Incorporating Travel Sites into Your Vacation Planning

Of the four seasons, summer is the one that conjures up images of beach trips, barbecues, sunshine and vacations. Fear not, though, for as July winds down, there’s plenty of summer left. So if you still haven’t taken – or even planned – a vacation, you’ve got time. With that in mind, here are some travel tips ranging from “don’t forgets” before hitting the road to saving a few bucks by booking your trip through travel sites.

Swimming for travel article
Image Source: Wikipedia

Protect Your Home

The last thing you want to do when you’re going away for a handful of days is worry about your home’s safety. There are a few precautions you can take to avoid the appearance of an empty house.

  • Contact your local post office to put a hold on mail delivery
  • Set a few lights on timers so the house isn’t dark at night
  • Leave a car in the driveway to give the appearance that someone is home
  • Ask a trusted neighbour to keep an eye on things

Make Arrangements for Fido

Before booking your hotel room, don’t forget about accommodations for the family pet. Do your homework ahead of time to ensure a comfortable stay for your cat or dog at a kennel run by responsible animal lovers. A good place to start is consulting your pet’s veterinarian. Or, ask friends or coworkers where they board their pets while travelling. Make an appointment with the kennel to meet the owners and see exactly where your pet will be staying. Ask the owners for a list of references. Talking to a few satisfied (and hopefully repeat) customers should assure you about making the right choice.

Getting There from Here

Booking a vacation has never been easier thanks to travel sites. You can bundle your entire trip into one package (airfare, lodging, and car rental) or any combination of the three. Sites such as,,, and are just some of the travel sites available to plan a fantastic getaway whether it’s domestic or overseas. Booking through these sites is typically cheaper than using the websites of hotels, airlines, and car rental agencies. The money you save by using travel sites allows you to see more places while you’re away or plan a longer trip than you thought was affordable.

Plan Ahead

Now that you’ve successfully scheduled your travel and lodging, it’s time to figure out what to see and where to go when you arrive. is a fantastic website to implement. Not only can you book your travel like with the other sites, you can also read reviews from people who have stayed at those hotels and visited the tourist attractions you’re contemplating seeing. Word of mouth is often the best source of where to go and what to do.

Focus on the Fun

Time to review your travel To Do list. Mail put on hold. Check. Fido’s kennel reservation booked. Check. Flight, rental car, and hotel booked. Check. Vacation itinerary compiled. Check. Last item on the list is Have Fun. One more step to take though. The one thing that could potentially ruin your vacation is losing your wallet. Imagine being thousands of miles from home and you discover that your cash, credit card, and ATM card are gone? A nightmare scenario for sure. One way to guard against that is to use a money belt or neck wallet. Whether secured to your belt or hidden under your shirt, either of those devices makes it almost fool-proof to lose your valuables. An additional safety measure to consider is booking a hotel that has a safe in every room. You can securely lock away most of your valuables while you only bring what you need for expenditures each day.

With that in mind, now comes the entire point of a vacation. Enjoy and have fun. You’ve earned it.

Ways to Stay Fit in the Winter

For even the most ardent of fitness enthusiasts, the winter months tend to be a dedication-draining time of year. Dark sky for the morning commute and any existence of the sun is long gone on the ride home from work. Not only is Jack Frost nipping at your nose, he might also be packing pounds onto your stomach or backside.

The holidays don’t help either. Gift shopping can easily replace an evening workout while Christmas parties present a mine field of belly-busting dangers.  A few extra helpings here. Sampling one (or five) desserts there. And who can resist throwing back a few glasses of eggnog?

So if you fear waking up to a lack of motivation and an expanding waist line in your stocking on Christmas morning, here are a handful of ideas to keep the pounds off and the gym flame burning this winter.

Hire a Personal Trainer

Personal trainers do far more than just count repetitions. The right one will teach you proper lifting technique (form is everything) while designing workout regimens that will increase your fitness and add strength along with counseling you about proper nutrition. Your body is like a furnace and the right foods keep the fire burning.

The best trainers are also master motivators. They know when to push and when to back off. Trainers also provide accountability. If you’re sticking to your workouts and eating healthy foods, your trainer will know. If you’re not, there will certainly be more cardio in your future.

