Back when I first got to Taiwan, I had some pretty amusing experiences going to the gym. They were nothing like back home. In fact, the first twelve I visited, didn’t even have free weights! None! Just row after row after row of machines, treadmills and stair-steppers. The first gym I did visit that had free weights as well as machines was the one at Shida.

The Shida gym was sort of normal, but still quite a bit different than what I was used to in college. I frequently saw girls sweating away on the stair-steppers in jeans. One time a guy who asked me for a spot was wearing a pink shirt, collared and buttoned up all the way. Another time, the baseball team came in and worked out entirely shirtless. The weights were covered in a layer of orange rust and it was a bit nasty, but the place was definitely functional. It was also kind of a boost since for the first time in my life, I was always the strongest guy in the room. That’s never happened to me in America, and probably never will.

Fast forward a few years. Now, in 2006, I see gyms that are very much like those back home. California’s and Gold’s, especially, have become extremely western. Gigantic muscular guys lumber around between stations. Aerobics rooms are full of step-classes. They sell protein bars. They won’t give you a sheet that lists their membership prices. It’s almost like home. Here’s a list of the types of gym-dwellers I’ve noticed so far.

  • Slimy Sales Guy- If you’ve ever seen the Friends episode where Chandler tried to cancel his membership, you’ll know what I mean.
  • The Grunter – You know… the guys who rely more on the force of their shreiks and grunts than on their muscles to lift huge weights.
  • The Sweatasaurus – That sweaty bastard who just won’t stop.
  • The Cell-phone Chick – She somehow manages to fit seven or eight five minute cell-phone conversations into her workout, on a regular basis
  • The Self-Admirer – He (usually a he) constantly looks himself over in the mirror, nods his head this way and that, flexes a few muscles, checks his hair, and admires himself.
    And today, I met one more archetypical gym user!
  • The Curiously Strong Old Man – He’s an older guy, balding, usually graying a bit, too. He seems like some regular guy you’d see at 7-11… until you see him slap 315 pounds on a barbell and start cranking out reps. With no bulging muscles, he relies entirely on old man strength to lift the bar
  • If things continue to westernize at this rate, morbidly obese people in spandex will be in the gyms before 2008.

    I’m a sweatasaurus.