To the gym-goers, pavement pounders, and muscle-bound weight freaks of the world: I applaud you. Your commitment to your own health sets you apart as a uniquely masochistic element of society, unafraid of making caricatures of yourselves as you sweat, grunt, and contort your way to new levels of physical prowess.
But to outsiders looking in, you're a strange bunch. What, exactly, motivates such painful behavior, and why, exactly, are you picking up heavy things just to put them back down?
While the answers aren't always clear, there are ways to identify certain elements of this strange, exercise-drugged society. And perhaps, if you can identify the parts, you'll be able to better understand the whole.
The Pack of CrossFit Bros
Be wary of the CrossFit bro. These dudes are strong -- they like the particularly grueling practice of jumping on tall boxes and throwing down weights. They're also excessively defensive of their chosen sport. This can be a dangerous combination. Avoid joking about the Paleo diet, CrossFit injuries or, well, anything in their presence. If they think you've crossed them, they'll join up with other CrossFit bros to hunt you down and attack you like a pack of wolves.
There is no such thing as a lone wolf in a CrossFit box.
Signature hashtag: #WODLife
The Freak Shows
These men have legs for arms, barrels for chests, and sometimes no necks at all. The swole nature of their upper bodies lies in stark contrast to their tiny, ill-formed legs. There's simply no time to squeeze in leg work when your schedule is filled with chest day, biceps day, chest day, biceps day, and chest day again.
Signature hashtag: #ChestDay
Much like in medieval times, gym Jesters provide entertainment to the crowd. Sadly, they don't realize they’re the entertainment -- these young men, typically under 22 years old, are so caught up in their own interactions that they fail to see the raised eyebrows and muffled laughter from other gym-goers. Single attempts at pull-up burpees; raucous laughter while hanging around the squat rack; and loud, incorrect "coaching" on how to test for a one-rep max -- all are telltale signs you’ve happened upon the idiot's court.
Signature hashtag: #BeastMode (mainly because they think it sounds cool)
Usually congregating in clusters of two to four, these young women spend more time making eyes at the Jesters than texting their friends. Which is impressive, because they spend almost all their time texting their friends. Expect consistency from this group of regular gym-goers: consistent texting, consistent giggling, and consistently slow exercise on cardio equipment and circuit-style weight machines.
Signature hashtag: #GymBunny
The Class Diva
This chick thinks she's Beyonce. Loud and confident, often with an entourage of fellow gym-class attendees, she can usually be found sporting Lululemon and an excess of makeup. While she's likely to have gotten her six-pack abs and killer legs with honest hard work, her hair color and boobs are questionable. And even though you want to hate her, she's usually one of the friendliest, most legit people in the gym.
Signature hashtag: #FitChicks
The Fitness Couple
So beautiful they're hard to look at, the Fitness Couple inspires others to use the hashtag #lifegoals. Their attachment to the gym and to each other is almost vomit-inducing, which progresses to actual vomit induction when they make out in the gym’s stretching area.
These are also the weirdos likely to get married at a race, name their first child "Espn," and spend date night sharing a foam roller. Looking that good is tough work, and they're committed to the maintenance.
Signature hashtag: #SwoleMates
The Psychotic Runner
Like the CrossFit bro, the psychotic runner has little time for jokes. Type A to a T, you better believe he'll be on "his" treadmill by 6:03am, run at a 5mph clip for 40 minutes, and snap a pic of the console for evidence to share with his other psychotic runner friends on Facebook.
This runner has no time for obstacle-course races or "fun runs." According to him, if running is fun, you're doing it wrong -- it's about being the best, and killing yourself to get there.
Signature hashtag: #Runner4Life
The Crazy New Mom
The Crazy New Mom isn't just a new mom, who I sincerely curtsy to in deference of her desire to stay healthy for herself and her family. No, this is the, "I had a baby two weeks ago, but I must lose my last 10lb of baby weight immediately, your rules about having baby carriers on the gym floor be damned" mom.
She's the one who doesn't want to hear that her uterus could fall out while running on the treadmill or that her newborn baby could get sick while in the daycare. All she cares about is fitting back into her pre-pregnancy jeans.
Signature hashtag: #WhatPregnancy
The Pseudospiritual Yogi
Often found taking selfies of yoga poses to post to Instagram with corresponding inspirational quotes, the pseudospiritual yogi talks a big talk, can actually do a handstand and a backbend with ease, but will lose her pseudospiritual shit if someone takes her spot in her intermediate vinyasa flow class. Namaste?
Signature hashtag: #YogaLife
The Actually Spiritual Yogi
As the old soul of the yoga community, this dude or chick is mellow, wise, and an inspiration to all who worship at the yoga altar. It’s quite possible, however, that the mellow, unflappable nature comes as much from a pre-yoga bong hit as it does a deep internal connection to his or her soul.
Signature hashtag: Not applicable; real, spiritual yogis don’t use Instagram
The Wannabe Yogi
She spends more time walking around with a yoga sling and browsing the yoga pants at Athleta than she spends in yoga class. She might also have a tattoo of a lotus flower on her lower back. She has no idea what it means.
