Wilton Warrior Words: People watching at the gym

When it comes to exercise, I prefer to be a spectator rather than a participant. I put in my time when I was younger, playing just about every sport I could: soccer, lacrosse, tennis, and the list goes on. After my sophomore year of high school, I realized that, as lazy as I may seem, I would much rather spend my Saturdays watching football than waking up at 6:30 for field hockey practice. I guess I just wasn’t cut out to be an athlete.

On the rare occasion that I feel like exercising  (usually after my friends and I feast at The Cheesecake Factory or Shake Shack), I head over to L.A. Fitness and hop on the StairMaster for as long as my legs will allow. Since midterms week, I’ve been visiting the gym more frequently, mostly as a means of procrastination. I could either study calculus or go work out; I didn’t really want to do either, but, if you can believe it, the gym was more appealing. L.A. Fitness has the StairMasters in the back corner, providing the perfect vantage point from which to people watch. After hours of mastering stairs, I’ve developed a system of categorization for gym-goers.

First are the die-hards, who are in a routine of going to the gym at the same time and doing the same workout every day. They can usually be seen reading while exercising, an art form which I have tried (and failed) to master. Anyone who knows my mom can tell you that she belongs in this category. By the time I wake up for school at 6:30, she has already been to the gym for an hour and walked the dogs. How (and why) she does this is a mystery to me. Obviously, I didn’t inherit her motivation to exercise.

The second group is comprised of glamorous gym-goers: those who get dolled up in their fancy workout clothes. Personally, I’m an old shorts and T-shirt kind of girl. It makes me laugh to see people walking around L.A. Fitness decked out in Lululemon, knowing that their outfits cost more than an annual gym membership. I’ll admit that I own a pair of their leggings, and I know that they’re intended for exercise, but to me there’s just something weird about wearing a $100 tank top to the gym. These are the people who go to the gym to see and be seen, and are usually found walking “briskly” on the treadmill or reading a magazine while reclining on the stationary bike.

Next are the hardcore athletes: the bodybuilders with muscles busting out of their shirts. I find this category rather intimidating. I can’t help but feel that they’re always judging me as they walk by my machine and see how I struggle to keep up with the pace. Most of the time these musclemen stay in the weight-lifting section, which I rarely visit simply because I don’t know how to use any of the machines.

Finally, the category to which I belong: the average Joes of the gym. We’re certainly not the most athletic, but at least we’re making an effort to exercise. This category is definitely the broadest, including everyone from high school sports dropouts (like myself) to New Year’s resolution-keepers to elderly people trying to stay fit. I’m exhausted just from all this writing about exercise. I could head to the gym, but for now I think I’ll go downstairs to the kitchen and eat a cookie instead.

Jillian Finkelstein is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with four classmates.