Mix Up Your Routine

Variety is the spice of life. That doesn’t apply to just pizza toppings and beer. If you’re a creature of habit (a lot of fitness disciples are), repeating the same routines over and over will sink your motivation. So, step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Check the schedule at your health club for calorie-torching classes such as cardio kickboxing or studio cycling. After 60 minutes on the stationary bike, watch the sweat pour off you.

Other training styles such as interval and Tabata offer different combinations of weights and cardio that will leave you physically drained but mentally recharged. Or, completely overhaul your gym schedule by working out first thing in the morning. There’s nothing like crawling out of bed early enough to find yourself cracking a sweat by 5:00 AM. A good, hard workout will stir up that endorphins pot so by the time you get to work, you’re mentally on fire!

Bikram Yoga

Counteract the bone-chilling effects of winter with sweat-inducing heat. Did I mention each class is 90 minutes long in a 104 degree room? This style of yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhury. It’s 26 postures that give your body an entire workout while benefitting your internal organs, veins and ligaments. And for the guys, don’t turn your nose up because this is yoga. You’ll work as hard as you ever have with any of your usual routines.

Hard Work Pays Off

Toiling in the gym for hours a day, weeks on end, all year long is demanding and challenging from a physical and mental standpoint. The reward for such dedication pays off in the form of reaching your desired fitness goals: weight loss, increasing your bench press, or having that bikini body when beach season rolls around. So why not pay yourself monetarily too for all of your sweat?

Get yourself a Health and Wellness Jar (yes, I have one). Use a ceramic jar with a cork top, a child’s piggy bank, or stuff a sock under your mattress. The concept is simple. After each workout, place a dollar (or more if you choose) in your jar. Let it sit there. Before you realize, you’ll have a pile of cash that you’ve earned through hard work and dedication. Staying loyal to your gym routine will pay off quite nicely!

Be Good to Yourself

Being committed to your fitness plan isn’t easy. The daily complications of life see to that. So reward yourself for staying the course. Get a massage once a month. Find a local spa that has hot tubs and give those sore muscles a well-earned soak. Splurge on your favorite not-so-healthy meal every so often. Or save up your Health and Wellness Jar funds to spend on something you’ve wanted but couldn’t quite work into the budget.

The bitter cold and snow is upon us. That’s a battle Old Man Winter wins every year. But that doesn’t mean your fitness level has to drop like the temperature. With the right planning, determination and good old stick-to-itive-ness, you’ll be in your best shape ever!

Death, Taxes, and the New Year’s Resolutioners

If you’ve lived long enough, you’re well aware that life is filled with certainties.  Death and taxes.  Lindsay Lohan getting hauled in front of a judge.  One of the Jersey Shore-ons disgracing Italians more than they already have.

But for the fitness freaks, the health nuts, and even the knucklehead muscle-heads, there’s one dreaded certainty that occurs every winter as December morphs into January, a Ryan Seacrest sighting on New Year’s Eve aside.

The return of the insufferable New Year’s Resolutioners.

Rest assured you’re not alone in your misery.  Regular gym-goers everywhere are all too familiar with the grim look of emotional distress displayed on your face at this moment.

As you tend to your daily routine, take a look at your surroundings.  Focus not only on those in your life but also the people you cross paths with everyday if only for an instant.  Observe how many of them are overweight.  I don’t mean the ones who could stand to drop ten pounds.  I am talking about those folks who are at least 50 pounds too heavy.

Now think about how many errands we’re capable of running without pealing our rumps from the car.  We get coffee, bank, buy lunch, and pick up prescriptions.  Some restaurants have call ahead curb side take-out.  A member of the wait staff will deliver your food to you as you sit in a designated parking space because, you know, the thought of actually venturing into the restaurant to get the order is painstakingly excruciating.

Never mind all the time wasted driving around in search of a parking space close to the store.  In the extra time we spend seeking out that ever-so-precious commodity, we could’ve walked to the store from a spot that isn’t as close as we feel we’re entitled to.

Honestly, when did removing our ever-widening backsides from our cars to walk a few extra steps become such a miscarriage of justice?  The verdict is in.  The metamorphosis is complete.  We’ve become a lazy country whose waist lines are expanding faster than the national debt.

