Genus Gym Rattus

May Men's Room Column

Like millions of Americans, I joined a gym just after the new year. Surprisingly, I’ve actually been going. Maybe it’s because fifty is looming, and staving off decrepitude is a good motivator.

It’s been a long time since I belonged to a gym, and like an anthropologist of old, I’ve been observing and cataloging the varieties of gym rats in their native habitat.

Here’s a selection of my findings:

The Energizer Bunny: She’s there when you arrive. She’s still there when you leave. She doesn’t stop for water. She talks to no one. This lady is really something. You spend most of your gym time pondering what major flaws and failings she must exhibit in every other area of her life.

The Fanatical Wiper: Step away from your exercise machine for a nanosecond, and she’ll assume you have no intention of cleaning it with an antiseptic wipe and will glare like you’ve committed a crime against humanity akin to dumping medical waste into the city water supply.

The Hoops Crew: Half are young guys with stamina, dexterity, and grace. The other half are sweat-soaked, middleaged men with knee braces shamelessly fouling the hell out of the first half.

What’s Her Name: The old friend whose name you’ve forgotten (but totally should know) and who you’re guaranteed to run into every single time you go to the gym.

The Wanderer: You’ve never seen him actually use a piece of exercise equipment, take a class, or even stretch, for that matter, but he’s always strolling around the gym. Who is this guy? What’s he doing? Why is he there? Is he lost?

The Gym Couple: For this frisky duo, the workout in the weight room is just a warmup for a very different kind of workout to commence once they get home. You’d tell them to knock off their shameless flirting, but their arms are bigger than your waist.

Pale Rider: This variety of adolescent clearly requires parental bribery to leave his basement video game lair. As he sits on the stationary bike and reads a fantasy novel, his feet rotate the pedals at a pace imperceptible to the naked eye.

Casual Dude: Chatting with his buddies on the recumbent bike, chomping on a granola bar, tweeting selfies, the only sweating this guy does is sweating how many likes he’s getting on Instagram.

Retired Talker: You’re trying to squeeze in a workout between dropping your kids at day care and a morning staff meeting, but she’s got all the time in the world now that she’s retired from the county after forty years and can’t wait to corner you, so she can summarize ad nauseam the book she’s reading, a mystery set in the countryside of 19th-century France about a nun who’s carrying on a forbidden affair with a local vintner.

FULL DISCLOSURE: With all this people watching, I haven’t actually succeeded in getting much of a workout, but sacrifices must be made in the interest of science.


To view more of illustrator Mark Weber’s work, go to

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Categories: Culture