I Went To A Normal Gym (And it made me want to cry…)


You get spoiled training clients at a private studio. You forget what it’s like out there in the great, wild, no-one-has-a-clue world of normal membership gyms. It’s a bit like going from first chair violin with the royal philharmonic to playing Oasis covers in a pub with a bunch of alcoholic cretins.

But it’s good for you to get out there and see what the general public are doing. It keeps you grounded. Alarmed, but grounded…

Here’s what I learned on a recent trip to <HUGE NATIONAL GYM CHAIN WHOSE NAME WE DELETED SO THEY DON’T SUE>…

1- Disgusting Form – First off, we’re not hating. Everyone has to start somewhere and we all had poor form to begin with. Many of our clients come to us with the coordination of a newborn foal on an icy lake and leave lifting like experts. This stuff takes time. But dear god, the horrible contortions you see performed on the average gym floor are enough to make you weep.

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I’ve seen squats that looked like the guy was trying to push his spine out of his back like something from a Predator movie. It would be fine if they were willing to learn, but these same guys treat training advice like the offer of a warm cup of urine.

On the other hand, who can blame them when there’s always…

2- That Dude (and it’s always a dude) Who Insists on Giving Advice (and it’s always bad) – Every gym has at least one. He will spend most of his session walking about with his chest proud and arms flexed despite a lack of discernible muscle mass, scanning for targets like a Terminator with a wasting disease. He will approach you from behind and make it clear you’re “doing it wrong”. You won’t be, because you know what you’re doing, or at least you know more than him. You just had the bad luck of being in his eye-line or, more likely, being female. This is why you wear headphones at the gym. Even if you’re not listening to music. That way you can either ignore him, pretending not to hear, or if he persists (he will), make a huge palaver of taking them out. If he has an ounce of self awareness he’ll pick up on your cues before you have to resort to pepper spray or shrieking.

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3- The Pec and Bicep Brigade – There are three or four of them. They’re there every day for about three hours at a time. Their workout involves having a freewheeling discussion at approximately 10,000 decibels about recent female conquests, punctuated by maybe five  sets of bench presses and bicep curls. They will however, take up the coveted bench press and preacher curl stations for the duration. Yes, you could avoid them by training legs that day (they certainly won’t be), the trouble is they do this every day.

4- The Naked Old Man Who Who Insists On Putting One Foot on the Bench Right in Front of my Locker to Spray Himself With Lynx – Seriously, why is always in front of my locker, specifically?

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5- Pestering Personal Trainers – We have been these guys, so we aren’t hating on them personally. It’s hard at the start and pressure to get new clients is murder. But there’s a right way and a wrong way.

The Right Way – Spot someone who looks a little lost. Offer them a simple, self-contained piece of advice, maybe showing them how to use a particular piece of kit or offering a tip. Walk away.

The Wrong Way – Approach the nearest human with no regard for their body language or whether or not they look like they know what they’re doing and, with wild desperation in your eyes, launch into a lecture about how they’ll never get results unless they buy ten sessions from you. It’s just sad and embarrassing for everyone involved. In short: Read the room.

6- Functional Idiots – Say it with me; This is not a Crossfit box in Utah, or a vast American college weight room. It’s a basement in Catford. If you throw a medicine ball at the wall here it will punch through into the neighbouring kebab shop. Your ‘functional crawl patterns’ along the only floor space are making the whole room plot your murder. Just stop it. Have some spacial awareness, some consideration for your fellow members and go back to grunting out sets of bicep curls in front of the mirror like the rest of us dysfunctional jerks.

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Word by Zack Cahill


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