I read your column about the man and his problems at his gym, and it reminded me of something I've long wondered about my gym: Why do I, a 27-year-old woman, seem to get unsolicited advice from men while working out? I work out three times a week. I've taken weight-lifting classes and worked with a personal trainer, so I know what I'm doing. Yet, twice in the past month, men (usually older men, in the 40-50 range) have either interrupted my set or stopped me between sets to "give me tips" or "show me how to use the machine." The first time, I was very clear: "Thanks, but I don't need help." And it seemed to offend the man, who put his hands up as if under arrest. The second time, I let the man finish. Both times I wanted to say, "If I were a man in his mid-20s, would you still be giving me advice?" But I bit my tongue. I realize these men are probably meaning to be nice, but their behavior is somewhat patronizing, if not a bit sexist. So, should I keep my mouth shut?
Looking for the Answer to a Weighty Question
Looking: You wouldn't be talking about me, would you? I'm in the 40-50 range (52's in the 40-50 range, isn't it?), and I've been known to give free advice at the gym on occasion. The difference is, all my advice has been solicited. And when a guy (in the 40-50 range, it so happens) offered me some unsolicited advice one day, I felt like clean-jerking him to the next county. Who was he to tell me that I wasn't doing my pull-downs correctly? Hell, I knew I wasn't doing my pull-downs correctly. It's called laziness, dude! So what did I say to Mr. Know-It-All after he showed me the error of my ways? I believe my exact words were, "Thanks for the tip."
You won't remember this, since you're only 27, but there was a time, not all that long ago, when men and women worked out in separate gyms. No, I'm not referring to the days when men stood around in their underwear and tossed a medicine ball back and forth. I'm referring to the '70s. And I distinctly recall when, all of a sudden, there was a woman over in the corner of the workout room doing leg stretches. Then there were two of them. Then one of them was on the leg machine. Then the other one was working her biceps. Then three more showed up. And they were on the bench press. And before I knew it, they were all kicking my ass at pull-downs. (I said I'm lazy!)
This was quite a revolutionary moment - the chicks of Title IX coming home to roost. But not all guys responded to it with my savoir-faire. Don't get me wrong, they liked having you around, and still do. But there'd been all those years in their underwear with the medicine ball. And because you hadn't spent all those years in your underwear with the medicine ball, they assumed you didn't really know what you were doing. And there may even have been a grain of truth to that in the early days, but it didn't last long, and it sure ain't true today.
Should you keep your mouth shut? Well, I managed to keep mine shut when that guy demonstrated a pull-down that I could have done in my sleep and was basically doing in my sleep that day. But there was no gender gap between us. You're certainly within your rights to let a guy have it if he tries to give you some pointers, but you've come such a long way in the last 30-40 years (I know you're only 27, but stick with me here) that I think you can now afford to be magnanimous. Accept his advice, say thanks, then offer to help him with his pull-downs. (It's laziness, I tell you!)
Trouble with dumbbells? Write to: Mr. Right, Isthmus, 101 King St., Madsion, WI 53703. Or call 251-1206, Ext. 152. Or email MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.