Wednesday, December 10, 2008

That Guy At The Gym

And now for something completely different.

Macro Man hasn't got a whole lot of insight to add to another meandering session of holiday price action. Most prices on his screen remain well within established ranges; while there may be some marginal new news regarding an auto industry bailout and political corruption, it's hard to muster much enthusiasm.

December is traditionally a month of long lunches with market counterparties, ostensibly to celebrate another successful year's worth of trading together. While these occasions are probably closer to a wake this year, Macro Man has been surprised to see his calendar fill up relatively quickly. Without regular sessions at the gym, he'll be left feeling like the gentleman on the left.

Now, Macro Man has patronized a number of gyms in different cities over the years, and being an observant chap he has come to the realization that there are a number of standard characters, archetypes if you will, that one can find at most gyms. As a public service to those whose gym attendance is confined to the first two weeks of January, at which point the lure of the pub overcomes any further devotion to a new year's resolution, allow him to identify the cast of characters for you.

In the locker room

The Slob.
This guy leaves his stuff all over the floor, generally in a sweaty, un-bagged fashion. He doesn't bother putting his stuff away when he gets in the shower, and often drips water all over the place after he's managed to clean himself up. Macro Man always has to fight the temptation to stuff his crap into an empty locker when he shuffles off to the shower.

* "The Owner's Son". This chap doesn't spread his stuff all over the floor like the Slob, and he generally puts his things away when he's not changing clothes. What he does do, however, is spread his stuff all over the changing room benches, so that no one else can make use of what is relatively limited space at the best of times. This guy acts like he owns the place, and gets the hump if you dare to shift his stuff a bit to make room for your own bag.

* Narcissus. This guy demonstrates a singular inability to remove or don any article of clothing without gazing at himself out in the mirror. In locker rooms with sparsely spaced mirrors, Narcissus generally has to rein in his natural tendencies to check himself out; in Macro Man's current gym, however, there are plenty of locker room mirrors and a couple of egregious Narcissi. It's almost enough to make him want to wear a tie, so that he can tie it in front a mirror, thus blocking Narcissus's view.

* The Naked Guy. The man that modesty forgot, this guy stands and walks around naked for what seems to be hours at a time before bothering to get dressed. One particularly egregious example at one of Macro Man's old gyms used to blow-dry his hair naked, sending the odd blast of warm air "downstairs". It's always a downer to be changing next to Naked Guy and catch an unintentional eyeful as you turn to tie your shoes.

In the gym

* Mr. Myopia. Mr. Myopia must be cursed with Magoo-like ocular difficulties. Why else does he stand six inches away from a mirror whenever he performs a weight-lifting set, in many cases blocking access to a rack of dumbells or other equipment? The true answer, of course, is that Mr. Myopia is a mixture of Narcissus and The Owner's Son; such is his desire to check himself out as he exercises that he exhibits a blatant disregard for anyone else who might want to use any equipment.

* The Meathead. Perhaps the most stereotypical of all gym-goers, the Meathead is as wide as he is tall and looks like some of his muscles have come out of a syringe. What amuses Macro Man about the Meathead is the way that he walks with his arms sort of extended from his sides, almost like a cowboy in the Old West about to have a duel with a holstered six-shooter. The rationale, of course, is that the Meathead's arms are so big that they can't comfortably be carried at his sides like a normal human's. Yeah, right.

* Clark Kent. This guy aspires to be Superman, and piles way too much weight onto the bar whenever he performs an exercise. In reality, however, he is Clark Kent, and can only perform at most half repetitions with the overloaded bar. Clark Kent is the king of the bench press rep that stops eight inches above the chest, the squat with the barely-perceptible knee bend, and the bicep curl performed with bent-elbowed alligator arms.

* The Crowder. There is an unspoken code, an unwritten etiquette of the weight room, that you never come close to impinging upon someone else's space when there is room elsewhere on the floor. The Crowder blatantly ignores these rules, and will come and exercise next to you- perhaps even blocking your range of motion- when you are the only two people in the weight room. Oblivious to dirty looks, deaf to harrumphing, the Crowder is no doubt also a serial violator of urinal etiquette as well.

* The Madonna Dancer. While this guy is generally in pretty good shape, he seems to spend most of his time talking on the phone or "vogueing" in front of a mirror. All too often, the Madonna Dancer turns into the Naked Guy in the changing room.

* Oprah's Book Club. Did you ever see Lance Armstrong read War and Peace while riding in the Tour de France? Paula Radcliffe take in a bit of King Lear while running a marathon? Usain Bolt reading the Cliff's Notes to Wuthering Heights while setting world sprint records? Of course not. So why do some people think they can get a good cardiovascular workout on an exercise bike while reading a book or a newspaper? It boggles the mind. It's probably no coincidence that the only major athlete to read during a competition, Jim Courier (who once read a novel during changeovers in a tennis match), saw his career dwindle into medicority soon thereafter.

