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Gym Woes

By Gary F. Zeolla

The following messages were posted on the Weightlifting Discussion Board.

You’re not going to believe this one!

The gym I have been working out at since May of last year does not have any place to sit down near the power racks. But, of course, us powerlifters need to be able to sit down between sets. It’s rather hard to put knee wraps on standing up!

There is a small stool in the gym I had been using, but someone always seems to want to use it for one reason or another while I am squatting. A while back, after I had done a heavy set with wraps on, I went to sit down to take them off, but the stool was gone! So I was standing there with the wraps “choking” my legs, yelling, “What happened to my stool?”

So after that workout I asked one of the employees at the gym if it would be okay for me to bring in a folding chair to sit on. He said I could, and told me when was done working out to store it out of the way, at the end of a hallway in the corner. That worked out fine, for about a week.

But then the janitor/ fix-it up person at the gym complained to me that the chair I brought in didn’t “look nice enough.” I thought he was joking. But I did tell him I could bring in a different chair if he wanted, but he didn’t respond.

A few days later, the janitor told me to put “that ugly chair” into a storeroom rather than in the corner. I told him I had thought of that, but I was afraid the storeroom would be locked when I needed the chair. But he told me that the door was never locked.

When I came in last Saturday (1/24/04) for next squat workout, I went to get the chair, and (you guessed it), the door was locked. The janitor was off, and it took me ten minutes to find someone with a key. So after my workout, I put the chair in the corner where I was told to put it in the first place.

When I came into the gym Monday for my next workout, the janitor started screaming at me to get that &%$#& ugly chair out of here. I told him to drop it already and started to walk away. Then he started screaming obscenities at me. I turned and yelled at him to stop swearing at me. He then shouted, “I’ve been working here twenty years; I’ll use whatever &%$#& language I want to use.”

I just walked away. The owner of the gym came in shortly afterwards, and I mentioned to him what happened. But I was so upset at the time I didn’t go into too many details, and he didn’t seem too interested in hearing them. So I just went ahead and tried to workout, but I had a hard time concentrating.

The next day, I was still upset about the whole situation. I simply do not appreciate having someone screaming obscenities at me, especially an employee at a business I am giving my business to. So I called the gym. I first talked to the assistance manager. She told me that the janitor was “famous for blowing up at people.” I retorted, “Then what is he still doing working there?” But she didn’t reply. She just told me to call later when the manager was there.

So I called later and talked to the manager. I told him quickly about what happened, but again, he didn’t seem interested in hearing any details. But what he did say was that it would be best if I were to find a new gym!

I was shocked. If I were an employer, and one of my customers told me that one of my employees was screaming obscenities at them, that employee would be immediately fired. But at least the manager said he would give me a pro-rated refund for the remainder of my membership as of the 1st of next month. So I figured I had a few days to find a new gym.

So I went ahead and went back to the same gym for my workout yesterday (Wednesday). When I got there the manager told me that if he had known I would be getting chalk on the floor and yelling during my workouts he would never have allowed me to workout there in the first place.

It was for just these reasons that I had left my previous gym and had come to this gym. So I had specifically asked about these issues before I joined to be sure they wouldn’t be a problem. And I was told they would not be. But the person I had talked to was just a “sales rep” and I gather now didn’t have the authority to say so.

Also, a while back I changed my technique so I don’t yell out like I used to. I now wear a mouthpiece while I lift and bite down on the mouthpiece rather than yelling out (without the mouthpiece, biting down hard would aggravate my TMJ problem).

But even with doing this, apparently it’s not good enough. And it is now obvious that the manager was using the problem with the janitor as an “excuse” to get rid of me. But still, I cannot believe that a business would keep an employee around who screams obscenities at customers.

In any case, there I was at the gym ready to put in a heavy DL workout, and the manager went on to say that he’d rather I didn’t workout or at least only went light as he had some bankers coming in, and he didn’t need me being “disruptive” by yelling.

I told him sorry, but I was there and I needed to put in a heavy workout. But I would try not to make too much noise. I wasn’t about to miss this workout as I was planning on using full gear for the first time since my contest in November.

So I went ahead and worked out and frankly didn’t really worry about how much noise I was making. And I am glad I did put in that workout. At my last contest I pulled 380, but yesterday I tripled 370 then singled 385 with strength to spare. I probably would have been good for 390 (Note, I weighed 118.4 yesterday morning and compete at 114s).

But now I know I cannot go back to that gym again, so I am looking for a new gym. There is a gym less than a mile from my home called D&M Fitness. The owner is a bodybuilder that worked out at the same gym as I did back in my high school and college lifting days. So I probably wouldn’t have problems working out there.

But the problem is, the gym doesn’t have a power rack or a decent squat rack. It does have a Smith-type of rack and a “step” squat rack. The latter is had to explain if you haven’t seen it, but the problem is, you need to walk about 3-4 large steps to get away from the racks, and the safeties are in a fixed position set too high for me. I wouldn’t be breaking parallel. So I wouldn’t be able to do squats there.