Now, before I go any further, let me clarify a couple of points.

As someone who used to have no use for lifting weights, and, frankly, was intimidated by a lack of strength, I have all the respect in the world for anyone who is at the gym working hard to try to make a positive healthy change to his or her life.

Secondly, sticking to a workout schedule day after day when you have a significant amount of weight to lose is a daunting task.  Let’s face facts.  Society thumbs its collective nose at over-weight people.  One way of dealing with our own insecurities is to highlight those of others.  No one relishes being stared at, well, except if you’re as insecure and narcissistic as the Kardashians.

To those of you determined to finally take control of your health by making the necessary lifestyle changes, I applaud you.  Keep it up.  Let no one and nothing halt you.  You will encounter many highs and lows on your journey.  It won’t be easy, but if you stay the course, you’ll succeed.

Unfortunately, the number of you who will actually stick with it and transform your lives is few and far between.  Most Resolutioners are gone by March.

As for the rest of the Resolutioners, we don’t mind you joining the gym.  Understand this though.  There’s a certain protocol you need to adhere.  Let’s set some ground rules.

Before even entering the building, you manage to hack off a large contingent of regulars with your parking lot faux pas.  It’s very simple:  Stop taking all the spaces closest to the building.

You all are the ones who are woefully out of shape.  So why are you hell bent on minimizing your walk to the door?  I don’t care if it’s cold out.  Check that.  I don’t care if you’re cold.

We regulars are the ones who hit the gym six days a week year round.  We’re the ones who crawl out of bed at five in the morning on weekdays just to fit in an extra half hour on the stair-master before work beckons.  We’re the ones who sneak in a workout on Thanksgiving morning so we can have a large piece of pumpkin pie later that day without guilt pangs overtaking us like (insert dominant world power here) versus France’s military.  And we’re the ones who don’t slack off in the summer even though there are so many other places we’d rather be than cracking a sweat on the elliptical machine.

So explain to me how that entitles you newbies to all the good spaces while I trudge through the crappily plowed parking lot when the thermometer barely cracks double digits and the inside of my nose is frozen all the way up to my brain.  Hint.  It doesn’t.  So have a good time hauling your lazy rump from the other side of the parking lot to the door and stay out of my space.

Now that that’s settled, let’s move on.

OK, you’ve made it into the building, swiped your key tag, and now it’s off to the locker room.

Much like the stunt you pulled in the parking lot, you’re up to the same shenanigans in the locker room.

The lockers at my gym come in three sizes:  large, medium, and small.  Or, like Goldilocks and her porridge, too hot, too cold, and just right.

The large lockers (too hot) are a bit of overkill but they do serve the purpose of having plenty of length to hang clothes one wouldn’t want wrinkled.  Most of those appear to be rented out by regular patrons as there always seem to be locks on them no matter the time of day.

The small lockers (too cold) are the text book definition of wasted space.  You couldn’t even stuff an Oompa Loompa in one of those things.

The medium lockers (just right) are the perfect blend of adequate size for a change of clothes and the accompanying gym bag.  They happen to be the most popular, so of course, they vanish the fastest.

Guess which size locker I prefer?

Now guess which size locker the Resolutioners all take.

Curses.  Foiled again.

Opening six or seven lockers just to find an empty one is a daily occurrence.  And it’s usually a small empty one.  Too cold!

First it was the prime parking spaces.  The best lockers were next on the hit list.  I’ve yet to curl a single dumbbell and these exercise neophytes have already ruined every aspect (so far) of my gym experience for that particular day.  What, pray tell, could these wretched newbies possibly target next?

Cardio and weight machines, of course.

Lifting weights before cardio won’t result in encountering too many Resolutioners on the weight room floor since your typical one tends to focus mostly on cardio.  Instead, a far greater (and vastly more annoying) challenge waits.  The return of the Weekend Warrior Tough Guy.

You know the type.

These jokers strut around like they own the place, grunt as if they suffer from chronic constipation, and slam weights as often as politicians give non-answers to difficult questions.  The Weekend Warrior Tough Guys register a lone notch above the Resolutioners on the aggravation scale because though they impede your workout, they aren’t the total hindrance the newbies are.

