Jungle gym

Muscle proportion that defies the laws of gravity.

Muscle proportion that defies the laws of gravity.

Cool water crashed onto my face by the handful. A two-hour workout at a downtown gym left my skin radiating with heat, so the cold water was blissful. I patted my face dry with a towel and lifted my head toward the mirror—and wham, a 60-year-old butt stared back at me.

I snuck a look behind me to confirm what I saw in the mirror: an older woman wearing a long shirt and combing her long, gray hair. Whew! Perhaps the full moon was a hallucination, I thought. But as the woman raised her arms to brush the top of her head, her shirt rose above her derrière to reveal nothing—as in nada, zilch, absolutely no clothing covering her bottom half.

She then shuffled toward the lockers, bottomless. She searched for something in her workout bag, bottomless, and shuffled back to the mirrors to finish her hair ritual—still bottomless. Perhaps the pants-challenged woman lifted my rose-colored gym glasses, because on my way down the long walkway from the bathroom to the gym entrance, I noticed other strange people. It was like being on safari in a jungle gym, encountering a variety of species battling for survival of the fittest—or the buffest.

I first encountered Mr. Incredible, the most common species of gym-goer, the guy who looks like the father from that Disney movie about the family of superheroes. Mr. Incredible has extremely chiseled and bulging shoulders, biceps and chest with a teeny-tiny lower half. Think of an upside-down bowling pin—one push to the upper body and this guy will surely topple over. His territory is often reserved to the bench press, and he follows every set with air curls while he gawks in the mirror.

Near the vicinity of Mr. Incredible was the bevy of women (usually traveling in groups of three). They wear makeup, perfectly styled hair and are trailed by a faint whiff of Chanel No. 5. This species often spends five minutes in cardio machine territory and then congregates around an abdominal machine for 45 minutes while gawking at Mr. Incredible and ranting about their boyfriends.

Then, I spotted the predator of the gym: Rico Suave trainer. He’s a certified trainer (yes, it’s usually a guy) who, when on the job, scans the room for eye candy while his trainee loses balance doing straight-bar lunges. When this predator is off duty, he implements his sneak attack: creeping behind an unsuspecting female mid-set to offer “support” during those last difficult reps. Hey, it’s a difficult job—and he’s ready to do it.

I reached the entrance and turned around for one more glimpse. Sure, most people frequent gyms to burn calories and build muscle. But in the gym wilderness where natural instincts are on display, maybe the pantsless woman wasn’t the only one revealing her true self.