I Am Not The Walrus.

I’m not sure a category exists in which to place this post.

I have a question. A delicate, ticklish question which nevertheless, sweet readers, I place before you this afternoon:

WHY OH WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT’S HOLY DO MEN HAVE TO MAKE SEX NOISES AT THE GYM?

I’m sure not all men do it (the sex noises at the gym thing, that is). Some are exemplars of stoical quietude. Others, like me, opt for the martial-arts-movie noises when they feel the need to make a noise at all – you know, the ones that go “Hahhh!” or “Hunkh” or “Eeeeyaarrgh!” – just some intentional-sounding vaguely word-like utterance of effort.

Not the guy who was in there yesterday. Ohhh, no. I could hear him clean down the stairs at the reception desk, and the urgency with which he was expressing himself made me linger a few minutes longer warming up on the cross-trainer in hopes that whatever was going on in the free weights room would be finished by the time I got there. It sounded as if it might involve a bull walrus.

Alas for my hopes. When I sauntered in, carrying my water bottle and nonchalantly pulling on my gloves, the Walrussing was still going strong. I selected a modest 8kg dumbbell and started doing one of my exercises, called (unfortunately for my state of mind) a one-arm snatch. Walrus Boy was doing bench presses with a very heavy-looking barful of weights, and every time he pressed the bar, he vocalised. Not just “Uugggh” or “Aaaagh” but a drawn-out, throaty moan of agonised effort that made you fear for his blood vessels.

I kept a straight face by concentrating sternly first on the floor between my feet when I squatted to pick up the dumbbell, then switching my attention to a pigeon trying to land on the windowsill outside as I lifted the weight above my head like a bad-ass Statue of Liberty. Floor. Pigeon. Floor. Pigeon. Floor. Pigeon. “Ooouuuuuunnnnggghuurrrh!” Dear God. Floorpigeonfloorpigeonfloorpigeon.

Thankfully Walrus Boy went off to do something a modicum less strenuous, and I moved over to the big bench-pressy machine. I’m sure it has a name, but I just think of it as the big bench-pressy machine thing. I removed all the weights but one (yeah, yeah, I know), and set the bench flat, and lay down underneath the bar to do my bench presses. So far so fine and dandy, though I have to tell you that as the sole female in the room, lying flat on your back on a bench with your legs apart staring at the ceiling does rather bring on delivery-room flashbacks. I did my reps, then looked at the sheet of paper I was toting around. Next item: incline bench presses. Now, I knew this one. Same thing, but with the bench raised so you’re sitting laid back as if in a Laz-e-Boy recliner to lift the weights. I adjusted the bench back (oddly like adjusting the height of an old-style ironing-board, by the way), and looked at the machine. If I slid under the weight bar where it was now, I’d strangle myself; it obviously needed to slide back a bit. But how far? Where was the optimum placement for incline bench presses?

Now, see, this was the point at which it would have been smart of me to go and find Jez or Eddy or Kay or anybody else who was on the staff. Instead I turned to the two young guys next to me, who were deep in a serious conversation about the best way to yank a doodle or crush a grape or something, and said, “‘Scuse me guys, could you tell me how far back this needs to be for an incline bench press?”

They were helpful. They pushed the bench back a touch, then suggested I get under the bar so they could see if it was in the right place. I obliged, and they stared hard at my upper body for several long, long seconds before saying, “Yeah, that looks… about right.”

Ack! I just practically invited two young blokes I don’t know from Adam to gaze at my boobs! Oh, the shame! At least I was wearing the Bra Of Steel (TM).

More exercises, this time in front of the mirror with a free weight bar. Hang cleans, which just sound hardcore (to me, anyway), and overhead presses. I was just coming to the end of my cycle of exercises when Walrus Boy started again, only this time, he was really going for it. Even my grape-crushing pals looked over. He was doing something painful and repetitive with a dumbbell, and in what seemed to my fevered ears at least to be an accelerating rhythm.

I downed the last of my water and fled. Next time I’m bringing my MP3.

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