I do all the right stuff and sport some pretty insane washboard abs under just about a half-inch thick layer of what my daughter calls “fluff.” I try to eat healthy, get enough rest, and work out almost every day on my lunch hour. I take my workouts seriously, and I like to get in, get it done, and get out. I only have an hour to arrive, change, workout, shower, change again and get back to work. I don’t have time to make friends much less interact with other humans.
In fact I have friends who work out at the same times as I do. One of my neighbors works out there. I see him coming but he knows my M.O. I told him at a party once, “I don’t talk at the gym.” When I see him, we exchange knowing nods. Sometimes we exchange a few words but I will actually remind him, with a mutual smile and laugh, “Don’t talk to me.” He’s cool with it. Same thing with my co-workers who go at lunch. We are there to workout. I see you, you see me, but I will see you at work so don’t talk to me and I won’t talk to you. Nod. Agreed.
This is the code I adhere to at the gym. It appears to be the code most people adhere to. You’ll see why I say “most” in a minute. It’s hard enough to get to the gym every day; my mind has to be a steel trap with the sole purpose of working out my muscles or it runs the risk of goofing off and skipping out. My mind, steel trap that it is, is ready at any moment to succumb to just about any other activity besides working out. Forgot my hair band? Can’t work out today. Free food in the lunchroom? Won’t have time to work out. Potential meteor storm today? Nah, I’ll work out tomorrow. As you see, it’s critically important that I stay laser-focused on my mission to get to the gym and workout without interruption. Any deviation and I fold like a workout towel.
It usually plays out fine, nobody talks to me, I get in, get out, BAM! The only hitch is the locker room. It’s like a freaking microcosm of socially deviant behavior in there. There are a lot of women like myself, just changing, making attempts at modesty for our own sakes and the sakes of others. Cordial chatter but nothing too engaging. Short conversations are the norm and preference. Like me, most other women are just there to workout and move on.
The thing is, there are some real characters in the locker room. They stand out. It’s definitely an “us” and “them” scenario. And they can really mess with my regime of sustained mental peace. Let me describe a few of my favorites.
First there’s Talks overly loud in a nasally weird voice girl. This young woman seems to appear only in the locker room. I have never even seen her out on the gym floor working out. She stands by the entrance, within earshot of every nook and cranny of the locker room. From what I can tell she hangs around the locker room just to talk. To anyone. But mostly to the older women who are either dumbfoundedly polite or nearly disabled and therefore unable to escape. She talks loudly in a weird, made-up sounding nasal pitch, sort of like Chandler’s annoying girlfriend from “Friends.” She just gushes on, talking nonsense, but clearly talking for the benefit of being heard. It’s so audibly irritating that other women will change faster just to get away, like a fleeing flock of birds escaping a really annoying nasal-voiced fox. I asked a coworker of mine who works out what she thought of this woman’s voice. “That’s not her real voice,” she told me. How did she know? She heard her talking outside the gym in a perfectly clear, normal toned voice. Deviant.
Next there’s Stands around naked with one leg on the sink slathering herself with lotion woman. At least once a week this woman is there, naked as a newborn and contorted into some awkward position that I am certain makes even God uncomfortable. Everyone reflexively turns away. You can’t avoid her, she’s by the sinks for goodness sakes. Do I need to wash my hands? Oh, hell no. Sometimes I just want to say to her, Wow, that’s really awesome that you are so comfortable with your own body that you can stand nude, spread-eagled without a hint of modesty, but for Friar Franks sakes woman, I just had lunch! Seriously? Seriously? Buy that woman a robe.
Another favorite is Large elderly overweight woman sitting naked on the bench. This one doesn’t need very much elaboration suffice to say that she sits on the bench. Naked. Sitting on the bench. The bench is now kryptonite. Now NO ONE sits on the bench. Ehhhhh.
There are others. There’s Awkwardly chooses a locker right next to yours while you are changing even though the locker room is empty woman. And Walks by and stares too long when you are naked woman. And of course, “I just swam and left a puddle next to where you set your dry clothes bag” girl.
All these locker room characters are quite distracting, and at times it takes considerable effort for my brain to temporarily, or better, permanently erase them and become focused on my workout again. I understand that until I have a home gym, this is part of the territory of public fitness centers. And at my gym, at least the sales people leave me alone.
And perhaps to some, I am their locker room nemesis. Perhaps I am Stern-faced woman who never talks in the locker room woman. That’s ok by me. Consider it a gift. You’re welcome.