The high cost of grunting

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A couple of years ago, the combination of quitting smoking and sitting on the couch with my new daughter began to take its toll. All of my size 36 pants started fitting tightly, my shirts were bulging out in the middle and...well, let's just say that, in the words of Dennis Miller, my belly button wasn't as close to my spine as I would have liked. I realized that it was time to start going to the gym.

I had never been a regular gym rat, so I was a little confused by the list of rules in my new domain. Some of them, like the requirement that I always bring a towel, made perfect sense. I also completely understood the rule against hurling barbells at mirrors and the request that we not hock loogies in the water fountain.

I was a little confused, however, by the requirement that we "minimize grunting." Wasn't grunting a natural response to lifting ridiculously large amounts of weight? Were there excessive grunters out there who were threatening the fate of the world? I became a little paranoid about my own grunting. After all, I was used to letting out a little groan from time to time. I didn't think that my grunting was excessive, but then again, most people don't mind their own sounds and smells. Afraid that I might be an offensive grunter, I resolved to lift weight with a minimum of sound.

When my gym closed for repairs, I had to visit the campus gym at my work. I soon discovered that, apart from the overcrowded conditions and the preening college students, the gym was also plagued by a dangerous and upsetting force: loud grunters. Suddenly, I completely understood the anti-grunting prejudice. Unlike me, these people weren't letting out soft little moans and groans when they lifted big pieces of metal. No, these guys were moaning like a manatee giving birth even when they were merely curling little bitty barbells. While there was a certain fascination involved with watching trim, healthy 20-year olds making sounds like dying hippos when they lifted five-pound weights, the novelty soon faded and I began to contemplate homicide. Luckily, my gym reopened very quickly.

I recently discovered that I'm not the only one who goes a little postal when he hears gym rats moaning orgasmically. In New York, Stuart Sugarman, a hedge-fund manager, was loudly groaning and encouraging himself with yells and shrieks during a spin class. After repeatedly telling Sugarman to stop, one of the other students, Christopher Carter, proceeded to ask the class instructor to deal with the groaner. When this tack also proved unsuccessful, Carter assaulted Sugarman with his bike. While Sugarman proceeded to work out for a further forty minutes, he subsequently claimed that the altercation had caused him massive injuries that had left him permanently incapacitated. Carter was later acquitted of all criminal charges and now faces a civil lawsuit from Sugarman. One may hope that, like the jury in the criminal lawsuit, the civil jury will also find that Sugarman was deserving of the righteous smiting that he received.

Apparently, the jury, like Carter, knows how irritating it can be to deal with a loud grunter. One wonders, however, how long it will be before Sugarman sues the gym for not telling him to stop making so much noise.

While I have to admit that there's a certain amount of humor involved in imagining two Wall Street gym rats coming to blows in a high-priced gym, the key issue here is pretty serious. Because of the raging testosterone and increased energy that is inherent in a gym setting, it seems like this is one of those places where a little courtesy goes a long way. In my neighborhood work-out center, which I have dubbed ThugGym, I've discovered the value of politely wiping off my sweat, gently asking my fellow gym rats if I can work in, and generally behaving like I'm not a barbarian. I've found that decent behavior begets decent behavior; like me, the rest of the people are careful to minimize the grunts and groans. Of course, if they don't, there's always the possibility of assault with a stationary bike...

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He can't lift a stationary bike. However, if there's a stationary pogo stick in the room, watch out!

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