I knew right away that I was going to have problems when I asked the guy if I could work in on his bench, because he was using it as a recliner.
There's only two adjustable benches on my weight room floor. (I train in a crappy 24 hour facility, one that has a closing time Monday through Thursday. Their claim of being open for "24 hours" is a bit of a stretch.) Someone just grabbed the first one to get set up, and he's sitting on the second, having a conversation on his cell phone. It's crowded. He's got 5 lbs dumbbells by his feet, and he's doing a rotator cuff warm up with one of them. While seated. I dread having to ask him if I can work in, because I can already see where this is going to go. It takes me a few tries before he can hear me through his headphones.
"Hey man, do you mind if I work in on this bench?"
He gives me a dirty look and slowly gathers his things.
But he leaves his towel on the bench. Now, some guys are really OCD about germs in the gym, so I grab it and ask him if he'd like me to get my own, or if he wouldn't mind if I work out on top of it.
"Nah, bro. I'll take it, just calm down, you've got an attitude."
Clearly, this is where things got out of hand.
I just asked if I can use the bench. I wasn't aggressive or obnoxious, condescending or confrontational. I wasn't sitting around, like the gym is my living room, talking on the phone about nothing, wasting my time and everyone else's around me. I was just trying to train. The gym is very small, so you've got to work together. And while there's a few guys who go about it the right way, we're mostly dealing with wanna-be Jersey Shore knock-off posers who'd rather pretend to train hard with half-assed form, check their hair, and flex in the mirror than actually load up a heavy bar for squats. They never squat. Ever. And they look at my cockeyed when I deadlift. And they are clearly more concerned with what others think than they are about their own training, their own physiques, or their own convictions.
I take a deep breath.
I politely explain to him that I don't have an attitude, but since he's been on the phone, I figured I could use the bench. And then, in a move that I've never seen before (and really hope to never see again), he asks me, "what if I don't let you work in?"
Well, I...uh, I don't know, man. I've never had someone refuse to let someone work in before. Did I hear him correctly? Cell phone guy is refusing to let someone use the bench?
"Yeah, I'm not going to let you work in."
And then he sits down on the bench and continues talking.
Now, OK, sure. I should have clocked him. I definitely could have clocked him.You all probably think you would have clocked him, too. But then what? I get kicked out of my gym, because this guy is too self-absorbed to realize how ridiculous he is? I'm going to get into a fist fight over using a weight bench with a guy lifting 5 lb dumbbells? Come on. We get to screaming back and forth. People are looking at me, shocked at how this guy is acting. No one knows what to do.
Eventually, when we're both done yelling, he goes through his bullshit workout with the same bullshit weight I've seen him use since I first joined the gym. Lots of machine work for this champion. Lots of half reps, lots of light weights, and yup, lots of texting. He really killed it yesterday.
Consider this a public service announcement. Have you ever been this guy? Three small pieces of advice, in the hopes that we can put the gym culture in this country back together.
- Be willing to let others work in
Especially if you train a small gym. It's the golden rule, right? Treat others how you'd like to be treated? I can't believe this has to be said, but back in the 60s, which was known as the golden era of bodybuilding, guys worked together all the time, helping each other with heavy weights and spots on difficult lifts. They had to, because they'd get crushed without each other's help. But today, since so many guys refuse to push themselves with tough sets and progression, since they've grown lazy and comfortable trudging through the same loads on the same exercises for years, they think they're somehow above that kind of brotherhood. They are wrong. And they are ruining it for the rest of us.
- Leave your cell phone in your locker
Another one that I can't believe has to be explained. Even if you don't care whether or not you get a good workout done, which you obviously don't, if you've got your phone out in the weight room, try and think about the other people training around you. If there are only two benches, and lots of guys are looking for some place to train, and you're laying across one like it's a futon, chatting about going to the club next weekend, you're not nearly as cool as you think you are. You can be an asshole in the gym. It's a free country. Talk all you want. Waste your own time all your want. But don't prevent other people from finishing their workouts, you selfish pricks.
- Don't be an asshole
Guys like this are everywhere, the ones so blissfully ignorant as to how weak they are, and how childish they act, and how self-absorbed they've become. Just like guy I overhead in the locker room saying, "I don't really like free weights. I'm into machines."
They're wearing shirts that are too tight with extra baggy sweatpants, because they never train their legs and they're ashamed. They're the guy who was whispering behind my good friend's back, while he was deadlifting, "does that work his chest or arms?" Because if has to be one or the other, or else it doesn't work anything, right? Guys like this are weak-minded, with no conviction or discipline.
Look, I couldn't carry the gym bag of guys who we work with at MF, guys who own their own facilities and who train clients to amazing results and who go about it, day after day after day, working as hard as they possibly can to improve, if only by 2.5 lbs that day, or a single rep more than they did last week. They're guys I look up to. They motivate me. But I don't pretend to be anything I'm not. I just want to get a little better each time I train.
And we need more guys willing to get better, and less guys who want to send a quick text, bro, before their next set.