercise--again and again--their ability to loudly inhale whatever is running through their nose. I guess their every-three-seconds sniffling (OK, I know it's cold season) wouldn't bother me as much if I were mobile, but when I'm captive on the stationary bike next to them for an hour, the sound of mucus being retrieved is a water torture I would not wish on Dr. Laura.

Clearly, these mucus hoarders have no regard for their gym mates. But maybe they'll heed this: It's not healthy to inhale something your body doesn't want. Constant sniffling can lead to an infection or worse--automatic membership in a sci-fi club.

While I'm at it, let me tackle some of the other annoying habits I see at the gym. But first, let me state that I don't anger easily. When lead-footers driving the car of my dreams cut me off, I just let them fly by without a gesture. When Costco shoppers act surprised that they have to begin to find their checkbook after the total appears on the register, I don't huff and puff as do the other 40 people in line. I'm even gracious enough to think that IRS auditors, dogcatchers and Yanni fans have their place in society.

My secret to laid-back living in stressed-out Southern California? I work out every day, leaving me too fatigued to fight anyone.

The only time you will see my World Wrestling Federation wrath is if you impede my daily decompression. How, you wonder, does one do that? By being one of the creatures that stalk my gym. (Yes, even though membership is open to the public, it is my gym. If it's true that everyone is territorial about something, then let it be known that the gym is my fire hydrant.)

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Here's a short list of reasons to avoid the gym:

Sneaky rat: I hate it when I'm in the middle of speeding through my free weights and someone scurries up to let me know that I'm not using proper form. I don't care for two reasons: I'm not in competition; and the only machines I have ever seen a rat use are the pay phones and the vending machines. I know my form is lazy. Step aside and let me take my shortcuts.

Beached whale: Sure a recumbent bike--which puts its rider in a comfortable, low-to-the-ground, close-to-reclining position--looks like the skinny cousin of a Barca Lounger, especially when it's parked in front of a big-screen TV. But its main purpose is to burn calories and build leg muscles. To achieve this, pedaling is required. A whale occupies a recumbent bike while moving only his eyes and mouth. If you need to be inert while watching the game, sit on the floor or, better yet, go home.

Sweat hog: Since the abuse of food is the reason many people are in a gym, it's inappropriate and borderline cruel to talk about it. A hog goes into excruciating detail about his seven-course dinner at Pinot Hollywood or her recipe for butter-cream fudge brownies with a mousse-ooze filling. If you're in good shape and you're talking this way, trust me, you will be universally hated even by the personal trainers who are paid to be complimentary. If you're in bad shape, you will get no sympathy from anyone.

Deaf leopard: Don't force me to hear heavy metal music filtered through your head. Turn your Walkman down and save your few remaining brain cells.

Bad bull: Don't be a foul mouth. I was once followed while doing my circuit training routine by an aging Bluto who couldn't shake the fact that decades before he had a coach who wouldn't get him into the NFL. It took him 45 minutes to tell his buddies about that "tragedy" because he peppered every syllable with an expletive. Finally, I gently set down my weights and asked the bull to cool it on the cussing. The width of his neck tripled in size before he could sputter: "This is a gym, you . . " [use your imagination]. I was about to point to the club name painted on the wall that includes the word "family," but that would assume that a bad bull can read.

Little weasel: Don't ask me if you can work in. Sure, it's legal to share the same piece of equipment in between other people's sets, but it's just like honking: It makes everyone nervous and it's just not done in California.

Counting crow: Worse than being caught in the cross-fire of the two-sided inane conversation is the one-side yammer session. Leave your cell phone in your gym bag along with your self-help books so I'm not forced to hear materialist squawking such as "I broke up with Jim because he was so shallow. He doesn't have a car or anything."

While we're on the subject of chatter, don't ask me what I do for a living (I'm at the gym to relieve work stress) or tell me what you do. I don't care, unless you invented a device to make people like you disappear.

In short, don't get in my way. Don't make unnecessary noises. Work out and behave. And no one will get hurt.

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Janet Eastman is an editor for The Times in Orange County.

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