Wasting Time at the Gym


-Come on, old man–get out of the squat rack already!

I hate wasting time at the gym.  Hate it.  I want to get in, get my work done, and get out.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy working out–I do–but I don’t want to spend an extra minute there during the week.  I’ve got other stuff to do.  I don’t take my phone in with me, I don’t screw around with music, and I certainly don’t stand around wasting time by talking to people.  In the end, I don’t really care if other people waste their time, but they at least need to stay out of my way.

I’ve been known to politely (or sometimes less politely) encourage people to move their slow tails out of the way if they’re on a piece of equipment I need to use that day.  I make no apologies.  “Work out, get out” is my motto.

So that’s what I was thinking about as I watched the old man hobbling around by the squat rack–Get out!

Old.  Bald.  Slow.  Big belly.  Creaky joints.  Knee braces.  Looked like it even hurt to walk.

-Get out.

It was squat day for me, and that meant two things: one, I hate squats; and two, someone was going to be wasting time doing something like bicep curls in the squat rack.  Always happens.

See, one of the main problems with most gyms is that they devote 90% of their floor space to cardio gear and pointless weight machines, not free weights, and definitely not squat cages and power racks.  Gyms cater to the person who would rather go in and have other people think they’re working hard, rather than to the person who wants to go in and get underneath a barbell that could crush them to death.  So one squat cage, one power rack. If you’re lucky.

Did I mention I hate squats?  For me, they’re a necessary evil.  You have to do them to get maximally strong, but every time I do them I feel like I might puke, pass out, and pee on myself.  All at once.

Get out, seriously.  I need to squat today.

The old guy tottered over towards the racked weight, like an amateur stop-motion movie.  All jerks and hitches and incongruous lines.

Why does he have so much weight on?  Why do people insist on loading up more than they should, then barely bending their knees at all?  So pointless.  Ugh, do real squats at least.

He got under the bar–the bar that I quickly calculated to weigh over 350 pounds.

-Wait a minute…

U.S. Powerlifting-branded shorts.

-No way.

Squat.  Full-on, below-parallel, perfectly executed squat.  With more weight than I’ll ever even dream of.  Again and again.  And again.  It was like stumbling upon a dirt-crusted hill that you suddenly realize, with growing terror, is actually a sleeping dragon.

It was his warmup set.  He was just getting started–with over 350 pounds.  I decided I could deadlift in the open space next to the squat rack for now.

Ten minutes later, almost done with my deadlifting, I made some casual joke or something to him–I don’t even remember what it was, now.  He chuckled, and said, “Get on that bar again.”  I did, and he had me make a minor adjustment to my form.  I pulled a really heavy deadlift (for me), and it felt great.

We got to talking, standing there in the racks…the thing I hate most from other people.  I didn’t care.  It turned out the creaky old man is a 74 year-old powerlifting champion.  As in, still competes.  He typically qualifies for the national team every year, but had just suffered a loss for the first time in over a decade to his arch-nemesis.  “That s#%* is not happening again”, he grumbled.

We talked for a little while.  About lifting, about good rotator cuff exercises (we both have iffy shoulders), about some random life stuff.  This guy is amazing, I’m thinking in my head.  74 and fiercely competitive and strong.  Wow.  What’s your excuse for not working out?

So he’s training.  He’s squatting over 450.  He’s going to beat that guy.  Hell yes, he’s going to beat that guy.

I looked at my watch and realized I had to get moving.  No time to finish my workout.  No squats.

None of that time in the gym was wasted.

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