GYM RATS

You may not have heard that term before; it is not a term of derision. It refers mainly to young men and now young women who spend inordinate amounts of time in a gymnasium. It was, at first, applied to men who played basketball without surcease. I was one of those people from the time I was 13 to the age of 19. In some of those years, I would play 7 hours a day, and then come home to a meal of a gallon of milk and a box of Nabisco chocolate chip cookies. I assure you that those days are gone.

Down here in adult Disneyworld, there are three gyms, called amenities centers. Yes, they do have restaurants, meeting halls, pools and suchlike, but the gym is the focus of the interest. I appear at the gym somewhere around 4 or 5 times a week. During my seven months here, I have become interested in some of the characters at play during exercise time.

I have become friendly with Jim (the other brother) Smothers. I name him because he really does know the Smothers Brothers and has been in their company a number of times. Jim has a wonderful smile and winning ways. He is way beyond helpful. At the moment when a new person comes into the gym, he is quick to say hello, answer questions and direct the people to the appropriate piece of apparatus. He is careful not to give out advice about physical training. He leaves that to the trainers.

The Virginian is an annoyance. I have been directed by my orthopedist that did my knee replacement to only use a stationary bike where you sit up and pedal. There is only one such bike in the gym that I go to. In another gym on the premises there are none and two at the furthest amenity center. So, I go to the one nearest me. No matter what time I get there, the Virginian is always there. He seems to be following me from my home and hops on the bike as soon as I get out of the locker room. He is a tall man with snow white hair and seems to enjoy the competition.

I call him the Virginian because he once remarked when I was wearing my Roanoke Colleg80 e hat that he was from that area. He was explicit about where his town was. As soon as he said it, I forgot everything that he said because I was signing in to ride the bike. One can only be 30 minutes on the bikes or treadmills. I am now doing serpentine driving to the gym (a la Peter Falk in the “In-laws”) in hopes that he is not following me.

There are as many women at the gym as men. Some are in pretty sad shape, as are some of the men. However some are really well conditioned and are serious about physical activity. My own wife swims 36 laps of the pool (½ mile) every other day. She does a few mile walk on the other days. I ran into a woman the other day that I will describe as, “The Pretzel.” As I was doing my own stretching exercises, she was lying down on the floor doing everything possible so that she could fit into someone’s suitcase. I have only seen such doings on the Ed Sullivan Show.

I have trouble describing how she can put her head down on the floor between her knees while bending over. Her hands extend way beyond her toes. She can do a split very easily. When I commented on her flexibility, she said that anyone can do what she was doing. I begged to differ with her. She then admitted that any gymnast could do it. Of course, she used to be a gymnast.

There are also men and women who can push fantastic weights, either with free weights or machines. I am now in the 60-80 lb. level on most of the machines. I have to be very careful when I get on to any machine because most of them are at 150-200 lbs. There are very few overly muscular men and women. For some reason, 60-80 year olds don’t seem to develop those kinds of muscle mass. However, most of the men and women don’t have batwings (figure that one out).

The locker room is always a good laugh. In it, you can find singers, tall tale tellers and men from where you come from. There are often great political discussions by men in towels. I tend to be fairly quiet there. Once in a great while I run into someone from Pennsylvania who knew where I had been a superintendent of schools. I actually met John B. there. He was a teacher in a district in Western Pa. where Carol and I had done some work. That’s a story for another time.

I am always anxious to get to the gym and even more enthused about finishing my one hour stint there.

 

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