Monday, March 28, 2011

Observations from the Gym

  1. So very uncool: undergraduate boys who will hog not one but two pieces of equipment. They seem to all be on a training regimen that requires waiting approximately ten minutes between sets. And then they will be using two pieces of equipment while waiting between their sets. And if you try to use one of their pieces of equipment they will be all, "I'm using that." So if you then move over to the other piece of equipment and try to use that, they'll be all, "I'm using that, too," and will continue to just stand around. Since I am nearly twice their age, and they will not beat up old ladies in the gym, I just give them a befuddled look and say, "I'll just work in a set while you're using [the other piece of equipment.]"

  2. Now I will preemptively ask, in my teacher voice, "Are you using this?" Unfortunately, it has been such a long time since I have taught normal-sized classes of courses that boys take*, I can not ask, "Are you using this, William?" Sometimes they do not know me (or pretend not to know me) and just say, "No ma'am." Sometimes they do know me and say, "No ma'am. Sorry, Dr. Hirta."

  3. I need to figure out at what point I can switch from using the Smith machine (counter-weighted) for squats to using just the 20kg bar (unassisted). I'm now up to the point where I can do 55 pounds (net -- bar counterweighted by the machine and 55 pounds of plates added to it). I'm thinking that I might give it a try when I can do 60 pounds reasonably well.

  4. The gym only has 20kg olympic bars. There are no 15kg women's bars.

  5. Is this just a demand issue? Or is it a chicken-and-egg situation. On one of the lat machines, if you are shorter than 5'7", you can't reach the bar to pull down unless you climb up on the machine. There is a lot of equipment that you can't use at all unless you are taller than I am and/or stronger than I am. For example, the one-rep max (in kg) for squats for an untrained woman my size is roughly 20kg.

  6. Oh, you certainly can guess that I emailed the director of the fitness facility asking them to buy a 15kg bar, noting that this would allow their facility to serve a greater diversity of patrons.

  7. And yet, I can definitely see the motivation behind their purchasing decisions. Every time I go to the gym, the cardio area is over 95% female and the weights area is well over 95% male. Frequently I am the only woman in the weights area. I would not be surprised if some dude who is 6'4" found that the cardio machines were designed for people under 5'8" or somesuch.

  8. Random musing: Keep in mind that this is "Hoi Polloi Fitness" and not the gym for the athletes. Everyone at the gym is nobody special to the athletic department. The number of guys who I see at the gym who are really big is surprisingly large, given the size of the non-athlete population that they are drawn from. I would be seriously shocked if it turned out that none of them were using steroids. Combine this conjecture with the observation that the cardio area is dominated by women, and I wonder to what extent these choices contribute to the population-level statistics that men suffer from heart disease more than women (or at least at an earlier age).

  9. At the gym they are having a towel shortage. They provide towels, and people steal them. After my workout I stopped at the fitness desk to share with them my idea on how to reduce the number of towels stolen. The desk worker cut me off, noting that they have tried everything. I interrupted her to ask if they'd tried buying pink towels. They hadn't. She loved the idea and promised to tell her supervisor.


*The lower the course number in math, the greater proportion of female students. This is statistically significant.