I’m Gonna Be F*#^@#’ ‘Uge!

For the past 13 years or so, up until this past March, we had a rather complete gym in our home, including a Bowflex machine with every attachment imaginable, a pair of Bowflex SelectTech 1090 dumbbells, three pairs of kettle bells of different weights, a TRX system, and various pieces of cardio equipment. It got exactly the amount of activity you’d expect a home gym to get, presenting, as it does, little to no motivation to actually get one’s otherwise sedentary ass down to the basement to use it.

Anne’s handiwork: Exhibit A

For more than 30 years prior, however, I’d been a committed gym rat. I was likely to be in the gym five or six days a week since, then as now, I just wasn’t ready to look my age. So, after my wife, Anne, designed the combination office/play room for me depicted in the photo to the left (and another below), built in the space formerly occupied by our home gym, I found myself a man with new-found motivation and no gym.

Anne’s handiwork: Exhibit B

The social interaction of a gym outside the home is as much an incentive to go there as the desire to not look one’s age. The gym is The Great Leveler. The people with whom one interacts there are as likely to be doctors as outlaw bikers, as likely to work in a print shop as they are to try cases in court. No one knows. No one cares. Everyone is there for the same reason — to get or to keep their otherwise sedentary asses in shape.

So, effective April 1st of this year (no fooling), I resumed my status as Inveterate Gym Rat. It felt like going home again.

I Adapt to All Life Forms

My return to regular gym status had another positive and, at times, humorous effect: It reminded me of the existence of one particular species of gym creature: The Weekend Warrior.

Ya can’t fly on one wing.

When most people think of weekend warriors, they think of those binge-drinking yahoos who — due to week-day nuisances like earning livings, taking care of families, being responsible adults, or some other such vexing obligations — indulge in Advanced Partying on the weekends to the point of puking, passing out, getting arrested, or otherwise embarrassing themselves and besmirching the remnants of their already sullied reputations.

But those aren’t the folks I’m talking about. The weekend warriors to whom I refer are akin to the people who go to church only on Christmas and Easter: Weekend warriors only show up in the gym on weekends. And they only exercise two body parts — ever. If they just show up on Saturday, they’ll do both body parts the same day. If they show up on Saturday and Sunday, they’ll do one of those body parts each day. Those body parts are chest and biceps.

Dude, Can Ya Spot Me?

One more rep, ya pencil!

The go-to exercise for weekend warriors, of course, is the bench press. Most of them will use a barbell. Some will use dumbbells, depending on which they think is more impressive. If they’re not too vain, they’ll use a flat bench and look at themselves in the mirror when they get up after each set. If they’re really vain, they’ll use an incline bench, so they can watch themselves do every rep. Then they’ll get up and look in the mirror some more. And they’ll always use more weight than they can handle.

They’ll usually follow up bench presses with another pressing exercise, barbell or dumbbell, depending on what they did first. Then they’ll move to dumbbell flyes because they think they’re supposed to. And their last exercise, typically, will be cable crossovers. That exercise gives them the opportunity to do two things: (1) Delude themselves into thinking they’re ripped and are bringing out their striations and vascularity. (2) Look in the mirror some more.

The Big Guns

When I started weight training at Trinity College in 1983, there was a five-foot-nothing Italian kid from New Jersey in the gym there named Vinnie Laurentino. Vinnie used to strut around the place like he had basketballs under his armpits saying, “I’m gonna be fuckin’ ‘uge!” And nothing says fuckin’ ‘uge like big guns. So, biceps are the second-favorite body part of weekend warriors everywhere.

Check out those pythons, man.

Most of them will start with barbell curls. They’ll throw enough weight on the bar to ensure the only way the weight’s going up is with a straining heave that will do nothing for their biceps. It will, however, be very effective at causing temporarily debilitating back spasms, if not permanently herniated discs. Then they’ll likely head for the dumbbell rack, from which they’ll carefully select the heaviest weights their hand strength will allow them to pick up. They’ll repeat the heaving motion from their barbell curls, only this time they’ll heave with one arm at a time, the better to inflict even more injurious torque on their already damaged backs.

Lastly, they’ll invariably hit the preacher bench. And they’ll just as invariably load so much weight on the bar that, while attempting to jerk it up to the contracted position, their feet will rocket off the floor, throwing them into a front flip. If they’re quick-thinking enough, they’ll go into a tuck, execute the flip perfectly, and land on their feet as if they intended to do all of what they just did. In reality, they’re more likely to fly awkwardly over the bench, land in a painful heap half-way across the gym, and compound the back injuries they’ve already incurred.

You’ve Got Male!

It may go without saying, but I won’t let it: The weekend warriors described in this story are of the male persuasion. That’s because males have two things in abundance that females don’t: testosterone and native stupidity, which are causally related in a very direct and very short chain of irrationality.

Because of testosterone, men — weekend warriors, in particular — imagine they have to be bigger and stronger than the next guy. And once the testosterone kicks in, stupidity makes men competitive enough to believe they can be. The rest, as they say, can be seen on Untold Stories of the ER.

It’s unlikely I’ll ever be fuckin’ ‘uge. It’s quite likely I’ll be stupid. But at least I’ll be healthy.

And now I have a really nice place to work and play.

Thank you, Anne.

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Trust yourself. Question everything. Settle for nothing. Conform to as little as possible. Write relentlessly. And never quit.

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Mark O'Brien

Mark O'Brien

Trust yourself. Question everything. Settle for nothing. Conform to as little as possible. Write relentlessly. And never quit.

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