May 20, 2020

Gym-Goers Have Ruined the Gym. Post-Lockdown, I’m Staying Well Away

Between those obsessed with their workout, and those obsessed with avoiding it, the gym has been spoiled. Exercising at home is in, writes Emer Moreau.

Emer MoreauSenior Editor
Dylan Furdyk for The University Times

A wise blonde woman once said: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”

Before my editors contact the guards, I haven’t decided to use this column to confess quarantine-related homicide. What quarantine has done to me is force me to reflect on the more important things in life – what truly matters to me in the midst of a global pandemic. What I cherish and value.

You know what I don’t value? The gym.


Being forced to live in near-lockdown has made me realise that I have, for so long, been blind to the absolute despicability of the fitness centre. Aside from the fact that, thanks to lockdown, I now consider physical exercise to be wildly overrated, I have relished no longer having to listen to stomach-curdling techno remixes of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. My quality of life has vastly improved now that I no longer have to wrestle with locker doors that don’t stay open in order to stuff my bag in. And I am enjoying – nay, thriving in – an environment with a notable absence of Gym Lads.

Before the meninists baulk, I firmly believe that the concept of the Gym Lad defies and transcends gender. Anyone can be a Gym Lad, and those who believe they are not Gym Lads are at the highest risk. The Gym Lad is a virus that feeds on deadlifts, and their presence infects and sickens those who just want to burn a few calories once a week.

Before the meninists baulk, I firmly believe that the concept of the Gym Lad defies and transcends gender

The Gym Lad, upon entering their natural habitat, wants you all to know that they have arrived. The Gym Lad is an unmissable presence, taking up as much space as physically possible and making enough noise to infiltrate even the most powerful noise-cancelling headphones. Heaven help you if you find yourself on a mat next to a Gym Lad in the free weights area. They will spread themselves out like a starfish on the mat, before clawing their way into your bubble of space, piling weights and bars around themself like a fortress, ready to topple over and KO anyone in the vicinity (you).

The Gym Lad makes it their mission to gather every single available weight available. And when it’s deadlift time, make no mistake: you will know about it. On finishing their grand total of two spectacular, eye-wateringly straining lifts, they will not carefully place their weights back on the rack. Oh, no. The Gym Lad will simply let go, letting the several dozen kilograms of metal drop to the ground in one swift fall leading to an ear-splitting THUD. The kind of thud you feel rattling in your bones. The kind that makes empty water bottles fall over. The kind that makes you run for cover. Bonus points if this thud is accompanied by a resounding “UNNNGGGHHHHHH” from the thudder – just in case we didn’t hear the thud or something.

But even those who have developed immunity to the Gym Lad are not safe. Even if you have developed a tolerance for dumbbell forts and “do you mind if we, like, split sets?” (Yes, I mind. Leave me alone) – your workout is not safe. For there is another equally parasitic infestation that plagues the modern gymnasium: the Anti-Gym Lad.

The jury is still out on whether the Anti-Gym Lad actually intends to do any sort of physical movement. They wander aimlessly, banging off equipment, knocking over water bottles staring down at their phone, floating from the changing room to the water fountain beside the free weights area to … the changing room again? Oh, my mistake – the Anti-Gym Lad is sitting on a machine staring at their phone. Gosh, they look so comfortable, don’t they? Scrolling through Facebook without a care in the world, perfectly poised on a machine that I WANT TO USE, PLEASE.

Being forced to live in near-lockdown has made me realise that I have, for so long, been blind to the absolute despicability of the fitness centre

When the Anti-Gym Lad is not making themself at home on the rowing machine, they are hogging all the 1.25kg weights (I’ll make it to 2.5kg someday…), as well as taking up precious mat space in a crowded free weights area. Space that could be better suited to someone a tad more focused. Such as, I don’t know … me?

The Anti-Gym Lad is a seasoned conversationalist, preying specifically on time-lean gym goers. You thought you could get in and out the door in 45 minutes? My friend, you have made the naive mistake of failing to factor in at least 20 minutes of listening to the Anti-Gym Lad’s assignment woes, or their thoughts on last night’s episode of The Great British Bake Off, or – and this hurts the most – how much exercise they just managed to get done before you showed up.

Reader, after six weeks of taking leisurely walks and doing slow, solitary yoga and calling it a workout, I have decided that when the gyms eventually re-open their doors, I will not be returning. I have realised that the Gym Lads and Anti-Gym Lads – as well as the perpetually broken lifts, the woeful, unfit-for-purpose lockers, and the water fountains which take aeons to fill up a bottle – are quite simply too much to bear. Some will say that the cushy life of lockdown lie-ins has weakened me, but I prefer to believe that it has strengthened me. Perhaps not physically, though.

Sign Up to Our Weekly Newsletters

Get The University Times into your inbox twice a week.