Life at the Gym and Helping Others

 

At the gym this morning, I was going through my usual routine, which includes walking the treadmill. The man on the treadmill on my right was gazing hopefully at the buttons; I could tell that he was probably a novice. So, I removed my headphones (listening to Three Whisky Happy Hour) and asked if I could help. Men in particular sometimes get flustered if they realize a woman has caught them in a confused moment. He didn’t answer, but I suspect at that point his brain was flooded with anxiety. Still, I explained how he could engage the TV and change the volume. I realized he hadn’t even found the “Start” button for the treadmill, so I directed him to the main screen, and he was able to begin the process again. Except, I thought he might want to go a little faster. So, I showed him the pluses and minuses for speed, and he was off and running. So, to speak. He didn’t thank me, but I think he was overwhelmed with relief, and walked the treadmill for several minutes

I love to help people on the machines, when they let me. I usually mind my own business unless they are completely stuck or are about to hurt themselves. We have trainers around, but they never seem to show up when you need them.

Near the end of my workouts, I use a machine where a person stretches the hamstrings, one leg at a time. There was an elderly man on it (yes, likely older than me), and he was taking a very long time. And he was bending his knees, trying to lift his leg higher. Of course, that did little for his hamstrings. When he finished, he very slowly vacated the machine, and I made the friendly suggestion that it helps to get the most from the machine when we straighten our legs on it. He smiled and said he couldn’t lift his leg higher, so I explained the idea was to stretch the back of his leg, and it didn’t matter how high he lifted his leg. He commented that he saw a fellow lift his leg very high, but I assured him that he didn’t have to do that himself. He thanked me and as he turned from the machine, he picked up a wipe and started to slowly wipe it down. I offered to do that for him, and he thanked me. Carefully he reached for his cane and we wished each other a good day.

*     *     *     *

These encounters gave me much to reflect on. First, I have been working out, trying to maintain my health and flexibility, for a very long time. Apart from the occasional pulled muscle, I do pretty well. I like feeling part of a community of people who also care about taking care of themselves, although we are still experiencing more people coming in at this time, and we are at the tail-end of the newbies who are trying to fulfill their New Year’s resolution to get fit. I suspect the gym traffic will slow down in another week.

I also realize that my impatience to finish using the machines is helpful to no one. I’m not on the clock, but I have an expectation in my head that people should be courteous by not hogging the machines. Of course, my idea of hogging and theirs might be different. I will sometimes ask to “work in,” but I almost always get the answer, “I just have one more set,” which I don’t believe for a minute. But again, if they work longer on the machine, the world will not come to an end.

But mostly, I like to be helpful without intruding. Most of the time people are very grateful to get some guidance and I get to feel like a trainer again.

That’s always a rewarding feeling.

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There are 12 comments.

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  1. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    After many years of experience, I have found, as have you, it appears, that it takes much longer to finish if you can’t find the start button!

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    cdor (View Comment):

    After many years of experience, I have found, as have you, it appears, that it takes much longer to finish if you can’t find the start button!

    If I were an experienced trainer, I would have noticed that his feet weren’t moving. Oh well…

    • #2
  3. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    cdor (View Comment):

    After many years of experience, I have found, as have you, it appears, that it takes much longer to finish if you can’t find the start button!

    This start button tip is an amazing workout hack! If I go to a gym again, I am going to check it out, first thing.

    Wait. This is not violating my no-hijacking rule, right, Susan?

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):

    After many years of experience, I have found, as have you, it appears, that it takes much longer to finish if you can’t find the start button!

    This start button tip is an amazing workout hack! If I go to a gym again, I am going to check it out, first thing.

    Wait. This is not violating my no-hijacking rule, right, Susan?

    We had that discussion–you can hijack whenever you want! You don’t strike me as gym rat, I must say.

    • #4
  5. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):

    After many years of experience, I have found, as have you, it appears, that it takes much longer to finish if you can’t find the start button!

    This start button tip is an amazing workout hack! If I go to a gym again, I am going to check it out, first thing.

    Wait. This is not violating my no-hijacking rule, right, Susan?

    We had that discussion–you can hijack whenever you want! You don’t strike me as gym rat, I must say.

    I’m one of those guys who can somehow maintain a physique like this without exercise. I can’t explain it.  I only used to go to meet chicks, and then one time I went and someone had stopped paying the dues.

