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Working Out Loud

Every so often, if you are lucky, you will see a naked man in the pool area at 24 Hour Fitness. Something about the locker room feel of the aquatic site just beckons to some men, “It’s okay. That co-ed sign is a hoax. Go on – take your pants off.” And so they do.

I spend most mornings at that gym, so not only am I familiar with the occasional misplaced nude man, I am also familiar with the fact that unique environments can lull us into doing things we’d never normally do. Like the seashore tricking us into wearing clothes resembling underwear in public, the gym teases, “Come on, let go. It’ll be our secret.”  

I exercise in the free weight area, lifting alongside muscled men who scream at one another in efforts to bench press more. I used to work out mutely, seeing no need to make a loud fuss over tricep dips; but a recent incident has convinced me to cast aside my silence. It started when an amazingly sweaty man asked, “You wanna work in a set with me?” nodding toward the hack squat machine.

I joked along with him, “Yeah, sure. Ha ha.”

“I need motivation,” he said. “Please.”

Please?  “Um, okay,” I said, “You go first.”  

The perspiring man positioned himself on the machine and grunted out several reps before handing it off to me. I stared at the contraption, which was now drenched with this man’s sweat, willing myself not to cry before clambering on.

I didn’t have long to dwell, because the guy began screaming at me. He yelled, “You a BEAST!”

When I work out with my girlfriends, we quietly reply, “Good job” after the other completes a jumping jack. But, did this dude just call me a beast? Let’s get something straight. Under any other circumstance in my life, if I am screamed at (much less screamed at that I am a beast), I either cry or call the cops. Maybe both.

But, it worked. I squatted more weight that day than I ever had in my life. In that situation, being screamed at empowered me. It also converted me. These days, I scream all the time in the gym and beg folks to scream back at me: All right naked pool men, I’m about to work in some arm curls. Megaphones ready? 

At first, I assumed my newly discovered strategy only worked at the gym (just like bikinis work at the beach, not at dinner parties). But, lately, I’ve been thinking: Could I translate this phenomenon to office life? Could I have discovered the key to ultimate workplace productivity?

I might type 25 words a minute faster if my boss shouted, “You a BEAST” as I fill out his expense report. I just may be onto something.

Most people use their inside voice at work. Not me anymore. I’ll come in with a bang first thing in the morning. I’ll shout out, “HELLO, MY CO-WORKERS! ANSWER THAT PHONE! FASTER!” 

Then, I’ll slam the desk with my laptop bag while stomping my high heels into the hardwood floor. I could write a book, even! I’ll conduct seminars motivating women all over the country: Getting Ahead: How I Shrieked My Way to the Top. I’ll have a slideshow displaying wildly successful female screamers. “On our first slide we have Jillian Michaels, trainer on The Biggest Loser. You think she broke glass ceilings by sitting there quietly?”

I’ll let you all know when I get that book deal. Meanwhile, at least I know the secret to toned quads.

Christina Ledbetter is a free-lance writer in Houston. She was an assistant at a local mortgage bank for three years, until her bosses realized she was better at writing than stuffing envelopes. She blogs about office life, fashion and the mortgage industry at

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