The heady brew of humankind at the gym | Jack Marshall’s column

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Community leisure centre gyms are awe-inspiring environments for the simple reason that nowhere else will you encounter such a broad spectrum of society all engaged in what is often a pretty personal endeavor in such close confines. And it’s here, amidst the broken treadmills and mismatched dumbbells, that you’ll find the real heady brew of humankind.

Look beyond the squat racks and medicine balls at my gym and you’ll see a roiling menagerie of different Gym Folks. They come in all shapes and sizes, ages, and dispositions, from wafer-thin treadmill-addicts pounding out the miles in a haze of clicking knee joints, to barrel-thick iron-shifters, all grunts, bared teeth, and corrugated vein patterns.

There are the Good’uns. The stolid old man who mounts an exercise bike, head bowed low as he pedals away steadily until he’s dripping medically frightful volumes of sweat. The peaceful-but-concrete-strong women doing yoga alongside the walkers climbing invisible hills on inclined treadmills whilst, somewhat nonsensically, holding onto the handles.

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There are the Pros. The weekend rugby league player with a back like a fridge who throws the 30kg dumbbells about like balloons. The sunburned triathlete painstakingly arching through his meticulous stretching routine whilst ensuring that you see his Ironman tattoo with every pose. The scarily powerful callisthenics dude who’s probably quietly the fittest person in there.

A weightlifter (shame gym outfits like this have gone out of fashion)A weightlifter (shame gym outfits like this have gone out of fashion)
A weightlifter (shame gym outfits like this have gone out of fashion)

There are the Harmlesses. The peppy gym buddies who probably order too many chicken donner kebabs of a weekend to ever see the abs they’re determined to obtain (guilty). The slightly more gruff but equally friendly vest-sporting tradies, who offset imposing tree-trunk arms with shorts that are too big for them. The kids in football shirts.

But then there are the Bad’uns. The boisterous young lads who grunt on their fourth rep, drop their weights loudly, and prowl about like perspiring peacocks. The lean bloke with unnervingly intense eyes and a predilection for doing slow bicep curls with the hem of his t-shirt in his mouth so he can see his tensed abs. The psychopath who works out in jeans.

In no other setting would these people congregate, but here they are, at the gym together. And God bless it, because somehow it all just works.

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