That leaves the cardio machines as the final Resolutioner frontier.

Here’s the rub.  The cardio section of any gym on a weeknight right after work draws a crowd bigger than Wal-Mart on Black Friday.

Treadmills.  Taken.  Elliptical machines.  No vacancy.  Stair-masters.  Occupied.  Stationary bikes.  No soup for you.

Dealing with a cardio section that’s more crowded than the supermarket deli line on a Saturday morning would be so much more palatable if the Resolutioners camped out on said machines would perform one simple task:

Crack. A. Sweat.

Look, if the pace you’re pedaling, jogging, etc. is the equivalent of a driver going 55 in the passing line, then you need to heed this advice:

Get the hell off the machine!

Arms and legs are capable of different movements and speeds.  If your desired goal is to lose weight, then calories burned needs to exceed daily caloric intake.  This mission is easily accomplished by putting down the donut and picking up the pace of your stride.  While a sweat-stained shirt might be an irritant to one’s delicate sense of smell, it’s one of the big guns in the war on fat.

To my fellow gym nuts, as the Resolutioners begin their annual pilgrimage of I came, I tried, I packed it in after two months, remember that patience is a virtue.

And March will be here before you know it.

Four-Legged Family Members

My beautiful wife, Lauren, and our best furry friend, Layla.

My beautiful wife, Lauren, and our best furry friend, Layla.


For as long as I can remember, the notion that pet owners treat their lovable balls of fur like full-fledged family members was something I couldn’t wrap my head around.

Until I became one of them.  A pet owner, that is.

Growing up, we weren’t pet people in my family.  Well, scratch that.  For a year or so, we had two parakeets.  One died and one escaped.  End of that experiment.

During my brother’s teen years, a large fish tank occupied the dresser in his room.  Yeah, they were mildly interesting, with the different colors and all.  And watching the algae-eating suckerfish hangout (literally) and clean the inside of the tank held a morsel of interest.  When Ed went away to college, guess who got stuck cleaning the tank every week?  Boooooooo!!!

While we did have those two minor excursions into the pet world, we never ventured into the big leagues of pet-dom.  That being, cats and dogs.

I’m not quite sure why.  If I had to hazard a guess, the reason rested somewhere between mom not wanting to walk the dog (or change the kitty litter box) when Ed and I whined and dad not wanting to step in dog crap while mowing the lawn.  Fair enough.  They paid the mortgage so they got to call the shots.

Back to the now.

My wife, Lauren, adopted Layla when she was a mere eight weeks old and could fit in the small of her lap.  That was a year before Lauren and I met.

Layla is a twenty pound, two foot long puggle.  One half pug, one half beagle.

She’s affectionate like a pug (and eats like one too) but has the nose of a beagle.  And she knows how to use it.  I often tell Lauren that Layla can smell what the people four units down the hall are cooking.

As she approaches her fourth birthday, Layla does not want for much in life.

She’s spoiled with affection and treats, has more toys than the average elementary school child, and enjoys walks in the woods on her 25-foot long leash.  Did I mention that she gets scooped up and carried to bed when she’s exhausted?  Toss in the fact that she manages to take up more space in bed than me despite a considerable size difference, and it should be abundantly clear that young Layla has the world by the proverbial throat.

What Layla gives back to Lauren and me in terms of love, companionship, and laughs is immeasurable.

So, you can imagine our despair when a typical evening walk a couple of weeks ago resulted in a trip to the animal E.R.  While out and about, she swallowed something off the ground.  That is pretty standard for Layla as that beagle nose tends to lead her down the trouble’s path.

When she started to cough and hack in an attempt to make herself vomit, that’s when we had an inkling that all was not well with the pup.

She started pounding water from her bowl in an effort to clear some type of blockage.  Breathing wasn’t difficult for her since she showed no signs of distress, but something was obviously not right.

As our concern grew, we called a local animal hospital.

Lauren talked to one of the vet techs and she advised us to bring Layla in for a check.  Fortunately, the hospital was open 24-hours (since we were now past dinner time) and we live not even ten minutes away.

Layla still wasn’t displaying any signs of distress.  In fact, she seemed more excited to be going for a car ride.  But, she still was attempting to self-induce vomiting.  Something had to be wrong.

