It was once the case that when an attractive girl went to the gym, she would inevitably be the object of attention, often for her face and — ahem, ahem — body, rather than her ability to exercise. In an American exercise salon, as it is often called, the girl’s physical attributes would be encased in lycra and spandex, making every pore visible and, thus, open to comment. She earned the title of ‘gym bunny’, particularly if she worked out regularly and had a nice smile.
In India, everything is perforce a little more circumspect, a lady’s lithe limbs lined in looser leggings or track pants with a top that is ‘decent’, sometimes dictated by her father’s/husband’s/brother’s standards. She arrives on time, briskly walks into the exercise area, gym shoes neatly tied, water bottle and towel in hand, hair confined, all set to give any accumulated calories the elimination treatment. She stares down a chance ogler, runs fluidly on the treadmill, pumps iron with the vocal expulsion of breath that was once a male prerogative and wipes off sweat with no regard to potential lines or wrinkles.
The tables have indeed done a little twirling around. Our lady will look usually speculatively, often interestedly, occasionally approvingly and rarely longingly at the men in the gym she goes to, sharing a cheery giggle with a friend, as they raise the resistance on the ellipticals and rate the bodies, techniques, fashion statements (they are women, after all) and — once in a while — face appeal of the male species on display. And, while that may sound oddly sexist or chauvinist, it is indeed fairly accurately descriptive of the ‘gym bozo’ (they need a name, too). Men who work out regularly can be slotted neatly into various categories. If they knew what the women thought and sometimes talked about, they would be hurt, flattered and often shocked. Here are some exemplars of the denizens of a weight room.
1) The app man: He will always have his mobile phone with him. When a set is done, he will furiously push buttons, stare while whatever it is downloads, mutter his annoyance, fiddle some more with the gadget and finally put it down and pick up the weights again. At the end of the sequence, he may even look around him and register that he is in a public space, and people around are wondering if he is fighting with his wife.
2) The narcissist: He always, always, always finds a space where there is at least one mirror, if not more. He will preen for a while, checking that his bicep bulges just so, his quads flex thus and his abs show the perfect panoply of packs. If he does get around to picking up a dumb-bell, he will make sure his reflection hefts it just so, perfecting his posture, shuffling with his shoes and drawing his delts in that infinitesimal inch. Sometimes, he will actually do a set of exercises.
3) The visitor: He is impeccably dressed and expensively accessorised, his gym shoes, socks, shorts, T-shirt, towel and even water bottle are of the in-vogue brand of the moment. He will have a luxe mobile phone held to his ear, and he will stride purposefully to and fro through the gym talking animatedly but mutedly with whoever is on the other end of the line. He will occasionally sit down on one of the weight benches, look at himself in the mirror and check the kettlebells for size. But, will he or won’t he actually exercise? The jury is still out.
4) The ham: He is almost always a girl’s nightmare. He does everything he can within his inevitably limited capacity to grab eyeballs. He will hike the speed on the treadmill beyond logical limits, thump along on it for a few seconds and then give up, jumping off the machine and watching it go for a while before walking away. He will use his toes to push up weights on the rack, while asking a cohort in his crimes to sit on the leg press for added heft. And, all the while he will watch the women with a half leer on his smug face. Most attractive… not.
5) The earnest exerciser: He is a serious gym bozo with no distractions allowed beyond a cheery hi to people he sees every day. He has the buff body of a true fitness acolyte, with beefy shoulders, skinny legs and stringy cords of muscle. He will sweat, he will even smell, but he will lift weights and run miles with all the dedication of a dung beetle pushing its ball of stuff into its burrow. And, he will dispense advice, sometimes even discussing pros and cons with the trainers with great seriousness. He will show no interest in anything or anyone around him except his routine. Sadly, he will be the best-looking of the bozos present.