No doubt there are more; gym-going readers are invited to submit there own. Apologies to those readers looking for a reasoned, market-driven interpretation of China's November trade data, which showed a catastrophic collapse in volumes. Normal service will resume tomorrow. In the meantime, be comforted that the market doesn't care about data for the time being...perhaps they're all out to lunch?


Anonymous said...

fess up MM which one are you?

Nick von Mises said...

In the UK the Meathead would be called a "carpet carrier" as a visual metaphor on how he holds his arms as if delivering rolled-up carpets to a store.

I've also heard them refered to as "little boys in gorilla costumes"

Don't forget the Bouncer Bully who arrives in his long black coat and skinhead, with a big fat belly and huge chemically enhanced back and chest. The belly is because he took so many steroids that his ligaments didn't strengten as quickly as his muscles and he's put his back out, stopping him from doing any real training.

There's the Pencil Neck Titan who thinks crazy benchpresses and bicept curls are the only exercises to do and thus has a widely disproportionate body shape, usually with a tiny neck.

His slightly smarter cousin is Fist of the North Star (so-named due to the character design of that famous anime) who has the upper body of colossus and then these weird slim legs and no arse. Very Chippendale-like.

Last is the Next Great Champ who thinks lifting weights makes you a tough guy and thus after every set on the squat rack will wander over to the solitary heavy bag and unleash the fury of a ten-punch combination of extremely weak shots, look around to see who watched his terror-inducing performance, then move on to the bench press

Anonymous said...

How about the Sunday Stroller - the chick who comes in every single day, gets on the tread mill/tread climber straight away and yet 1 hour later when you are leaving she is still there, walking like she is in a park at the weekend


Damcanu said...


It's been a few months since I started reading your blog, todays is the funniest yet.

I am on the verge of joining a gym but have had worries about bumping into 'characters' like the ones you mentioned. I used to be fairly fit (triathlons and one Ironman) but never a gym muscle-boy.

Richy Rich said...

What about Mr Tut Harrumph - The guy that takes private offence to all the above. The livid red face and beads of sweat on his brow must not be mistaken for the result of exertion as they are only the physical manifestations of an internal rage so great that only the odd "Tut" or "Harrumph" manage to escape from his taught visage. These characters can also be found in most "We have to have standard's and those socks are off-white not White so you cant play here" golf clubs and the first-class compartments of most commuter trains.

Though I didn’t know they also wrote blogs….. :-)

Anonymous said...

Macro Man, what are your best lifts? Any goals?

Anonymous said...

I go to a martial arts gym (jiu jitsu/muay thai) so we have totally different cast of characters.

Manc Trader said...

LOL great stuff. I used to be a gym rat and can relate to this.
Sigh, I no longer seem to get to work out at a gym anymore.
MM impaired versus unimpaired seem to be buzzwords these days.
Despite your distaste for the Eurozone monetary policy do you think it is possible that Germany's economy may be relatively unimpaired versus say the UK and even to a lesser extent the US.

Macro Man said...

Nick, LFY, very good.

Richie, yeah, I am probably Mr. Dirty Look who rolls his eyes and cast aspersions in the direction of transgressors. I don't have any issue with sartorial choices, however (well, except in the case of Naked Guy.)

Anon @ 1.49, I am old enough (37) and small-framed enough that I'm not going to be setting any records. I tend not to try powerlifting or maxing anything out; rather, I generally do a lot of supersets or things like dumbell presses while standing on a bosu ball. I do, however, keep a record of everything I do so that I can shoot for personal bests (i.e, squeeze out one more rep in the 4th set of a given e exercise, etc.)

ANon @ 2.27, I can imagine there must be a few amusing characters there; modified versions of Nick's Next great Champ, perhaps?

Manc Trader, Germany is the world's largest exporter. World trade volumes are collapsing. They're in big trouble.

Manc Trader said...

Thanks for the response MM.
By impaired versus unimpaired I didn't mean the situation currently but post recession.
With the understanding the time to buy will be at least 9 months or so before the true turn occurs whenever that may be.
I am thinking which businesses have and countries will be well positioned for the next cycle.
The timing of investing in them is a different issue.
Of course the key assumption I am making is that globalization as a trend will re assert itself in the next cycle (i.e this is not the onset of multi decade depression).
They key long term impact of what is happening would be a decline in the share that finance have and a reduction in the velocity of money compared to the past cycle post 1991. Also, more state intervention, public debts, more household saving etc.
I am pretty light on positions these days so guess letting my mind wander a bit from day to day risk managment and trading.

Nick von Mises said...