However, the owner did say he is planning on putting in a “power room” when he expands the gym, complete with a power rack and a deadlift platform. But that won’t be for at least a couple of months.

My only other option is the “Iron Pit” - a small, key-entry gym about 20 minutes from my home. I visited it once before, and it might do. The key entry part would be nice. I’d be able to workout anytime, 24/7. This would be really convenient.

However, with the gym being so small, and since I might be lifting at rather "odd" times, and with not even an attendant working at a front desk, there would probably be times when I am the only person in the gym. And this could be a problem on bench days and when I need to put full gear on. The gym also doesn't have any showers, just a small bathroom in the back.

However, the gym does have all of the “necessary” equipment: 2 power racks, 2 benches, an incline bench, a seated press station, a dip station, a few cable and other machines, and plenty of bars, weights, and dumbbells.

Also, I asked the owner of the gym when I visited it before if it would be okay if I brought in a folding chair, and he said it would be. So I am thinking this might be my best option, at least until the other gym puts in its power room.

But I can't seem to get a hold of the owner to sign up and get a key. I've been trying for three days and have talked to his wife but not him. I need to workout tomorrow, but right now I don’t have a place to workout at! I will be benching. So if cannot get a hold of the owner of the Iron Pit, I might be able to ask the owner of D&M Fitness if I can workout there for just one day.

But come Saturday I am planning on putting in a heavy squat workout with full gear. So again, I don’t want to miss it. Somehow I have got to have things worked out by then.

Needless to say, I am getting very frustrated. All I want is a powerlifter-friendly gym to workout at. Is that asking too much??


The owner of the Iron Pit, the small, key-entry gym I mentioned about, finally got back to me. And he said that he is not taking on any new members at this time, but he might do so in a couple of months. So that option is out for now.

I also double-checked D&M Fitness to see if there was some way I could use the squat rack there, but there simply is not way I can use it. Also, there are only four bars in the gym, and they are all terrible. There of them have basically no knurling, so I would have a very hard time holding on to my DLs. And the fourth bar has too much knurling. It would probably tear my skin off. I was told that when they set up the "power room" they will be getting new bars. But again, that won't be for at least a couple of months.

And to make it clear, I am no longer "welcome" at my old gym. And frankly, I'd rather not workout at a place that tolerates employees that scream obscenities at the members.

But I do have one last option that I had forgotten about, the local YMCA. I actually put in a trial workout at the Y almost three years ago when I first tried lifting weights again. I decided not to workout there as I didn't think it would work. But I double-checked it as well.

The weight room is very small, but it does have all of the basic equipment. However, it all rather old and not in too good of shape. The padding on the benches is ripped, and the cable machines don't work quite right. There is only one power rack, along with a "step" type of squat rack. But there are two benches, an incline bench, a press station, a dip station (but no dip belt), a couple of cable machines, and a combo leg extension./ leg curl machine. And it looks like they got in some new bars since I tried it out three years ago. There are now actually several good bars.

There is a full set of newer Nautilus equipment and cardio equipment in separate rooms at the Y, but you need to pay extra each month to use those rooms. I doubt I would use any of that equipment enough to justify the extra expense.

When I stopped by, there was someone working out I knew from high school. So I talked to him some. It sounds like that at the time I will probably be working at there is hardly anyone there. So I might still end up being the only person in the gym at times. But he also said that even when there are people there hardly anyone ever uses the power rack. So it might not be a problem with there only being one rack. But it does mean that I will probably be the only powerlifter there.

However, this Y did hold a bench press meet last spring. So there must be some people there who at least bench. However, I went to watch the contest, and it had the worst judging I had ever seen. No red lights were given for any lift that someone got up. But about a third of those lifts should have been red-lighted. In fact, the person who won outstanding lifter should have bombed out! So it seems that the benchers really don't know what they're doing.

Also, when I tried working out at the Y three years ago, I remember one problem I had was I couldn't find a flat space on the floor to deadlift. It seemed no matter where I set the bar it would roll away!

I was kind of looking forward to the key-entry possibility of lifting whenever I wanted to. However, the hours at the Y are somewhat limited. It closes rather early on Saturdays and Sundays and is closed altogether on Sundays in the summer, and of course, it is closed on all holidays.

But all of these problems aside, the Y is my last option. So I will have no choice but to work out there, at least until D&M Fitness sets up its power room. But at least the Y does have a couple of wooden boxes in the gym that I should be able to sit on. One even looked to be the right height to use for box squats. And I will probably just go ahead and buy my own dip belt and bring it in when I need it.

So the Y it is. I'll be heading there today (Friday) to put in a bench workout. But the real "test" will be tomorrow when I need to put in a heavy squat workout with full gear.

For a follow-up to the above posts, see Y Workouts - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Gym Woes. Copyright 2004 By Gary F. Zeolla.

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