I call them the Gym Vultures. Myself and other gym members their reluctant prey.
They’re lurking in the corners every time I go to the fitness center. Waiting, watching, and then they pounce! Gym-birds of prey!
I never see them right away. They wait until they see me come onto the floor to begin my workout before they emerge from their shadowy nests. Naively I begin with the circuit training, and as I finish the reps on my first machine and head to the center for my reps on the step box, I see them in the mirror, positioning themselves in the semi-circle behind the equipment. The music plays for thirty seconds and then the recording instructs us: “Change machines. Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, go.”
Smoothly I work out on machines one and two, alternating with stepping, before moving on to the next machine. But I warily watch the birds of prey in the mirror as my thirty seconds on the stepper comes to a close, knowing these gym vultures have their timing down to a tee. Before my thirty seconds of stepping is completed, I spot her in the mirror, slithering away from the other vultures and laying claim to the number three piece of apparatus, the next machine I need to use on my circuit. And she darn well knows it’s the next in line machine I need. I am the only person doing the circuit training and she and the other gym vultures have been observing me for the past few minutes while they discuss their strategy.
She grins evilly as she begins her reps on the piece of equipment that is rightfully mine. But I disappoint her and avoid the confrontation that will satisfy her masochistic needs. I skip that machine and move on to the next one. I can backtrack to the missed machine later. I am careful not to become too smug that I have outfoxed her. I know she can fly across to the next machine I need while I dutifully take my thirty seconds on the stepper.
I finish my reps on the weight machine and return to the stepping bench. Dismayed, I watch in the mirror as two more cronies slink onto the circuit and take over the next two machines. Once more I am forced to take the next machine down the line, knowing I’ll add two more on to the ones I have to return to later.
Now I notice the backward vulture, the woman who is doing the circuit in reverse. She started with the number twelve machine and is working her way toward me, attempting the old squeeze play with her other vultures. We are set for a collision course on machine number seven. Who will get there first? Luckily I win that round, and she chooses instead one of the machines that I had to skip earlier. Using gym equipment is a tactical lesson in plotting, scheming, and mathematical abilities!
Then there’s Granny, the old buzzard who doesn’t stick with the rest of the pack. In her seventies, this sweet, old dear has no interest in chic attire worn by the other gym members. She marches to her own drummer, sporting a blue rinsed coiffed hairdo, white shoes, white pants, and pink shirt. She looks like she would be more comfortable at the lawn bowling club, but the exercise room full of young prey is more to her liking. She barely touches the gym equipment, preferring to stalk the perimeter of the room, readying her quarry in sight and plotting her strategic takeover of the equipment of her choice. Sometimes I see her holding a barbell with a two-pound weight, and sometimes I see her in the stretching area. But I never see her using any of the electronic equipment or joining an aerobics classes.
I watch the old buzzard slinking around, picking her next victim. Her bespectacled eyes spot a woman using a machine in the circuit training room. She hovers in front of the woman, glaring at her until the intimidated exerciser moves on to another piece of apparatus. Granny then sits down in the hastily vacated apparatus, adjusts the weights to the lowest poundage, and does a couple of reps as she keeps her prey in sight. The hapless woman has found another machine on the circuit and Granny springs into action, following her to that next machine for another stare down contest. I never hear her talk to anyone, but with that evil eye down pat, words are meaningless.
The roadrunners specialize in exercise classes where a limited amount of equipment dictates the size of the class. With one bike remaining and the spinning class about to start, two roadrunners challenge each other in a race across the gym. To the victor, an exhilarating workout. To the slower, a more interesting race keeping one step ahead of Buzzard Granny in the circuit training room.
The pheasants are the sneakiest birds around. They plan way ahead of the roadrunners, showing up in advance of a class to stake a claim on the limited apparatus, usually by draping a towel over it or balancing a water bottle in the holder. But the roadrunners and pheasants are fickle. They lose interest in classes and return to the electronic machines until the next exercise fad hits the gym.
The water fowl are the ones who bring small children into the pool during water aerobics classes even though the gym’s rules state participants must be at least 16 years old. The instructor does nothing to enforce the company policy and complaints to the management do no good. It’s tough to get in shape when a bunch of little kids are kicking water in your face and bumping into you.
Birds of a feather stick together. No more so than at the gym. It doesn’t matter if there are three cross trainers, five stairmasters, or ten treadmills. This flock will have secured every one of them.
Gym skulkers unite! Are you ready to pounce on your next victim?
Who else has run into birds of prey at the gym? Leave a comment below.