Second Wind

Second Wind
"Run With Purpose!"

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Gym etiquette? (aka an ode to Rex and the Lifter's Club)

So in the last post I asked you to consider several things:

what type of workout environment do you like?  What do you think of when you think of personal trainers?  How about Yoga teachers?  Drill Sergeants?
What do you feel like when you just beat a PR, or finish a tough workout?

So, what did you come up with?  Obviously this is largely opinion based with some people having very staunch opinions on either side.  However, this blog is also largely opinion based (shocking, isn't it?) and so for this purpose you have to listen to mine ;)

Have you ever heard the phrase "Gym etiquette"?  What does that mean to you?
To me it means you shouldn't be a jerk or a tool, you shouldn't act like you're on a movie set, and you should re-rack all the weights you use (that last one being the most important).
However, it would appear that I'm just down right caveman like (*queue Tim the Tool Man laugh*) in that thinking.  Evidently, the top 10 rules for gyms now are:

  1. "shirts required at all times", 
  2. "don't drop any weights", 
  3. "when you clean and jerk that new max out and give it everything you have we need you to gingerly place the bar back, carefully, and quietly on the ground", 
  4. "No yelling"
  5. "No 'wooping'"
  6. "No grunting because the weight is too heavy"
  7. "No yelling/growling as you push through that last rep"
  8. "No encouraging your partner to push through their last rep"
  9. "Mind your own business"
  10. "don't interact with, talk to, or certainly not encourage anyone else who is working out"

which can all be summarized as: "don't push yourself too hard where it would require maximum exertion or where the euphoria of success would ever be present so that you can be completely void of any and all excitement or emotion whatsoever."

Bovine stool.

I grew up at a gym called the Lifter's Club.  The Lifter's Club was in Oak Ridge, TN and run by a guy named Rex (yep), the assistant manager (if you can call him that) was Taz, the gym's symbol was a completely illegal rip off of the Tazmanian Devil from the looney tunes, and the mascot was usually a english bulldog ("LC"), but at one point there was also a pet pig.  Rex was, well... picture the biggest, hugest steroid dude you can think of.  And then double it.

The gym was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, but rarely had anyone on staff present.  There were no membership cards, no key fobs, no security system, no cameras.  And you know how often things got stolen from there?  Never.  Not once.  Ever.  Because everyone knew that you don't steal from a bunch of guys who can benchpress that little Toyota Hybrid you drive.

The guys would cheer each other on no matter what they were doing.  If you had never been at the gym before and were trying a 1RMax of 100 pounds on the benchpress, the guy who was doing reps at 600 (and no I'm not making that number up) would rack his weight so that he could come over encourage you - by screaming at you "Come on!  COME ON!  You can do it, don't drop that weight, push, Push, PUSH!   Then when you did it, people four doors down would know because everyone would scream and grunt for you.  When a clean and jerk was finished, you dropped the bar and the weights.  Why?  Because you were excited beyond belief?  Yes.  But also because, in that gym, if you did it right, you could no longer lift a finger after that rep - Rex use to to say something along the lines of, if you did it right, then if Carmen Electra were standing in front of you... asking (I'm paraphrasing there...) you to do one more rep you couldn't do it.  And the weights weren't rubber then either.  They were cast iron.  And I don't know if you're aware, but 45 pound cast iron plates banging together are a body builders mating call.

The Lifter's Club had all kinds of other fantastic memories (Rex's girlfriends - all of whom could beat you up, the refrigerator out in the middle of the gym with the logging chain padlocked around it, the fact that there wasn't a single working treadmill in the whole place, that the complex science derived workout schedules were "do legs one day, then arms the next day, then whole body, then repeat", etc. etc. etc.).  You know what it was?  It was a gym.  A single purpose, band of brothers (and sisters) workout Mecca.

In my opinion, if you can't get excited about it, if you can see someone struggling to get a weight up by their self and just turn your earbuds up and turn away, if you can hit a new 1 rep max and quietly re-rack the weight, jot the number down on your iPhone and casually walk to the next machine - You Aren't Doing It Right!  Show some EMOTION, show some pride, get Excited, get pumped up - LOVE IT!


  1. I really hate the "No grunting" movement. It's so hard to find a real gym.

  2. I miss the Lifter's Club sooooooo much! It was a very motivating place to workout. The two that Oak Ridge has now are pretty but they are not real gyms! And for the reasons you mention! Thanks for your ode to Rex.

  3. Bizarre. I just did a search and the Lifter's Club is still listed as being at 101 Jefferson Avenue. The directories give a phone number. Rex died, at age 44 in 2003 and there is an online obituary.

  4. Didn't know rex passed , used to be his roommate in the nineties does anybody know what happened