Okay you got me. I've spent most of my adult life in muay thai and BJJ gyms. My observations:

The Spaz - After five years he still makes exactly the same mistakes as day one. He will follow the instructors advice the first two reps but the moment the instructor walks off he's back to his ill-coordinated improv. Never spar this guy, he ALWAYS finds a way to poke his finger in your eye

The Vengeful Bully Victim - This skinny shitbag has spent his whole childhood resentful of his athletic peers. He spends his adult life trying to zero in on polite training partners who will not call him out for breaches of gym etiquite. He then proceeds to hit them as hard as possible, usually against the rules of the drill.

The Pacifist - In sparring this is the guy who runs backwards the whole time. A 300ft ring isn't big enough. In drills, it's the guy who aims to miss so you never learn to slip the punch

The Karate Guy - He's the one who can't accept his black belt in Nin Ten Do means nothing to you. After peppering him with clean shots for three minutes expect him to spend the break advising you of your technical errors. Usually a short dude.

The Wrathful Feminist - She's the one who is repaying centuries of patriarchy by hitting you as hard and often as possible knowing full well you'd feel bad about hitting her back

The Warrior - This is the guy who never ever taps. When you let him go (rather than break his arm) he reckons he escaped. He will also continually hit too hard in drills to "make it more real"

The Angry Chav - First ten seconds of light sparring is all tippety-tap. Then he gets frustrated, flips out, and starts bombing away. You cover up, tell him to calm down. Repeat the cycle.

The Biter - Somehow you always finish a sparring/rolling session with bites, scratchmarks and a thumb in the eye. You always know him: in wrestling he wears shoes. In kickboxing he has wafer-thin shinpads. And 10oz gloves.

The Superfoot - This is the spin-kick / jump-kick guy who refuses to throw a normal punch. He spends his time bouncing up and down between stances (hands by his sides), then falling over everytime his flash move fails.

Sorry these aren't especially funny.

Anonymous said...

"* Oprah's Book Club..."

Hey! I resemble that remark!

I'll have you know that I can keep a 145 bpm heartbeat for 45 minutes while reading the WSJ & the NYTimes.

No - I won't be challenging for the yellow jersey anytime soon, but I do burn ~300-400 cal. while digesting the daily fishwraps.

To me, that's good multitasking...



Adrem said...

I would be worth a fortune if I had a £ for every time I am either putting my togs away or taking them out, in a completely deserted changing room, even at an off-peak time, and in comes a guy who opens the very cubicle right next to mine and blocks access... and piles his stuff all over the bench.

And what of the Sauna Sods who lounge all over the upper tiers forcing one to huddle in a corner on the bottom bench. Or the Water Carrier who marches in stands by the door and then sprays water on the stove so that those on the top rung feel they are closing in on the sun.

Anonymous said...

What about the beginner at the gym who, granted, has a lot to do to get back to shape and feels like an alien...but ...silver lining ..personal trainer is a huge laugh so he can zap out mentally from all the iron men and women around him...?

A well encased muscle man said...

I confess to yet another, for others, annoying stereotype.

I am in lousy shape, probably because I hate going to the gym. Quite often, however, I find myself under intense persuasion from benevolent friends probably fearing that I drop dead from a major coronary before even learning to stretch properly. So I go to the gym for social survival reasons. Once there, I find every kind of excercise that does not involve a ball painfully monotonous. Therefore I use every opportunity to strike a conversation even with remote aquaintances that I would never waste a second on at any other venue. I change inte trining gear slowly, spend silly amounts of time at the water fountain, reading all the users guides for every piece of equipment to minimize the time I must suffer the gruesome boredom, fatigue and lack of stimuli that would appear had I ever had a proper work-out.

With that off my chest I feel much better. Now I will rest my fingers before I get a cramp.

Susan said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


goo said...

You forgot the Monica Seles wannabe. The boy/gal whose grunt is inversely proportional to the intensity of the exercise.

Dean said...

The Dropper - The guy who always has to drop the weights or machine loud enough to make a loud "clanking" sound so that the entire gym can look to see where the sound came from and then The Dropper feels good knowing that the entire gym now knows that he can lift heavy weights.

Macro Man said...

Ah yes, The Clanger. We have one who does supersets, and races back and forth across the gym, clanging and banging and dropping everything because he's going too fast to do a proper eccentric movement.

Macro Man said...

I forgot one other character: The Smelly Guy. You know, the guy who is always at the gym and stinks like he hasn't showered since 1987. It's always tempting to point this guy to the shower and ask him if he knows what it does....

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a recent AA Gill column:

"and men who worked in the financial-services sector and used to come in and prop the FT’s How to Spend It up on their cycles while gently pedalling the distance from Le Caprice to Harrods"