The One Thing You Don’t Want to See at the Gym

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I’m at the gym and trying to power through my last set on the bench press. I’d almost hit muscle failure on the last set, so this one needed some extra motivation.

I browse through my music on iTunes to pick something good out. Scroll past Kanye, Outkast, Eminem, none of them feel right. Billy Joel, Seal. Moves Like Jagger by Maroon Five. None of them are doing it for me. Finally I get to the one.

Enter Sandman by Metallica. Let’s do this.

I’m a Virginia Tech grad, and for you non-sports fans, the VT football team uses this as their entrance music. They stole it from Mariano Rivera, one of my top five favorite baseball players of all time, who used it as his entrance music first. Once the opening riff hits, it’s like I was hit by an electric current coursing through my veins.  I’m getting into the song, almost forgetting about the set. I’m stalking around, smacking the punching bag in the corner, hitting stuff. I’m jumping up and down a little bit, bouncing around. This next set is IN FOR IT.

The first verse kicks in. “SAY YOUR PRAYERS/LITTLE ONE/DON’T FORGET MY SON/TO INCLUDE EVERYOOOOOONE.” I feel bad for these weights, for how bad I’m going to destroy them right now. I’m seriously hoping they don’t have a weight family somewhere, and if they do they need to get their affairs in order. Make arrangements at the iron funeral home.

I lay down on the bench. Doesn’t matter how hard I worked before or how tired I am. All that has evaporated now. I am doing at least 12 reps and then working to failure after that. I get my hands into position. My feet are flat on the floor. I’m ready to push the bar upwards and make a killing. Nothing can stop me now, nothing can break my focus….

…except for the small, elderly Asian woman, doing tai chi right next to me.

After I’d readied myself, she caught my eye. Now all the work I’d done before that to get myself ready for this? Gone. How am I supposed to stay pumped after that? Of all the activities Enter Sandman would make a good soundtrack to – car chase, bar fight, having a real life 5 star crime spree with the police and FBI on your tail a la Grand Theft Auto – the one thing that definitely doesn’t make sense to watch while you listen to it is an old lady moving her arms around like a bird moving through molasses.

She was right in the middle of two weight benches, by the way. My gym has multiple open areas where you can do tai chi comfortably. This wasn’t a convenient spot for her to do it. It’s almost like she saw me getting a little too pumped and decided I needed to cool off. “I have a weird sixth sense about when people are listening to Metallica at the gym. You need to chill. Have you heard of Seals and Croft?”

After a moment of annoyance though, the juxtaposition of this woman regulating her breathing while doing slow, fluid movements set to Metallica’s Enter Sandman made me laugh. I almost told her about it and asked if she wanted to listen to it to see what I was talking about. Looking back, I should have. What possibly could have happened? Maybe she would have nodded her head politely at first, but then gotten into it. Her eyes go wide. Her biceps and neck muscles start bulging. “Throw some more iron on that bitch!” she yells as I follow the orders of the gym’s new alpha male. She lays down and does 30 reps without breaking a sweat. She’s singing along. “EEEEEENTER NIIIIIIIGHT.” She puts 100 more pounds on there, then starts doing weird grunts. “NOT ENOUGH. I NEED MORE.” She breaks the bar in half and starts eating it. Through a bloody mouth she yells at me, “Fuck tai chi, you wanna go do some blow?”

After I stopped laughing I went for another set. I made it to 8 before I crapped out. I’m going to try again on Saturday and hope she isn’t there.

Speaking of solid workout tips, subscribing to my email list will get you none of those.

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