By analyzing the landscape of my gym, I am by no means conducting a groundbreaking expose. If you have been to a gym roughly five times in your life, you know the stereotypes. Even if you haven’t ever been to a gym, all you’d need to do is look up Dude Perfect on YouTube for their hilarious video, which accurately and hilariously depicts gym life.
I’m also not here to lambast people who care about their body. Personally, I share the same sentiments as many of my fellow peers when it comes to overall health and well being. I take care of myself, but you won’t find me on the cover of Men’s Health anytime soon.
What is puzzling, yet simultaneously intriguing are the types of people that go to the gym. The gym is essentially divided into sections. On one half people who are focused on cardio occupy all of the machines. On the other side there are people who are clearly trying to pack on as much muscle as humanly possible onto their bodies.
The cardio-centric people are whom you’d expect: older people on the back nine, overweight individuals, and a lot of young women. The muscle bound guests are also predictable: young males with backward hats and tank tops, with a few women sprinkled in who challenge the norm and attract the gaze of everyone in the gym.
I know why the cardio crazies are there. They want to lose weight or keep it off. But the lifters are completely the opposite. They seemingly go to the gym not only to get stronger or bigger, but also to show off their musculature as a way to mask insecurities.
These men pack on many 45-pound plates to their bench press bars or squatting stations. It is actually quite impressive to see these individuals lift exorbitant amounts of weight. Once they finish their set and I quickly swivel my head some other direction, afraid to be caught admiring their athleticism, I see something intriguing. These men spend their breaks between sets looking around the gym, their heads moving side to side more than Arianna Grande, curious if anyone has noticed what they have just done.
I once heard a theory that bodybuilders/power lifters were comparable to anorexic women, in that they never find their physique self-gratifying. A man will try to pack as much muscle onto his body because there is no end point, no level of satisfaction. The comparison is rather horrifying, especially when you consider that many women struggle with their weight because of societal pressure and stigmatization. Whereas a woman feels pressure to be as skinny as possible, a man feels pressure to be as big as possible.
It is a sad indictment of our society, and a byproduct of the TV and film culture we live in, where most of the actors/actresses on screen are gorgeous, physically refined people. While I don’t think that striving to attain these celebrities’ build is wrong, it is, for the most part, unattainable. These glamorous individuals devote most of their time off screen to perfecting their body and image. The most renowned workout and dietary specialists in the world train them because these stars have the means to pay for it. They also have enough time to evolve their bodies, something the average American who works a traditional job does not.
Again, this post is not to bash anyone who has a rigorous workout schedule. I love the feeling of having exercised, endorphins rushing to my head and affording me a feeling of accomplishment. But I also am not the type to schedule multiple hours a day to perfect my body; mostly because I am too lazy to do that, but also because if I did that I don’t know what I would be pursuing. Would I be working hard to attract the attention of more females? I don’t know, because the guys I see picking up women from bars don’t look like Olympic bodybuilders. Am I searching for personal fulfillment, perhaps as a way to cover up some aspect of my life that I am not proud of? Again, maybe, but who really knows. All I can say is that after having spent roughly eight months at the same gym, I’ve noticed that everyone at the gym is there for different reasons; some physical, some emotional. And some are just simply there.