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Are You the Gym Jerk?

7 habits to avoid when working out



There are few places better in life (for me anyway) than in a terrific gym. So when I took my family on vacation recently at a great resort up the coast, I was shocked to run into an entire collection of “gym jerks” populating the fitness center. People with real “gym-itude.” Turns out it really wasn’t so bad … after all, it gave me something to write about. So here’s my thoughts on what I saw and what you ought to avoid whether you work out at 24 Hour Fitness, Pacific Athletic Club, Frogs, LA Fitness, Fit Athletic Club, Bally’s, the Y, or my fave, The Sporting Club. That is, unless you want to be an official “Dr. San Diego Gym Jerk.”

Let’s understand the psychology of “gym jerks.” It’s all about showing off, which, in turn, is all about being insecure, which, in turn, is all about thinking — erroneously — that what other people think of you will make you more secure. It won’t.

After all, how can what others think of you make you anything? Remember “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me?” So if someone thinks, “Wow, that guy must be strong because he’s lifting so much weight,” does that really make you Superman? Besides, the bigger probability is that down deep, you won’t really believe the other guy anyway, which is why you will more than likely continue to engage in one or more of the “gym jerk” behaviors that follow — to make yourself feel better, without regard to the rest of us.

If you are someone who claims not to care what others are thinking about you, quit lying to yourself and consider this: If you are going to the gym for any other reason than to workout, what are you doing there? It sure isn’t to workout. It’s to get attention.

A popular song by Little Jackie declares, with no apparent sarcasm, "I believe that the world should revolve around me!" I see babies wearing bibs embroidered with "Supermodel" or "Chick Magnet" and sucking on "Bling" pacifiers. Future gym-jerks? Probably not. Future narcissists? Perhaps.

Since so much in the gym and bodybuilding subculture outwardly is about power and self-assurance, perhaps the opposite is really true — it’s about insecurity and weakness, and covering these up. There are many experts who believe that bodybuilding indeed revolves around an individual’s sense of insecurity and low self-esteem. Present your self to the world as a powerhouse and all that insecurity and low self-esteem is smoothed over. Or is it?

People who go to the gym for reasons other than to workout — to garner attention and lift their flagging sense of self-esteem — usually are guilty of displaying attention-seeking rituals. Yes, every gym has them.

Those who will do almost anything to make sure their presence is known. As if that will bolster your self-esteem. Sadly, it only backfires when you engage in the following behaviors.

First, there is Chat Guy/Girl. No, I am not interested in talking about your relationship problems, your fitness routine, your shopping successes, how much weight you are losing or gaining, or how hot the girl/guy on the next machine may be. Just workout!

Second is Mr. or Ms. Scream. No, we’re not impressed how much weight you are lifting or pushing. If it’s so hard you can’t keep your pain and yelling to yourself, have you ever thought of lifting in your garage?

Third, how about Hurlman? You know this one. No matter how much weight he’s lifting, he’s got to send the weight after his last lift crashing onto the floor, scaring the you-know-what out of the person next to him. No, we’re not impressed with how much you lifted. We think you are pathetic.

Fourth on my list of real gym jerks has got to be Stinky. C’mon dude, ever hear of a shower? This character smells offensive on the way into the gym. Who wants to sit on a bench after Stinky gets off of it, leaving not only sweat, but human sewage? There ought to be a law against this gym jerk. Nothing narcissistic about this fellow.

Fifth has got to be Hitman. We’re not talking a mobster for hire here. We’re talking about muscle man flexing his biceps, throwing out his best pick-up lines and basically annoying the heck out of women who just want to workout and get out … and get away from this gym jerk.

Sixth is the No Wiper. We all sweat, but we don’t all wipe. Relax, I’m talking about wiping the machine we just finished using. Please wipe. Do you enjoy lying in someone else’s sweat? Gym jerks don’t care. Maybe they think their sweat doesn’t stink?

Last is the Curser. Must you really use every curse word if you can’t finish a set because you loaded too much weight on the bar or put the pin in too low? This goes along with the Screamer and, when combined with cursing, it’s just plain offensive. Yet a 2006 survey conducted by the Associated Press/Ipsos found that 74 percent of Americans acknowledged they encountered profanity in public frequently or occasionally, and 66 percent agreed that, as a rule, people curse more today than 20 years ago. While not everyone swears, field studies indicate that those who do curse utter 80 to 90 taboo words per day, out of an average of 15,000 to 16,000 words we speak daily. It seems gym jerks bring 85 of them to the gym.

The United States is currently suffering from an epidemic of narcissism. Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines an epidemic as an affliction "affecting ... a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population," and narcissism more than fits the bill. “Notice me,” “make me feel better than I feel I am,” and make me feel special” is what the gym-jerk is really saying.

There you have it. Seven sure fire ways to become a real gym jerk. I’m sure you can add to this list. Please feel free to — just not at my gym.

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