He was the "striped pajamas guy." I still don't know his name, nor did I, until today, know how long I'd seen him in the gym. He was a fixture, just someone that I saw a lot, and someone who put the weight racks through their paces.I spoke to him for the first time today. I brought my dumbbells to my bench at the back of the room, and looked over at the terrifying stack of weights on his bench. Note to self. Don't piss off the guys that bench over 300.
"I envy you that."
"Yeah, well, I've been off for a while. I'm capable of better. This bugs me."
"Funny, I've been saying that myself."
I told him I liked the pants, and that they cracked me up. He grinned. "Yeah, if I'm gonna lift, I wanna be comfortable." I did my lunges, finishing out my second group of weights exercises, and sat down to have a snack. (Two bites at the end of each group of weights seems to be the right amount.) We started talking about hiking and working out, and after his first set of pec flys he draped his arms over his knees and said words that still shock the hell out of me every time I hear them.
"You know, I remember when you first started here."
(It boggles my mind. Really.)
"You came in as part of a January crop, when lots of new people come in. I know it's bad, but I'd do my workouts and watch the people on the aerobic machines and try to guess which ones would make it." He nodded. "You did."
"Not many do. A lot of them burn out pretty quickly."
He nodded, and quirked a half-smile.
I learned that he was a competitive weightlifter. He mentioned holding a record or two. I wasn't surprised; he wasn't terribly tall, but under the baggy shirt and pants, there was definite musculature. That, and I'd seen him successfully do a full set of bench presses at somewhere around 315 pounds.
I pointed over at a machine I'd been dreading all day. "I'm trying to talk myself into doing a round of hack squats today. I know I need to do them, but it's damn hard at the end of a workout."
"Yeah, but they're worth every moment." I stared off, deep in thought. "C'mon, you know you need to do it. Think about that hill. Go plate up and do it."
After finishing my between-group snack, I headed over to the machine and waited until it was free, then plated up. (I'm NOT telling you the pitifully low weight. Oh no. Allow me that small piece of dignity.) While Pajama Guy stood there talking with someone, I finished the first set and stepped out of the machine to take a breath. I wasn't sure if I could finish the second set, but I decided to try.
I started breaking form around rep five, and by rep eight, I knew I was probably in trouble. Then it happened - an exhalation of breath that sounded like a tortured "nine!" and there I was, learning firsthand what happens when you work most of your leg muscles to failure on a hack squat.
Yes, indeed, folks, you land on your ass—and if you're me, you do it in front of a competitive weightlifter.
That's ok. I didn't need that dignity anyway.