One of my absolute favorite things about CrossFit is that, for the most part, it’s a big family. I have coaches that motivate me, push me, but also – really, really care about me and my fitness journey. I have gym buddies who are always there to commiserate over wall balls or celebrate a new clean and jerk PR. I have my resident strong man who I rarely talk to, but DANG does he inspire me! Throw in our two gym dogs who have a penchant for standing directly over me with their slobbery ball for fetch directly after a super sweaty WOD, and there you go – my CrossFit family.
I’ve been to a few CrossFit boxes over the years, plus so many gyms/fitness centers over the years that I’ve stopped counting. And while the vast majority of the fitness community is wonderful, supportive and encouraging, there’s a few types of gym rats out there that are annoying at best, totally intolerable at worst. The gym bullies, as we’ll call them. The ones with bad habits, bitchy words and an overall ‘tude in need of a major adjustment.
Yes, going to the gym sometimes requires a healthy dose of mental toughness alongside your physical gains. But know that you are more than capable of identifying them and, if you’re so inclined, doing something about it. Who knows? It just might make a difference.
The Sadistic Coach
A good coach is one whooping “Nice job! You got this!” through a grueling workout. A tough coach is one that’s swapping out your 25-lb dumbbells for 35-lb dumbbells right before starting the clock because darn it, you can do it! And then – there’s the sadistic coach. The one that programs in 1,000 burpees, 200 wall balls and 50 wall walks because it’s evil and he or she enjoys watching the suffering. The one who screams “GO! STOP SLOWING DOWN! GO FASTER! WORK HARDER!” when you literally want to die. And heaven forbid if you want to take a breather real quick before hitting burpee number 873! Put your hands on your knees to suck wind, and sadistic coach is right on top of you, in your ear, making the toughest basic training drill masters seem like kittens. At this point it’s not motivating, it’s just obnoxious. It’s enough to make some athletes stalk out the door mid-workout or curl up in the corner and cry.
How to Beat Them: Do the dang workout. Do every single movement at your very best (but for heaven’s sake, don’t get injured in the process). And every once in a while, look that sadistic coach dead in the eye. Let them know they haven’t bested you. And they won’t.
The Fitness Influencer
Her phone and her tripod are next to her barbell, she’s reapplying makeup next to the pullup rig and she’s decked out into some fluorescent matching ensemble. The gym is her stage, and she is the star. And for some reason – hundreds of viewers around the country are interested in watching it.
Except, uh…they might be interested in it, but maybe I. DON’T. WANT. TO. BE. IN. IT. Because maybe, just maybe, the day she has a “Go Live” event, I’m wearing my sloppiest yoga pants and oversized 5K T-shirt and I’m not what you might call camera ready. Maybe that was the day that my quads were just NOT HAVING IT with front squats and I’d rather not have the moment recorded for all to see. But, at the risk of sounding bitter here…
And let’s talk about the fact that the dear fitness influencer takes up valuable gym space and equipment in the name of likes and follows. There’s now this giant no-fly-zone around her phone, her person and every piece of equipment that she may be using (or may simply be a prop – only time will tell)…taking away resources from people who want to get their sweat on without the world watching.
And no one wears that much makeup to the gym. It just doesn’t happen.
How to Beat Them: If you have to share space with a fitness influencer, at least help her make her video interesting! Make it rain chalk! Bang out a set of 10 unbroken bar muscle ups behind her while she’s busy promoting the guava-flavored pre-workout or whatever. Chuck ab mats over her head (but don’t clock her in the head – she’s the bully here, not you)! She’ll get the idea soon enough…and maybe switch to in-home yoga tutorials.
No, he’s not being tortured. He’s just working out. We all know this guy…he’s in every gym in America. Every Olympic lift comes with a side order of a large, cave man-esque bellow. Dumbbell bicep curls are accompanied by a series of deep grunts. Occasionally, for really no reason at all, he’ll let out a loud, “WHOO!” or some other asinine “Oh, what a great burn!” comment. But don’t worry, he’s also more than happy to lecture you (or, quite often, mansplain) about everything wrong with your form and weight load. As a bonus, maybe he’ll end his little fitness talk by asking for your phone number. Barf.
How to Beat Them: Match him groan for groan. Try to beat him in volume and enthusiasm every time. For extra credit, do so while lifting 5-lb dumbbells (or add 25-lb plates to his barbell when he’s not looking).
Yes, yes, we know. Everything hurts and you’re dying. This is the person that makes a one-hour class seem like two hours with their griping. Box jumps hurt their knees. They’ll strain their back if they do one more burpee. The assault bike sucks. And yes, people may have legitimate objections to certain parts of a workout (like, I don’t know, an INJURY?! That’s why God created workout modifications), but this person has all of (OK, let’s go with most of) their faculties and frankly just has a bad attitude.
How to Beat Them: Exuberance is contagious, same as pessimism. Be the one in the gym giving the high fives that hurt hands, the one screaming “Let’s GOOOO!!!!” during the suckiest part of the workout, and the one who starts doing the running man when your jam comes on during the speakers (even if it burns energy that you might need in the tank for the workout). It’ll be hard for even the worst downer to stay down.
The Equipment Thief
This person is all about options. Why commit to a 15-lb set of dumbbells for a set when you can have the 10s, 20s and 25s all around you, just in case? One barbell for a set of snatches? Better load up a lighter one just in case you lose form! Outside of cluttering up the gym with their hoarding ways, the equipment thief can cause a whole class to come to a screeching halt if the other athletes can’t get their sets in.
How to Beat Them: Picking out dumbbells off the shelf or grabbing plates from the rack should now resemble a scene out of The Hunger Games. Get what you need. Take no prisoners. Throw elbows if needed.
Which of these gym bullies do you battle every week?
Kendra Whittle is a writer, novice CrossFitter, marathon runner and triathlete. She lives in St. Louis with her husband, three kids and two dogs.