Fitness advice: My favourite gym stories, from epic #gymfails to overzealous grunters

Harry Thomas

This Saturday marks our ninth year anniversary at our City gym No1 Fitness. I’ve now been in the fitness industry for over 12 years, and during that time I’ve seen that the gym isn’t only a place to burn calories: it’s somewhere to make life-long friends, to feel better about yourself, to clear your mind. And every now and then, it’s a place to make an ass of yourself. Here are some of the more memorable things I’ve witnessed over the years.

Let’s start in my first ever gym. Back then, cardio was the big thing. My gym had rows and rows of treadmills. I remember seeing six keen gym-goers next to each other, all sweating buckets, really going for it. All of a sudden, the building had a power cut and every treadmill stopped dead, sending them all flying. Luckily no one was injured, but we did manage to keep a copy of the CCTV, which they all had a good laugh at after the shock had worn off.

In my time, I’ve only seen a few major injuries, but I’ll never forget any of them. We had a guy who was pressing 40kg in each hand on the bench. As he finished his set of chest presses he let go of the weights by his side. Under the bench was another dumbbell he had previously used. His finger got trapped between the two dumbbells and the top section came clean off. I’ll never forget seeing that finger sitting in a cup of ice as we waited for the ambulance.

There was another member who dislocated his shoulder by sneezing; he was in so much pain he was screaming the venue down. Another member casually came up behind him and pushed his shoulder back into place. I think he only did it to shut the guy up.

I saw another shoulder dislocation in a group session. This time the shoulder wouldn’t go back in. The emergency services told me that they were too busy to come and take her to hospital, so I had to drive her to A&E with her arm hanging out the entire trip.

We’ve all heard grunters in the gym before, but I once had a client who was on a whole other level. This person sounded like they were having one intense orgasm every time they trained. The client was oblivious, leaving me to soak up all the stares from other people training at the time. It got so bad that I had to take them downstairs into the studio so other people could get on with their workouts in peace.

I am not sure why, but the gym seems to attract angry people. Saying that, letting out your frustration on the weights is highly effective, and a great thing for both body and spirit. One of my favourite clients has more testosterone than anyone I know. This guy would lose his balance and then aggressively shout at himself in front of the studio: “Get up you fat, bald ****” was one of his favourite notes to himself. Everyone around wanted to laugh, but didn’t have the courage.

This is a very popular search term on YouTube. We’ve seen our fair share, but one of the funniest ones was when a trainer challenged a client to a piggy back competition. I’m not sure where the idea came from, but they both seemed to think it was a good idea. Off they went down our track, and on the reverse leg, the client tripped, and the trainer flipped through the air and landed flat on his face. The studio erupted and it put everyone in a great mood for the rest of the day.

Of course, not all of the memorable things are painful or embarrassing: some of the best memories are the transformations that we’ve helped people achieve; you’re really changing people’s lives. The most rewarding ones for me are those who are at a low point when they come in for a consultation. It’s great to really dig deep, find out what their goals are and see them achieve them over the subsequent weeks and months. You see them become more confident as well as leaner. There’s nothing quite like it, for a trainer as well as for a client.

• Harry is a personal trainer and co-owner of No.1 Fitness, with gyms in the City and Tower Bridge. To book visit or call 020 7621 1312

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