Tuesday, April 7, 2009
I have always found the gym to be an absolutely fascinating place for people watching - it is unnatural to put human beings of all ages, shapes and sizes in a small space, make them frantically exercise and watch them turn all shades of red while they carefully avoid looking at each other.
As my "February Fitness" burst is still going strong, I have had plenty of opportunities to observe some of the differences between gyms in New York and the ones in London and so far have identified three of them.
1. An unsettling amount of public nudity in the Ladies locker room
I am no prude but I consider it normal that, after having a shower at the gym, one should try to remain covered under towels while discreetly changing back into clothes. It does involve some amount of contortion and dexterity but it is feasible. However, training in the art of not unecessarily exposing one's private parts is not evident here at all.
I have not seen so many naked women since I went to the famous Gellert Baths in Budapest - an experience I found so traumatic at the time that I only lasted 20 minutes in there ... There was only a limited number of times I could deal with rather mature ladies insisting on bending over to pick up seemingly invisible objects from the floor!?!
I am getting slowly used to NYC women's lack of self-consciousness and their general disposition for doing as much as they can completely stark naked - be it leisurely walking around the locker room, chatting to each other for ages or even drying their hair and applying make-up! In fact, I applaud them for that ... but won't be joining them anytime soon!
2. Male bonding
I hate going to the gym when it is packed so I have taken to exercising early Friday evenings, which has lead me to another observation. This particular time slot seems to be the primary setting to the new phenomenon of "man dates". Throngs of men invade the gym at that time and it is endearing, albeit highly amusing, to see them exercising on the weight machines in pairs, coaching and encouraging each other while slyly comparing muscle size. My personal theory though is that they are merely "pumping up" before going out on the pull ...
3. Halfhearted exercising
And finally, I have also been shocked at the number of people who exercise with a Starbucks coffee in one hand and a cell phone in the other. As usual, New Yorkers are uniquely masterful at multi-tasking.