    My new rule will be, I will only hijack your threads. Thank you. I will try to earn this privilege.

    • #5
  6. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    We all know that men can’t ask for directions; especially when driving — which is the blessing of GPS.

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    We all know that men can’t ask for directions; especially when driving — which is the blessing of GPS.

    We treasure our Android Auto so much that we named her–Sophia!

    • #7
  8. Allan Rutter Member
    Allan Rutter
    @AllanRutter

    One of the things I like to do when walking in a tourist-rich environment is coming across a group of visitors with one person taking a cell-phone photo of the gang in front of something photogenic and I will offer to take a picture of the whole group. Most people accept the offer and are happy to have their group photo and it makes everyone smile, especially me.

    • #8
  9. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    I returned to the gym in October of 2022 after a thirty-year absence. I’d come to feel soft, was casting about for a new goal, and since the gym was free for all tenants of the building, I signed up and headed in. I figured if I could make it two days in a row I’d be on to something. Aside from vacations, I have not missed a day since, and I am lifting more than I did when I was 30. 

    The gym has two wonderful trainers who will lavish attention and assistance on anyone who wanders in and wants to start doing things. When I see someone new who’s getting put through the paces by Matt or Brianna I always try to joke about how they’re in for it now, she’ll have you deadlifting 200 pounds in a month, and welcome to the club, you’ll like it here. Most of them, I never see them again. Perhaps they come at a different time. 

    There are four regulars who work in the early afternoon, and a few guys whose orbits occasionally intersect with my regular time. No one talks when we’re working out, but there’s always Manly Banter in the locker room afterwards. Some guys come in with a chip and an attitude. They don’t fit. 

    I always enter the gym thinking “I don’t have to do this, but I will. The only response to not wanting to go to the gym is to go to the gym.” I always leave elevated and cohesive. And aware that there’ll be a day I can’t do this anymore. 

    But that’s not today, and most likely not tomorrow. 

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    I returned to the gym in October of 2022 after a thirty-year absence. I’d come to feel soft, was casting about for a new goal, and since the gym was free for all tenants of the building, I signed up and headed in. I figured if I could make it two days in a row I’d be on to something. Aside from vacations, I have not missed a day since, and I am lifting more than I did when I was 30.

    The gym has two wonderful trainers who will lavish attention and assistance on anyone who wanders in and wants to start doing things. When I see someone new who’s getting put through the paces by Matt or Brianna I always try to joke about how they’re in for it now, she’ll have you deadlifting 200 pounds in a month, and welcome to the club, you’ll like it here. Most of them, I never see them again. Perhaps they come at a different time.

    There are four regulars who work in the early afternoon, and a few guys whose orbits occasionally intersect with my regular time. No one talks when we’re working out, but there’s always Manly Banter in the locker room afterwards. Some guys come in with a chip and an attitude. They don’t fit.

    I always enter the gym thinking “I don’t have to do this, but I will. The only response to not wanting to go to the gym is to go to the gym.” I always leave elevated and cohesive. And aware that there’ll be a day I can’t do this anymore.

    But that’s not today, and most likely not tomorrow.

    That’s all great, James. We have lots of people who are regulars, and we make a point to smile and say hello. I rarely stop to chat, but my husband enjoys visiting with people. I’m all business, no chit-chat–except when I’m helping someone with a machine.

    • #10
  11. Terence Smith Coolidge
    Terence Smith
    @TerrySmith

    Susan Quinn:

    I love to help people on the machines, when they let me. I usually mind my own business unless they are completely stuck or are about to hurt themselves.

    In my early adult years, I almost always never accepted a favor or help from others nor offered it much either. Rationalized it as demonstrating self reliance but more likely just not wanting the reciprocal obligation to “pay it back.”. Wasn’t until I passed 40 before it occurred to me  that by accepting help when offered I was doing the offerer as much of a service  as they were doing for me.  Doing so helps them become the good person they are striving to be.  While the old habit dies hard, I now accept more often than not.  Similarly when someone turns down a genuine offer, I often can’t help but think we would both be better off if they just accepted.

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Terence Smith (View Comment):
    Wasn’t until I passed 40 before it occurred to me  that by accepting help when offered I was doing the offerer as much of a service  as they were doing for me.  Doing so helps them become the good person they are striving to be.

    This is lovely, Terence. Well done! From one self-reliant person to another!

    • #12
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