We got there, checked her in, and grabbed a seat in the lobby while Layla was taken outback for some x-rays.

Soon enough, Lauren and I were summoned to one of the exam rooms to meet the doctor (and get Layla back).  The doctor explained that the x-ray revealed a small piece of bone resting “comfortably” in Layla’s belly.  Her stomach acids would dissolve the bone in time and Layla would suffer no ill effects from shoving her inquisitive snout where it didn’t belong.

Still, the doctor wanted us to monitor her for the rest of the night and if she did vomit or show any other signs that something was wrong, we were to rush her back.  We had to keep her on a strict diet of bland food the next couple of days (chicken and white rice) but Layla isn’t one to complain no matter what we put in her chow bowl.  She’s a trooper like that.

Walking out of the animal hospital we were as relieved to have Layla with us as she was to be trotting alongside Lauren with her tail wagging from side to side.  We settled into the car and headed home after a nerve-wracking few hours.

Ever the concerned dog mother, Lauren stayed home the next day to keep a watchful eye on Layla.  She had a little more pep than the night before but was still rather calm and sedated.  A day of cuddling on the couch while her mama watched bad TV was just the remedy.

By the time I got home that night, the hyper, playful Layla who almost always greets us at the door with some item of clothing clutched in her jaws (we call that “the presentation”) had returned.

All was well in dog world again.  And, with a few well-placed licks to my face, Layla reminded me who I had become in just three short years.

A pet owner.

Brewing up coffee thoughts

Are you one of those people who in no way shape or form can begin each day until that first sip of piping hot caffeine goodness crosses the barrier of your lips?  Is pouring that first cup of coffee a sacred ritual?  Are you on a first name basis with the employees at the coffee shop down the street from your home?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, rest easy, for you’re not alone.  I’d hazard a guess there are millions of you out there.  You come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, and you live in all four corners of the country.

Be honest.  You probably have your own special name for coffee.  Let me guess.  Java.  Joe.  Mud.  Jamoke.  Just a small sampling (pardon the pun) of its many aliases.  Taste buds salivating yet?

Why does a beverage, mostly associated with breakfast but hardly limited to morning consumption, go by so many monikers?  What is it that obligates society to worship at the coffee altar?  Seriously, we can’t seem to get enough of our beloved coffee.

People drink it everywhere they go.  In the car or on the subway.  Waiting in line at the bank or while pushing a carriage in the supermarket.  Sitting in the stands watching Little League or reading a book on the beach.

In businesses all over the country, does anyone really gather around the water cooler anymore or is it more like mill around the kitchen impatiently waiting for the coffee maker to yield its daily catch?

How many office folk have their own personal cup that they consume the precious Colombian plasma from?  Sure, there are all kinds of coffee mugs.  Some have the name of its owner while others have a picture of a loved one printed on the side.  The real pros on the coffee circuit certainly have some type of verbal coffee reference along the lines of “caffeine addict: please refill” imprinted on the outside of their sacred ceramic chalices.

Now here’s the rub, at least for me:  Try as I have, I just can’t get into coffee.

Nope.  No can do.  Aint happenin’.  Just doesn’t do it for me.

Oh, it’s not for lack of effort.  I mean, New England is Dunkin Donuts’ country.  I’ve lived my whole life in one of the two coffee cauldrons (Seattle being the other) of the nation.  One doesn’t have to drive very far around here to come across a Dunkin Donuts.  They are as common as Boston accents and cases of road rage.

But I still don’t get the fascination.

At first, I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was.  For a wet liquid, coffee tastes awfully dry.

So I started experimenting with the coffee condiments.  Cream, milk, and skim milk.  Sugar, Equal, and Sweet and Low.

After dawning my mad scientist hat, I finally settled on ordering my coffee (from Dunks, mind you.  NOT a Starbucks guy.  We’ll get to that in a moment, rest assured) with extra cream and three Equals.  Yes, I know.  Break out the “you want some coffee with your cream and sugar?” jokes.  I found that particular combination of sweet and fat transformed coffee from bitter and dry to, well, sweet and fat.  Coffee for me had become a coffee-flavored milk shake with caffeine kick.  The metamorphosis was complete.

