Column: Gym for Dummies

I learned pretty quickly that the local community center gym is not particularly geared to older folks. The lighter free weights (I know them as dumbbells, but that’s probably politically incorrect. They’re probably ‘special’ bells or mentally challenged bells) are practically non-existent. If you have arthritis and only need a two- or three- pound weight, it’s nearly impossible to find some. There are, however, an abundance of 20, 30 and 50 lb. weights.

And if you’re looking for free senior-friendly exercise advice, fuggedaboutit. At least in my gym. Just like the recent news that women are less likely to be taken seriously by their family doctors than are men, the same applies to seniors and gym staff. When I recently approached one of the “trainers” and asked her what the “military press” exercise means, she looked at me like I was from Uranus. I quickly said “never mind” and googled it.

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Which brings me to a truly hilarious, but sad reality: people under the age of 30, almost without exception (in my gym, at least), cannot be without their smartphones. EVER. They’re texting or googling or tweeting while on the Stairmaster, the Cross Trainer, and the recumbent bikes. In between sit-ups they’re checking their phones. While resting between sets of weightlifting, they’re glued to their phones. It’s as though they feel that they can’t turn their backs on the Internet for one second. Or the world might spin off its axis. Or they might miss a tweet by Justin Bieber. Or Rihanna. Or whoever. Normally, I’d just acknowledge the idiocy of it and move on. But I happened to want to use a certain piece of gym equipment the other day. And there was this twenty-something woman sitting there texting and staring at her smartphone between sets, as if she’d just discovered the Holy Grail.

For those of you who don’t go to the gym, the term “set” usually refers to the minute or so between cycles of repetitions that you complete on a piece of equipment. It does not mean five tweets, seven Facebook ‘likes’ and a few dozen texts. After showing off my politeness and gently asking the young woman if she was finished with that piece of equipment, she replied: “No, I have two more sets.” Which, in any normal universe would equate to four minutes max. Long story short, I could have done my taxes in the time it took her to consult her phone, consult it some more, do a set, repeat. I was not a happy camper. When she finally vacated the equipment, she looked at me as though I’d just violated her designer Labradoodle.

Am I missing something? Is there information so mind-numbingly urgent that if I ignore my smartphone for the time it takes to do my workout, life as I know it will end? I think not. It’s definitely a generational thing. I rarely see sixty-somethings running on the treadmill while clutching their smartphones as if their life depended on it. Make that never. I didn’t plan to rant, but this one was a freebie I just couldn’t pass up.

I feel like asking the gym attendant to turn off the music and TVs, order everyone to remove their headphones and earpieces, and then confiscate all the smartphones. Then I would stand up and loudly announce that there’s a gorgeous rainbow outside and that people might want to stop and take a  look. Think anyone would?

Life is precious. Don’t spend it staring at your phone.

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