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The Horror Guide to Gym Safety

New Year’s resolution time is in full swing and millions are heading back to the gym to lose that holiday weight, get back their college bod, or finally get movie star jacked for the first time in their life. The gym can be an intimidating place—I know this from experience. One of the great concerns you may be having is, “will I hurt myself?” Well, have no fear! Horror has given us some simple rules for the gym and if you follow them, you’ll be sure to make it out alive.

Free weights can be tricky, use with caution.

Barbells and plates, dumbbells, benches and weight racks are all extremely dangerous, at least according to a multitude of horror movies. They are used to strangle, crush and maim in a variety of ways, but common sense will generally prevail for those who have it. For example: never let your ego make you think you can lift more weight than you actually can. Also, pay attention to your surroundings. Has someone moved the barbell rack out of your reach? Is a homicidal maniac lurking in the dark? (Happy Birthday to Me, 1981)

On the plus side, free weights, especially dumbbells and unloaded barbells, can also be used as weapons to fight off demons, zombies, and various other hordes of undead and supernatural creatures (Demons 2, 1987).

Choose your spotter carefully. 

The most common cause of death in gym horror is the bench press. Happy Birthday to Me (1981), A Nightmare on Elm Street 4(1988), and the “11/9” episode of American Horror Story: Cult (2017) all feature death by this popular exercise. It is also the exercise that most commonly makes use of a spotter, which can be very helpful especially when using barbells. But be careful who you choose, you could be putting your life into their hands. Find someone with experience if you can and avoid anyone who would hold the barbell against your throat (AHS: Cult), drop a forty-five pound plate on your privates (Happy Birthday to Me), or has the ability to turn you into a cockroach (ANOES 4).

Only use machines as directed by the manufacturer.

If you’re thinking “maybe it will be safer to just avoid the free weights and stick to machines,” think again. However, if used as directed by the manufacturer, you should be okay. First, make sure the machine is located in a safe area. Below a set of mounted swords when you are being stalked by Death is not one of those places (Final Destination 3, 2006). Also, and this should go without saying, never place your head or any other body part under the stack of weights, it won’t turn out well (The Toxic Avenger, 1984)

But cardio is completely safe, right? Wrong.

Many will stay away from weight training altogether and just head for the cardio machines. There isn’t a lot of horror specifically dedicated to cardio, so this seems like a safe bet. However, the cardio machines of today are wonders of modern technology, offering a variety of options for breaking a good sweat. And if we’ve learned anything from horror it’s that where there is technology, there is the opportunity for it to go horribly wrong or perhaps be possessed by an evil spirit.

Only use the pool under certain circumstances.

The pool is a great option: a fantastic full body workout that is easy on the joints, great for burning fat, and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Some use it at a means of escape, maybe from that sense that they’re being followed, perhaps by a vicious cat. That seems to make sense, but if you’re swimming at night, you never know what may be lurking in the dark (Cat People, 1942). Also, bullies have been known to use the pool to torment people, but if your best friend is a vampire, you should be fine (Let the Right One In, 2008).

Be kind to gym staff.

Being unkind just leads to revenge in too many cases. Eventually that wronged woman or wimpy guy will have the upper hand, be it becoming a malevolent spirit (Death Spa, 1990) or turning into a super-hero via a toxic waste mishap (The Toxic Avenger, 1984). 

A variation on this is be kind to your employees if you run a gym, your team if you’re a coach, or your students if you’re a PE teacher (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, 1985).

Steam rooms, hot tubs, saunas and tanning beds are all death traps.

The vicious hot tub drowning in Halloween II (1981), the tanning bed mishaps in A Killer Workout (aka, Aerobicide, 1987), Final Destination 3, and Death Spa, and the “hot ass” sauna scene from, once again, The Toxic Avenger, all prove that it’s a good idea to just avoid these places altogether.

When you hit the showers, just keep to yourself.

You just never can tell who has telekinetic powers and what will make them snap. (Carrie, 1976)

Remember, there are no short cuts.

As tempting as it may be to try to fast-track results, this just never turns out well. Tele-pods and gypsy curses may get you the results you’re looking for at first, but the long-term effects tend to be very unpleasant (The Fly, 1986; Thinner, 1996).

There you have it! Everything you need to know to return from the gym unscathed. As you can see, with a bit of self-awareness and some simple common sense, surviving the gym shouldn’t be too much of a problem. In fact, about a year and a half ago, I actually did head into the gym to get my health under control. It was intimidating at first; I even had a scary near-mishap with the bench press (ironically, the morning after I first watched that episode of AHS: Cult). But with a little time and consistency, I was able to overcome the fear and eventually lose a hundred pounds. So, for all those wanting to take back their health in 2020, take it from me, it can be done and it is worth it! Stay safe, everyone.

Written by Brian Keiper

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