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Things I've Learned from Joining a Gym in My Twenties

It's basically a chrome hellhole where you want to fuck everyone all the time.

A gym, that looks a lot nicer than your gym, which is probably 80 percent toenails by now. (Photo via)

Going to the gym is a crushing inevitability that you're just going to have to get over at this point. Unless you're bang into running (enjoy your incoming arthritis), these tacky monuments to health and vanity may well end up hosting you at least once a week for a large portion of your twenties.

Maybe you like it – maybe going to the gym is keeping you out of trouble; maybe the thrill of exercise is enough for you. Or, more likely, you're scared of having a heart attack on a pub toilet, a sullen landlady having to fireman's-lift your pathetic, lifeless, flabby millennial body out of the bogs and into the private ambulance.


I started going to the gym in my mid-twenties, i.e. last year, and have so far learnt a few things about these pantheons of sad buffness. These nuggets of knowledge include, but are by no means limited to, the fact that:


London's club scene is nearing death, and if it's not spurious drug raids closing them down, it's ongoing gentrification making them too expensive to run. More often than not it's overpriced coffee shops and brunch houses that move in, but if not, it's gyms that have come to fill the void.

Now look: there's a time and place to drop tabs and enjoy Skrillex. In fact, as we all know, that's the only way to just about enjoy Skrillex. If there's one place that isn't the time to listen to Skrillex, it's during that precious 08:00-09:00 Monday morning hour in which you convince yourself it's still the weekend, before you return to your shit office job to work on spreadsheets. Yet, in a bid to score millenial memberships, London gyms seem to insist on employing in-house DJs to pump a steady stream of EDM while you struggle to lift a 15kg dumbell. Listening to dance music first thing in the morning tells you two things: first, dance music really does suck. And second, the London gym you're paying £55 [€64] a month for is actually a boring club, where the only drugs available to you are overpriced creatine shakes


So you've managed to drag yourself out of bed in the middle of a wet dream to get yourself to the gym. Half awake, you reluctantly pick up a pair of light weights and start lifting them according to a Men's Health magazine you bought from the magazineretailer next door.

All of a sudden, two hands grab your waist. "If you don't have your form right you'll end up a cripple," says the man with gelled-back hair, dressed head to toe in lycra. He squeezes your love handles while demanding you keep curling the weights. "You're doing it wrong!" he shouts. "Come on! My grandma can lift more than that!"


There's something weird about pitching your services to potential customers by insulting them, but somehow it works. Ten minutes after he first groped you, you're doing squats for him. "Ass to grass!" he shouts, even though you're on tarmac. "Stop being a little bitch!" He makes you run laps around the gym while cranking up that Skrillex track. "Stop being weak!" he screams in your face. Not only are you reliving your days in secondary school PE, when everyone called you "bitch-tits" and laughed directly at you, you're paying an extra £500 [€585] a month for the privilege.

The author, being a gym mirror wanker


Anyone with an Instagram account knows about the mundane fitness hashtags, or the one guy who takes them way too seriously. Like the guy you used to play Warcraft with at school when you skipped PE, who's now posting pictures of his "traps" with captions like "No pain, no gains! #Instafit #fitfam #justdoit". And when he's not posting pictures of his traps, he's photoshopped inspirational quotes from Rocky, Fast and Furious 2 and, er, Martin Luther King, on top of pictures of him lifting weights.

As a result, many people's gym routine includes a fierce battle for territory in front of the mirror. You'll have guys taking up more gym space than they should trying to perfect their poses, and others who'll shout at you for "ruining their YouTube channel" when you're accidentally walk in front of their camera. And while you're trying to lift a 10kg dumbbell, there'll be a whole bunch of amateur Instagram fitness freaks seething because you've taken the place with the best lighting.



The one place worse than the gym itself is the gym changing room. This is a fact and always has been. And while London gym changing rooms have been getting fancier, there'll always be that one guy – probably your personal trainer – who'll dry his balls with a hairdryer. He'll do it while you stand next to him, waiting to use that hairdryer for your actual hair. He will take longer than he should drying them, massaging his balls as if this was a normal thing. Then he will pass you the hairdryer and pat you on the shoulder. "All yours, buddy!" he'll say. "By the way, you need to start eating more protein, or else you'll never be able to move to the big boy weights."


The problem with the metropolitan gyms is that they're constantly packed with people attempting to better themselves. In an attempt to seem egalitarian, they've lumped all the fatsos (me, probably you) in with the fitsos. So you have a row of ten treadmills where every other person is a slob and not a rakish, ab-covered ubermensch. You're embarrassed about your body, but you're trying to fix it. You don't want anyone else to see you trying it fix it, though, so you go on a Friday night, because who the fuck goes to the gym on a Friday night? Right?

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, mate. Wrong as fuck. The gym is chock-a-block with ultra-cunts on Friday. These are the gym-iest gym people you will find. These are the people who do that terrifying exercise where you hold yourself aloft on a bar with your feet in the air and twist like you're weightless. People going hard on the rowing machine for a solid 30 minutes with no break – not even a sip of water. I don't want to work out next to these guys! I could be in the pub right now, but instead I'm trying to hide in the back of the cross trainer section to get away from all the big boys!



The gym is so fucking unsexy it's unreal. It's a room full of grunting weirdos in shit clothes. And yet, there is something about the pheromonal level of human essence, coupled with the large amount of flesh either on show or contoured by Lycra, that does something strange to the libido. It's like skinny dipping in a swamp – inherently unsexy, but somehow impossible to resist.


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