So why order strictly from Dunkins, you ask?  Well, let me answer by telling you why I refuse to order from Starbucks.  Simple.  I’m not foo foo.  And Starbucks is foo foo.

For starters, they make their coffee way too strong.  Thanks, but an ulcer of the throat didn’t make the top ten on my Bucket List.  Put it this way, if you’re sick of gas stations inserting the Hoover into your wallet every week and turning it to level “suck up every last cent and the threading that holds the wallet intact, to boot”, then I have the perfect solution for you.  Pour a pot of fresh Starbucks down the gas tank hatch and watch your car go from zero to 60 faster than Usain Bolt.

Furthermore, this is New England.  And in New England, we don’t order coffee by asking for a “grande triple crappachino latte mocha bajocha with four shots of espresso and topped with organic whipped cream”.  That, my friends, is the text-book definition of “foo foo”.

In New England, here’s how we order coffee:

“Welcome to Dunkin Donuts, can I take your order?”

“Yeah, meedyum reg-u-lah”.

For those of you who aren’t educated in the dialect known as the Boston accent, that customer ordered a “medium regular”, which is code for hot coffee with milk and sugar.

And if Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks weren’t already locked in an epic battle for coffee supremacy, a new player has upped the ante.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the rise of the Keurig coffee maker (pause for dramatic entrance music).

Just press and go.  You have your K-cups and your V-cups.  What the difference is and why those two letters were chosen, I don’t know.  I’m more curious about why the other 24 letters got the shaft.

Yup, coffee has become an industry.

But it’s still not for me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have a cup of tea. With honey.

Workout 101: Characters Encountered at the Gym

I originally posted this on April 20, 2009 on my Bleacher Report page.

If William Shakespeare was correct, and all the world is a stage, then your local health club might as well be Broadway.

I’ve belonged to the same gym for over twelve years, and I’ve seen plenty of folks from all walks of life.

If you spend enough time in a gym, you’ll see a handful of different types of people flocking there daily. That’s not to say every member falls into one of those categories. The majority don’t.

Believe it or not, most individuals simply go to get a good workout and do something healthy for themselves. Novel concept.

Before dissecting the different types of knuckleheads one’s bound to encounter at the gym, let’s first define what exactly is a gym?

And let’s do it by stating what is not a gym.

A gym is not a hard-core joint where bench pressing less than 300 pounds will result in membership revocation.

A gym is not a place where Muffy and Buffy go for a fluff workout with a $250/hour trainer. After which, the next three hours are spent on the massage table, receiving a pedi, and getting an exfoliating facial with cucumber wedges before heading home in time for Ellen.

Simply put, a gym is an establishment with all sorts of devices and machines designed to help one lead a more active, healthy lifestyle. It’s inhabited by men and women, young and old, singles and families.

You’ll find assorted free weights, weight machines, and all sorts of cardio machines.

Most gyms offer a variety of aerobics classes too. If the building is big enough, you might even find a basketball court and/or a swimming pool.

Now that we’ve defined what a gym is, here’s a cast of characters that inhabits Any Gym, USA.

The Fat Guy Lifter

This is the guy who’s pre-workout meal consists of a half bag of potato chips—only a half bag; he’s watching his calories—washed down with two liters of Coke.

Needless to say, this man is big. But in the wrong sense.

Yes, he has big arms and a large upper body, but only in the way that Dr. 90210 looks at him and sees a down payment for ocean front property.

In some cases, the Fat Guy Lifter can actually lift a lot. But, when you put enough mass behind anything, the object is going to move. That doesn’t mean he’s strong. Just don’t try telling him that.

Between sets, he tends to glare at you with a look that says “I know you’re in awe of me because of how much I can bench.”

In actuality, you’re really wishing he didn’t wear that tank top.

The typical Fat Guy Lifter is nothing more than a wanna-be Tough Guy. Speaking of…

The Tough Guy

Here we have the main staple of any gym.

Arrogance, thy name is Tough Guy.

Most Tough Guys march around the gym like they own the place.

You see, the primary aim of a Tough Guy is to let everyone else in the gym know there’s a Tough Guy working out.

How does one carry out such a feat when there could be over a hundred people in the gym at once? Here are a few tricks of the Tough Guy trade.