Signature hashtag: #NamasteBitches
The Jeans Guy
Changing out of jeans and into gym shorts is a waste of effort for this practical, no-nonsense fellow. You can usually find him pedalling away on the recumbent bike while wearing loafers. Like the Gigglers, the Jeans Guy is consistently slow, but consistently present. He's also usually alone. Go figure.
Signature hashtag: #SteadyEddie
The "Sweatin' When I'm an Oldie" Dude
Whether he found fitness in his 50s or he's been crankin' out workouts since he was just a Jester, the Sweatin’ When I'm an Oldie Dude is a gym superhero -- a legend, even. His birth certificate may say he's 85, but his six-pack abs and killer calves tell a whole different story. After his mid-morning workout, he's likely to be found telling war stories (about the gym) in the locker room to anyone who'll listen. He might be naked. He is retired, after all; what else is he supposed to do with his time?
Signature hashtag: #AgeIsJustANumber
The Idiot Family Man
The Idiot Family Man is the counterpoint to the Crazy New Mom. He rolls up to the gym with what seems like eight or nine kids (it's probably only two, but it's impossible to tell given how fast they move), then proceeds to turn them loose on the facility. He might even set his 5-year-old up on the treadmill or let his 11-year-old try to lift 50lb dumbbells. He doesn't think about risks or injuries, as long as he gets his own workout in.
Signature hashtag: #WODKids
Typically alone, this middle-aged lifter sticks to the outside of the gym, positioning himself wherever he has the best angle to watch women running on treadmills or doing squats in yoga pants. He often hangs outside the group exercise room, and may even feign an interest in yoga, just to strike up a conversation with a Class Diva. She has no time for him.
Signature hashtag: #DontMindMe
She's sexy and she knows it. She's also about 20 years older than the men she stalks like a lioness while setting up shop in the free weight area. She's likely to show off her ability to do 10 pull-ups and clapping push-ups while wearing nothing but booty shorts and a sports bra. This is all in an effort to distract the men she's after from realizing she has a son their age.
Signature hashtag: #MILFLife
The Hovering Trainer
The Hovering Trainer lacks the emotional intelligence to gauge gym-goers well, often hovering behind machines, waiting to jump into conversations where he wasn't invited. He awkwardly inserts the benefits of training into random conversations, leaving everyone at a loss for words. As in, "Oh, your daughter is starting band camp next week? Marching band really requires stamina. Why don't you and she sign up for group training so I can get you ready for the challenge?"
Signature hashtag: #TrainerLife
The "It's Cool, I Don't Need Help" Soloist
Whether it's due to embarrassment or unexplainable confidence, the Soloist doesn’t know what she doesn't know. She can often be found trying to do sit-ups on the assisted pull-up machine or chest presses on the lat pull-down machine.
Yeah, we don't know how, either.
The point is, she thinks she's doing everything right, and nothing you say will change her mind. Just expect her to keep doing weird-ass shit every damn day.
Signature hashtag: #GymFail
The Total Showoff
In contrast to the Soloist, the Total Showoff does weird-ass shit, but it's not wrong shit. It's actually pretty amazing. The kicker, though, is that he purposely selects exercises to make everyone else notice how amazing he is. He wants you to know he's better than you. And he is. He IS better than you.
Signature hashtag: #KillerWorkout
The Supplement Obsessive
He can't get through a workout without shaking up a protein drink or talking about the benefits and drawbacks of BCAAs and glutamine. He subscribes to Muscle & Fitness magazine and receives email updates from BodyBuilder.com. He's completely convinced it's impossible to build muscle without supplements, and will fight you to the death if you argue the point. The inexplicable rage could be the ‘roids talking.
Signature hashtag: #Swole
The Social Media Documentarian
She subscribes to the theory that if there's not a picture, it didn't happen. Expect her to take a photo of every exercise and a photo after every exercise. She certainly gets rest between sets.
Signature hashtag: #FitnessMotivation
The Weekend Warrior
The weekend isn’t a time for rest. It's a time for job #2. This 40-year-old family man or woman treats workouts like a job, wasting no time while putting in the hours. Some days include back-to-back classes while others include strength training, cardio, and even a competition. These badass brothers and sisters need confirmation of their badassery, often competing in insane events like Spartan Race and ultra-marathons just to feel the pain. If it hurts, it proves you're still alive, right?
Signature hashtag: #NoPainNoGain
The New Year's Resolutionist
The New Year’s Resolutionist is a grudging gym-goer. Unlike the Gigglers or the Jeans Guy, there is no consistency here... except for consistently having a gym membership that's rarely used. Typically you'll see this person for a few weeks in January, possibly even February, using machines he or she is familiar with, but following no real program or plan. The New Year's Resolutionist avoids trainers like the plague. To sign up for a trainer would be akin to actually committing to something.
Signature hashtag: #RealityBites
The Weight-Loss Dynamo
Unlike the New Year's Resolutionist, the Weight-Loss Dynamo is cocked and ready to hit his weight-loss goals. He talks to everyone he can about his efforts and can often be found logging marathon sessions at the gym, which makes sense given that everything he knows about weight loss he learned from watching The Biggest Loser. While the Weight-Loss Dynamo is a force to be reckoned with, he has to be careful -- left to his own devices, he often ends up injured and unable to continue.
Signature hashtag: #NewYearNewMe
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