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I spend about 2 hours every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning at my favorite local health club abusing my aging bones, muscles, and connective tissue. My body has come to expect this and it pouts if it doesn’t get to go.

The club is a beehive of activity from 4:30 AM until about noon. It may be a beehive of activity in the afternoon. I don’t know. I’ve never been there at that time of day.

Our morning group is a tribute to diversity. Folks range in age from those in diapers who have to be looked after by the club employees down to the very young. Ethnic groups are well represented. There are a variety of body builds, hair color, and just about any other characteristic you can think of. I’ve noticed that the morning crowd can be categorized into 5 basic groups, some of which are not mutually exclusive.

1. The Incredible Hulks. These are the serious body builders. Each is approximately the size of a Volkswagen bus. They have arms the size of my thighs, and thighs the size of my waist. Their arms are so big that they can no longer comb their own hair. Their leg size interferes with their walking to the point that if one of them is heading in a northerly direction through the gym, the right leg bounces off the left thigh and steps in the general direction of Louisiana and the left leg goes in the direction of New Mexico. On average they walk a fairly straight line, but it looks funny. These are guys who put incredible amounts of weight on a bar, lift it one time, and then flex and admire themselves in the mirrors that line the walls. Although some of them speak in a high-pitched squeaky voice, no one makes fun of them. Most of the Incredible Hulks are male.

2. Olive Oyls. You remember Popeye’s girl friend, Olive Oyl? She was skinny as a toothpick and as ugly as a Shar-pei. She was sooo skinny (HOW SKINNY WAS SHE?) She was so skinny that when she swallowed an olive whole, both Popeye and Bluto left town. There are a number of truly skinny people who work out vigorously to make sure that they stay skinny. Most spend an hour or so on the treadmill and another hour in the weight room and maybe participate in one or more of the aerobics classes. They work really hard and sweat a lot. There appears to be no fat visible anywhere on their bodies. Most of the people in the Olive Oyl group are women. The club owner is skinny but is not a woman. It should be noted that, unlike the real Olive Oyl, many of the people in this group are very pretty. That statement does not include the club owner.

3. The Lance Armstrongs. This is the cycling group. They kick off their activities at 8:30AM. The cycles are in a fairly small room in a square formation. All of the cycles face each other--a dangerous situation that could lead to numerous crashes, you might say. But no. The cycles have no wheels and go nowhere. Their whole purpose is to get you to peddle very fast, raise your heart rate, and work up a sweat. The instructor is a middle-aged man about 65 years old who shouts instructions and sets a good example. The group peddles fast, peddles slow, peddles standing up, and peddles sitting down. That’s pretty much all the options. All the participants, except the instructor, are women. None of the participants, except the instructor, looks happy at the end of class.

4. The Step Aerobic Group. This is a group that includes some Olive Oyls, some Incredible Hulk types of the female persuasion, and some in between. These women assemble at 9:15 AM in the aerobics room and stand in front of wooden boxes about 8 inches high. A very attractive, fit-looking, blonde woman with a microphone growing out of her hair calls the group to attention and plays rousing music with a bass line beat so strong it vibrates the walls of the gym. She shouts instructions like a drill sergeant and demonstrates all the moves with the grace of a gazelle. The class is very responsive. They step up on their boxes, swinging their arms. They step down, swinging their arms. They march north for three steps and turn around and march south three steps, while enthusiastically swinging their arms. They continue this routine in some form or another for most of an hour. At the end of class there are a bunch of tired women that are so sweaty that if you kiss any of them without running them through the car wash, you might get tooth decay. These are very dedicated women.

5. The Don Ramons. This is my group. We are a bunch of middle-aged men, between the ages 60 and 75, who work out regularly but are not hulks nor are we skinny. We don’t do aerobics or ride the cycles. We do a little of this and a little of that. We are just normal folks. We exercise because we believe it will reduce our body fat and lower our cholesterol and will enable us to live long healthy lives. At least that is what we tell ourselves and other people. The real reason we go to the health club is to admire the hot sweaty women.