Tough Guys often slam weights after each set. Most weight plates—free weights and machines—are made of steel, cast iron, or some heavy-duty metal.

When you don’t re-rack them normally, they tend to make a lot of noise. A lot of noise.

In fact, slamming a loaded barbel on the floor after dead-lifting will echo throughout the entire building. Trust me. I’ve heard this from the opposite side of the gym far too many times. 

Also, Tough Guys love to grunt. It completes them.

Due to strenuous exertion, a lot of people make some type of minor grunt when lifting heavy amounts of weight. Tough Guys take it to an extreme.

Some Tough Guys swear like drill sergeants. We’re talking the four-letter big boys.

And they swear loudly. At any time. In front of anyone. A true Tough Guy’s Tough Guy.

In addition, Tough Guys flock to Hot Chicks like buzzards to a corpse.

If you see a Hot Chick working out, there’s always a Tough Guy within earshot. Because naturally, she’s impressed by an F-Bomb after the Tough Guy has just curled 225 pounds for his 794th rep.  Aren’t we all?

Lastly, if you have any questions about whether said character is a Tough Guy or not, here’s the ultimate litmus test.

Look to see if he suffers from I.L.S. (Invisible Lat Syndrome).

The sole symptom of I.L.S. is walking with your arms extended from your sides because your upper body is so big, it’s impossible for them to hang freely.

If you can diagnose a case of I.L.S., you’ve stumbled across a Grade ‘A’, 100-percent Tough Guy.

Steroid Freak

No gym is complete without a few Steroid Freaks.

Because after all, let’s face it. The point of working out isn’t about leading a healthy lifestyle. Not even close.

It’s all about how much you can lift and having the biggest arms, natural or otherwise, in the gym.

Here are a few telltale signs of Steroid Freaks.

Check the hairline. That’s not to say all bald guys are taking steroids. Clearly, they aren’t.

But if one has a body that would make Vince McMahon throw a contract at him along with a hairline that’s shrinking faster than the stock market, sounds like X marks the spot.

Look at the chest. If it’s shaped like a round, wooden barrel that Friar Tuck used to imbibe a few spirits from, you’re in business.

There’s also the eye test.

If he’s 6’0” feet tall, works out on a regular basis, and isn’t a fat guy, he should probably be packing around anywhere from 170 to 190 pounds.

But if his frame is supporting around 230 pounds, he’s either a freak of nature (not out of the question) or he’s intimately familiar with needles. Probably the latter.

Another hint. Steroid Freaks tend to congregate since they share the same habit.

Executive Social Butterflies

While most of the other characters listed here can be found at any time and any day, the peak time to catch Executive Social Butterflies occurs Mondays through Thursdays from 5-7 pm.

For the most part, Executive Social Butterflies head to the gym straight from the office, hence, the time frame mentioned above.

You’re probably wondering why they won’t be found at the gym on Friday evenings since most of the free world works on Friday.

Friday night is martini night with their other Executive Social Butterfly friends, therefore, the gym can wait until Monday.

Alone, an Executive Social Butterfly is harmless.

Combine him or her with two or three other Executive Social Butterflies, and now you’ve got a problem. For example:

You’re just about done with your workout. You have one machine left before you hit the treadmill for a half hour, and then you can call it a day.

But that last machine is occupied. Normally that isn’t a problem because of the gym etiquette most people observe. You’d have to wait a few minutes or the other person will let you work in with him or her.

If the machine is taken by an Executive Social Butterfly, well, “Houston, we have a problem.”

And the problem is this:

The Executive Social Butterfly will do a set. The rest period lasts about seven minutes while he or she chit-chats with the other Executive Social Butterflies standing around the machine.

“Boy Gene, tough day on Wall Street today.”

“Tell me about it, Stew. My stock options are totally in the tank. To make things worse, my BMW is in the shop. On top of that, Buffy told me last night that membership dues at the club are going up.”

“Wow, that’s too bad. Will you and Buffy still be able to afford the ocean front summer home on the Vineyard you’re building?”

“We closed last week. My yearly bonus, while down because of the economy, was still enough for us to buy it outright. Mortgages are for poor people.”

