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New habits die fast: Tales from the gym

Katharine Spurrier exercises her people-watching skills at the gym.

Yes, I recently started going to the gym. No, I did not start going on a ‘new year, new me’ whim. No, I would not recommend it, or at least not for its intended purpose. In very typical fashion I started going to the gym as a means of procrastination, and as a result of slight coercion. The start of this term meant the deadline for my coursework, and the realisation that I might actually have to start doing something for my dissertation. So, as a means of combatting this ‘stress’, or lack of academic motivation, I decided that the gym was the place for me.

For years I have heard people singing its praise. ‘Working out just clears my mind’, ‘you feel so good afterwards’, and my person favourite (if only for the wilful self-deception it must take to say), ‘running is actually really fun when you get into it’, are all examples of the lies I have been told. Nevertheless, I did manage my first trip, and then my second, and even my third – as I write this I am delaying the proposed fourth. I have not learnt that I enjoy the treadmill, I have not learnt that I enjoy the static bike, and  I  have not learnt to enjoy communal showers (too many school flashbacks with that one). What I have learnt – or more accurately confirmed as this is not a new hobby – is that I do enjoy people-watching.

The gym has been added to my people-watching hotspots. For context, also featured on this list is King’s Cross Station (for that matter any station, I just happen to frequent this most regularly), the airport (literally any airport is a place to witness chaos), and a foreign beach. The latter one only applies to those beaches outside of the UK – the comparison of Brit abroad and local resident is something that cannot but be explored. Since I can’t be on a foreign beach on a Tuesday night, going to the gym will have to suffice and I have noticed the gym provides me with all of my favourite people-watching features. The treadmill is prime for this. While I take my gentle stroll – don’t worry no actual exercise is going on –  I have the opportunity to observe those around me. Following my three sessions I have split those who frequent the gym into 4 groups.

  1. The ‘Gym Lad’ – Ok, I know this label has been discussed on many occasions, but I felt it was worth mentioning both as our standard for the gyming populous, and because as I had never been to the gym before, I did not really believe people like this existed. They’re big, they’re bulky, and they wear a surprising amount of clothes. This latter point is worth mentioning when you are in part surrounded by sports bras and leggings, and in part surrounded by men in trackies and jumpers. But, I suppose doing 4 rounds of circuits breaks rather more of a sweat then 5 bench press reps. Overall though the gym lad is not to be feared.
  2. The ‘Gym Hog’ – a subsect of the ‘gym lad’, the ‘gym hog’ is a more fear-inducing presence. In many respects they look and behave like the gym lad; they do minimal reps with big weights and while making an unreasonable amount of noise. The difference between these first two categories is that the ‘gym hog’ is really annoying. They sit hogging a machine, surrounded by dumbbells they aren’t using, and get annoyed whenever someone asks how many sets they have left. Half their time seems to be spent scrolling through gym TikToks on their phones. In short, they are the ultimate selfish gymer.
  3. The ‘Primper’ – These are the people who seem to spend more time checking themselves (or supposedly their ‘form’) out in the mirror. These people live for the floor to ceiling mirrors that encompass the gym, they thrive on the machines stationed in front of the treadmills thus giving them a captive audience, and they excel in the glass ‘studio’ where the world can see them. Apparently, more mincing occurs in the gym than on a runaway, and more fake tan than on ‘TOWIE’.
  4. The ‘Gyming Duo’ – our final category, as I realise my gym musing is possibly less interesting to you than me. This is a duo of which one is super into it, and the other … not so much. Yes, I fall into this latter bracket. This pair are generally together, are generally having a chat, and are generally not doing very much. These are the only people ‘enjoying’ their time in the windowless box of sweaty angst.

I understand that these are pretty broad categories, and of course not everyone will fit into them; you may be the unobnoxious, non Gymshark two piece wearing, solitary gym goer who is just there to work out and vibe. If you are, I am happy for you. I wish I could be motivated to go to the gym alone and actually enjoy it. But unfortunately, I have not found this to be the case. The gym is a new habit I don’t hate – but I’m not sure if I can be anymore complimentary. Saying that, catch me in 5 weeks’ time when I have become addicted, and I might have changed my mind.

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