The Five Worst Types of People at your Gym

Exercise is the last thing they want to do at the gym

The Five Worst Types of People at your Gym

The fitness center industry has been in a growth cycle the last decade, with more than 61 million people a member of a fitness center. There are more than 36,000 fitness centers in the U.S. and they gross more than $26 billion annually. In those 36,000 fitness centers there is a melting pot of exercisers – from Yoga enthusiasts to body builders, cardio fanatics to no-body-fat HIIT acolytes. However, accompanying these fitness fans, there are those workout wannabes that constitute the worst five types of people you can see at your gym.

Does this mean they are bad people? Of course not. Many could be public servants, ministers, people who volunteer at the local food bank and drivers who wave you into heavy traffic.

So why are they such bad people to be around at the fitness center when you’re trying to get your sweat on?

First, because a gym is a great place to meet new people and for some members, that's the main reason they make the trip. Thirty percent of members admitted that they never actually break a sweat while they're at the gym because they're too busy chatting up others instead of focusing on their workout.

Second, for some, having a membership to a fitness center is about bragging to friends and family that you’ve joined a gym. Whether they actually work out once at the facility is sometimes irrelevant.

Third, good and bad people are sometimes rude. Sure, it’s so easy to assume that a healthy person that parks in a handicapped space is rude and selfish but – wait, actually, they are rude and selfish. But, at other times, rudeness has situational context. The person who is nice enough to tell you your tail light is out is the same person who parks in front of the drive-thru ATM and decides to clean out their glove compartment while five cars impatiently wait for their chance to reduce their wealth at the ATM.

So without further adieu, let’s dive into the five worst types of people you will meet at the gym.

Type # 1 The Performers

The Performers are typically young men whose workout routine is actually performance art. During their one-man show they will lift weights heavier than is advisable and generate sufficient clanging noise that others in the gym notice the Herculean amount of weight they are about to bench, press, lift or squat.

Performers often have an audio component to their performance with grunts that cascade throughout the fitness center even overwhelming the blaring music. When pushing up after reaching the low point of their squat, performers will often let out a battle cry as if they are engaged in a Games of Thrones battlefield.

On deadlifts, performers like to drop the weight just before they reach the low point of their hip hinge. On bench presses, they breath as if they are having contractions only two minutes apart.

And in case these tactics have not attracted attention, performers have their safety valve – sleeveless shirts.

While not all people who wear sleeveless shirts are “performers,” all performers wear sleeveless shirts, often a size too small just to punctuate their beefcake essence.

Type # 2 The Squatters

No, these aren’t people who love squats. Instead, they are people who camp out on a machine playing on their phone. These types can linger on a machine like an abduction machine for 15 or 20 minutes doing who-knows-what on their smartphone while occasionally actually performing a movement.

Any machine where they can sit like abs machines or even a rowing machine make for ideal camping spots for spending the requisite time at the gym. Once home, these people then discuss the intensity of their workout with oblivious family members who nod as a placating gesture.

One fitness center actually experimented with placing wifi-enabled cameras throughout the gym so people could login and see what their loved ones are doing – or not doing. While “The Performers” loved the concept because it broadened their audience base, “The Squatters” saw it as a betrayal of their privacy and being “outed” for their exclusive focus on smartphone exercises instead of physical exertion.

Type # 3 The Public Talkers

The first two types can engender bemused disapproval among people who actually exercise at a moderate to high level. “The Public Talkers,” however, transform disapproval into white-hot hate. These people talk on their phones through their entire exercise routine. Often their rest periods during sets can last for more than five minutes since their phone conversation dominates their mental and physical attention span.

It’s bad enough when you can hear one end of the conversation but some descend to the next level of “I don’t care about anyone else” narcissism. They turn on the speaker on their phone so now you can hear both ends of the conversation.

When you are ensnared in this hellish experience trying to force out one more upright row while the person next to you talks loudly on speaker to someone about how their back tattoo has several misspelled words, thoughts of a Games of Thrones-type beheading do slosh through your consciousness.

When you are forced to listen to these conversations, you then have two thoughts. First, do I sound as stupid as this person on the phone? Second, with so many pressing social and political issues we deal with daily, your conversational focus is a 40-minute blabfest over how some driver parked their car too close to your 2004 Mitsubishi Mirage at the local WalMart.

Type # 4 The Tag Team

This type employs two people to subvert the exercise norms in the fitness center. “The Tag Team” positions themselves at one piece of exercise equipment and while one person works out, the other stands close and talks to that person. Then they switch positions, moving from equipment to equipment. For true workout pros, a second person can spot for another, urging them to push through to more weight or reps. “The Tag Team,” however, just chats about car mats, the cost of a Rumba, pairing your wireless earbuds and other topics of significance.

The key to a successful workout routine is to keep the heart rate elevated and the “pump” in your muscles. “The Tag Team” ensures that their heart rate always returns to the same rate as a person watching Netflix and their muscle pump is more like a flat tire, constantly deflating as one person chats while the other exercises and then they switch.

Unlike people who have a workout routine, “The Tag Team” tends to wander around the fitness center picking out equipment based on the comfort of the seat.

Type # 5 The Hygiene Hijackers

In public spaces – especially one where many people use the same surfaces – hygiene is of the utmost importance. Fitness centers can rival day care centers for germ manufacturing prowess. So it’s key that when you visit a fitness center you aren’t attacked by the most wanted criminals of any gym – viruses and bacteria.

Therefore, cleaning equipment after use is the simplest way to keep members healthy at the gym. Unfortunately, “The Hygiene Hijackers” apparently believe in the “can’t see them, they’re not there” theory of germ control. These hygienically challenged people who work out do not clean off the machines they use. In fact, working out next to them and then cleaning off a machine in their viewing area doesn’t seem to connect with them. They can still sweat and dribble all over a weight bench and then walk away guilt-free. These people also litter public spaces like airports and toss fast food wrappers from their moving car because they think it’s someone else’s job to clean up in public areas.

The minority report

To be clear, most people hit the fitness center to work up a sweat, fine-tune a body part or build major muscle groups. And there are indeed additions to these five types that include “The January Joiners” who clog the gym throughout January but are invisible by March.

Circuit training is a style of workout where you cycle through several exercises (usually five to 10) targeting different muscle groups with minimal rest in between. It’s not uncommon for a person doing a circuit to use five or more pieces of equipment. So when the gym is crowded, an attempt to use a piece of equipment that interrupts their circuit can make you the recipient – at best – of an eye roll and disgusted exhale or – at worst -- an admonition that these five pieces of equipment are officially out of bounds for others to use until that person finishes their hour-long circuit training.


Inevitably, in any space deemed a public area like a fitness center, most people take care of the space, keep it clean and sanitary, observe basic rules of courtesy and use the space for actually working out.

Thankfully, the five worst types of people at the gym are a tiny minority of all the people who take the time to cultivate a healthy lifestyle.

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Frank Racioppi
See all posts by Frank Racioppi