We started going to a Planet Fitness gym about 6 months ago. We make it 4-6 days a week, early in the morning before I head to work. Most of the people there at the same time as us tend to be older people – like us. We’ve witnessed enough younger people though that I’ve noticed a stark difference between old and young at the gym.
Some definition is likely in order first. What do I mean by ‘older’ and ‘younger’? Here’s my qualification list, devoid of any rigorous or even mildly scientific thought or study:
You are probably an ‘old’ person, for the purpose of my observations, if several of these are true for you:
- You are middle-aged or older
- You are not attending school
- You are married
- You have a career, not just a job
- You have kids
- You have significant responsibilities at home, church, or with community organizations
- You are in bed by 10 most nights…or 9…or 8…
- You are up by 5 or 6 every morning, whether you want to or not, and without regard to how late you stayed up the night before
- You struggle to carve out time to go to the gym
In contrast, you qualify as a ‘young’ person, again for my purposes here alone, if several of these are true:
- You are in your teens or twenties
- You are in school – high school or college – or were recently
- You are single
- You still haven’t figured out what you want to “do” in life
- You don’t have kids – or if you do, you had them very young and have generous family who will watch them for long stretches of time
- You have little responsibility for anything other than yourself
- You either have a very irregular bedtime or you often stay out late
- You’d sleep til noon if left to your own devices
- You may claim to be busy but a trip to the gym is usually a multi-hour affair
Now I know that many people may say yes to multiple things in both lists, so just go with wherever the preponderance of evidence puts you. Or just read without putting yourself in a category first. This isn’t terribly important.
When old people go to the gym, we mean business. We’ve got a limited amount of time and are doing this for the sole reason of exercising our bodies. Or, if we are really old, maybe we’ve got plenty of time on our hands but the gym is a task that needs doing and there’s no point in dilly-dallying while at it.
We show up. We exercise. We go home.
If we go with a buddy, it’s to be held accountable in getting there and working hard. Conversation between buddies only really happens if it can be done while both are working hard. If we see someone we know, we wave and nod. At most, we say, “Good morning! How are you?” and respond equally briefly. There’s work to be done. We don’t need the delay and we certainly don’t want to be an annoyance to the other person and disrupt their schedule.
Some of us have earbuds or giant headphones on while we work out – more on the cardio machines than while moving through the weights, but many of us just accept the music playing over the loudspeakers. And we don’t spend much time fussing with it.
Young people, on the other hand, seem to treat the gym as a social event. Moving between weight machines with a buddy doesn’t involve each on a machine and then trading. No, it means one doing the machine while the other stands and talks. In the room with open spaces for mats, it means sitting side-by-side on the mats scrolling through phones and chatting for so long that the old person on the abs machine nearby starts to wonder why they are there.
If a young person is exercising alone (a rare sight, but it does happen), they will without doubt have earbuds in. Even the ones with friends likely do. But if alone, they will lift a few weights, spend a long period of time on their phone, do a few more reps, then more time on the phone. I’m not sure if that’s about changing the song or checking social media or just what. But it’s entirely too lackadaisical for me.
I think this is why my daughter can spend an hour and a half at the gym and barely break a sweat while I can soak through my clothes in just over a third of that time.
Speaking of clothes, old people are practical. Old T-shirts and shorts will suffice. Some will jazz it up but the clothes are still well suited for the task at hand. Really old people make some odd choices, wearing whatever is in their wardrobe, regardless of whether it could be construed as workout clothes or not (I’ve seen them in slacks before).
Young people, on the other hand, have a focus on looking good. Sometimes the outfits make sense, sometimes they don’t; but they always look good.
This post is another recovery from my drafts folder, by the way. It’s about a year old. It’s worth noting that while we still go to the gym, it’s not 4-6 days a week. It’s still early in the morning though.
And if you notice a drop in quality around the time I shifted from talking about the old people to talking about the young, that’s because the last sentence in the draft was “And we don’t spend much time fussing with it.” I think I was on a roll and really feeling it when I was first writing this. I obviously got interrupted because when I’ve got something that good going, I won’t usually stop. I’m not feeling as strongly about young people in the gym as I was back then so it’s a little hard for me to give the young people portion of the post as much pizzazz as it deserves.
And please don’t take anything in here very seriously. I know I’m indulging in stereotypes that probably wouldn’t hold up in any sort of rigorous study. But I think they are mostly harmless and hopefully at least a little bit funny. At least, I enjoyed rediscovering it enough to think it was worth sharing.