Go ahead… judge the book by its cover… Apply politically incorrect, morally reprehensible, decidedly deplorable – but highly effective – stereotypes and profiles to your fellow gym members to get to the root of who they are. If shared values are the backbone of a beautiful bond, then the gym is a boon to all seekers.
Everything a gym-member does and dons says something about their tastes and values; the car they drove to the gym, their choice of fitness activity, their work-out wear, the TV channel they watch, the way they treat staff… These are all outward expressions of their inner character.
Distasteful as it is, we’re all judgy; within the first nanosecond of seeing someone, we size them up and toss them into a category. Such systematic (systemic?) categorizing helps us weed out those who will never work, and identify those who might.
What values do each of these stereotypes embody? For example, (using my own personal value decoder):
- Gym Rats have muscles, wear tank tops and value fitness and appearance
- Daytime Dads wear “Kids Fun Run” t-shirts and value family
- Players do lots of looking, little lifting, and value sex and affirmation
- Ivys watch CNN or MSNBC and value global thinking
- Super Seniors wear New Balance sneakers and value comfort and cost
- Tree Huggers drive Priuses and value the environment and practicality
- LumberJacks wear camouflage-anything and value republican ideals
What would your first impressions be of a 55-year-old man striding at Level 1 on an elliptical machine (sans sweat), watching a TV special about bass fishing, and wearing a lavender t-shirt emblazoned with a happy face and the motto “Life is Good”?
Maybe his slow pace on the easy machine indicates a casual temperament… that he’s health conscious but not in a muscle-mania way… His TV selection might say he values nature and possibly spends his free time fishing… His t-shirt could say he has a good sense of humor… or that fashion is not his forte.
Now – what about the same man running at Level 8 on the treadmill, watching CNN, and wearing a trendy Under Armor top, black shorts and Nikes? (He looks taller now, doesn’t he?)
His aggressive pace (and sweat) shows a willingness to push out of his comfort zone… His choice of CNN signals a big picture guy… likely concerned with finance and/or world events… His Under Armor-wear is trendy but not ostentatious… something he probably saw in GQ last month.
See the difference? The same man, with completely different outward expressions of his possible inner character. Which man (if either) appeals more to you will depend on what you find attractive… what you value.
Of course, there are no absolutes and most men (like women) are mixed-breeds with overlapping character traits. A LumberJack can be a democrat and a Player can love the environment. That’s why it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Only time can shift your first impressions of someone. You might have a guy neatly pegged as a camo-wearing, republican voting, beer drinking American, and then see him get into his light blue Prius in the parking lot with a bumper sticker that reads “Eat More Kale”.
Unbeknownst to him, his edges have been softened… his stereotype expanded… and perhaps, your interest piqued. Keep this guy on the roster and you might even overhear him chatting with a staff member about his chocolate cheesecake and his beloved chihuahua.
Your once-repugnant LumberJack has become a veritable Renaissance Man. But- like a butterfly in the cocoon – it took time to see.
So, if you’re looking for someone to share life and love with, don’t overlook the gym… Get a sense of a member’s insides by categorizing their outsides. Interpret the values attached to what they’re doing, wearing, driving, saying, watching… It’s all right there.
And …Judge not, lest ye be judged; while you’re considering others, they may be considering you. You’re making first impressions of your own. More about self-assessments in Part 4.