(The Executive Social Butterflies burst out in laughter as they’re oblivious to the economic plight of the rest of the nation.)

Blah blah blah blah blah. This moronic banter continues on and on about topics that the average person doesn’t care about and will never experience. The entire exchange takes about 11 minutes. Time for his second set.

Meanwhile, you’re fuming as you contemplate how a 25-pound weight plate would look planted upside each of their heads. You could’ve completed your four sets in the time he took between his first and second set.

The Hot Chick

She is the female version of The Tough Guy.

While the typical Hot Chick doesn’t slam weights every time she finishes a set, she, like the Tough Guy, craves attention. Attention is her drug.

Hot Chicks manage to garner attention using other methods.

Now, let me issue the following disclaimer: There are attractive people every where you go, so why is the gym any different?

It isn’t, to a point.

What sets the Hot Chick apart from any other attractive woman working out is that she knows she’s hot, she knows that you know she’s hot, and she knows that you know that she knows she’s hot. And you bet she capitalizes on that.

First requirement of being a Hot Chick is she will be in phenomenal shape. Don’t worry. She will be.

Next, once she has ascertained said body, she’s obligated to show it off. Showing skin has been Hollywood’s secret for years, so why not adapt it to the gym?

The typical Hot Chick outfit involves a spandex sports bra as her top combined with spandex workout pants. This outfit allows for a good nine inches or more of abdominal and back reveal.

The goal of such an outfit is two-fold.

Most guys in the gym rubber-neck and drool like babies when they see her and a lot of the other women in the gym glare at her like she’s a boyfriend-stealing hussy.

Just for the record, if you are a man or woman who works hard to stay in shape and wants to show off the fruits of your sweat, I’m all for it. I really am. More power to you. There are too many obese people in the USA as it is.

But just don’t think you’re smarter than the rest of us. You’re not. We know what you’re doing. We’re onto your game. Enjoy the attention you’re seeking.

The Naked Locker Room Guy

I understand that in locker rooms you’re going to come across naked people. That’s the way it is. But quite honestly, some behavior is completely unacceptable. That being said, there are several ways to identify the Naked Locker Room Guy.

He’s usually at least 50 pounds overweight. The fatter, the better.

What’s more, he feels it necessary to parade to and from the shower area carrying his towel as opposed to wrapping it around the heaving pile of lard that protrudes from his waist.

When he returns to his locker after showering, he doesn’t hesitate to perform the straight-leg-bend-over to dry his feet. As if anyone else in the locker room ever wants any part of that sight. Come on buddy, cut it out.

He takes an inordinate amount of time to get dressed after his shower. This guy’s body is usually so bad that he’s the last one who should be standing there naked any longer than need be.

Every so often, two Naked Locker Room Guys will come across each other. This is a recipe for disaster.

They’ll stand there and have a conversation totally naked without making any effort at all to get dressed. Again, no one else in the locker room wants to see that. Believe it or not, it is possible to put your clothes on while communicating with another person at the same time.

Such behavior is intolerable and violators should be subject to prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.

My dad once taught me that “it takes all kinds.” He’s right.

So the next time you come across a collection of Fat Guy Lifters, Tough Guys, Steroid Freaks, Executive Social Butterflies, Hot Chicks, and Naked Locker Room Guys, mind your surroundings. You’re probably at the gym.

Enjoy your workout. And feel free to laugh at the scenery.

First post…..

Testing, testing…..hello? Is this thing on? OK, good.

So this is my first entry after deciding to take up residency in the world of the blogosphere (yeah, let’s see spell check try to nix “blogosphere).

The funny thing is, for someone who loves to write and whose father once told him, “you’ve been known to take a quote and shove it up someone’s “backside”, I really am at a loss with regards to the topic of my first entry.

I’m not going to ramble on about who I am, what I like, my hobbies, etc etc blah blah blah because this isn’t the “About Me” page on an internet dating site.  Hopefully, the content’s quality will do that for me.

So without dragging this out much further, I’ll close by saying that, like the rest of you other bloggers, I share a love and a passion for writing and I look forward to sharing my thoughts and views on a variety of topics and reading some great writing by the rest of you.  Let the journey begin.

Now, back to those TPS reports….