The Burper

I noticed him first about a week ago when I was warming up: a small, trim, well-muscled man probably in his sixties, with light black skin and neat grooming, attired in a cutoff muscle shirt reading “Drug Free Sports” and the kind of wide-striped gym baggies they used to sell about twenty years ago. A lifer. I like to see those.

I almost caught his eye to chat when I found we were crisscrossing through the Hammer plate loaded equipment, though like everyone else, he was wearing those damn earbuds that have made casual social interaction a quaint relic of the past.

Then he burped. Deeply, sonorously, and it seemed unthinkingly, the way you blink.

“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” I responded. The earbuds: he didn’t notice.

Shortly after he burped again. And again. He burped while loading plates and stripping the bar. He burped walking along the aisles between the equipment.

I passed him again today. Shortly thereafter I heard the same robust, melodious, unselfconscious burp.

I Googled “uncontrollable belching” and found that there are people who do exhibit it pathologically and idiopathically, and don’t leave the house because they’re so embarrassed by it. Lifters are a different animal though. We really do not care as long as we get to the gym.

No one else seems to mind, happily for him. After some of the places I’ve worked out, my gross-out threshold is way above this, but it can make you jump.

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7 thoughts on “The Burper

  1. I think that the issue may be more related to the earbuds than any other pathology. I’ve noticed that people wrapped in their personal acoustic cocoons often think the rest of the world is as oblivious as them. And that goes for flatulence too!

      • That is an old one!

        On a different matter, if I could consult you in a professional capacity–I had a misadventure at the farm over the weekend and am on forearm crutches for the next couple of months. The leg is OK but my upper pectorals are killing me when I use the crutches. The nurse told me to expect that and I checked out a bunch of Youtube videos about how to use crutches and nothing useful came up. Not sure if you’ve had any experience with this sort of thing but do I just need to build up some muscle or am I doing something wrong or potentially causing a problem? The pain is worse on the right side, same as the injured leg which makes sense and it does feel like I’ve over done a workout so I’m thinking it will resolve but thought I’d ask. Thanks for any thoughts!

        • Unfortunately, crutching is not a natural form of locomotion so no matter how carefully you try to do it right, there is going to be overuse of your shoulder girdle. The muscles do rise to the occasion after a while… usually about the time you don’t need the crutch anymore. What you really want to watch out for is nerve compression in the thoracic outlet, there in that triangle where the upper pecs (and front deltoid) cross the front of the shoulder. Pain or pins and needles in your hands, or just failing grip. It comes from both the direct pressure of the crutch in our armpit and the sustained muscle contraction creating entrapments.

          If I were in your fix I would do some dumbbell pullovers every night before hitting the sack.

          Not as heavy as if you were trying mainly to muscle-build, but heavy enough — say 15 or 20 pounds to start — that you feel the pull in your flanks. Instead of focusing on the muscles bringing the weight up, you want to lean into the negative of the rep where the arm rotates back behind your head. What this does is get the shoulder blade and the collarbones to move pretty dramatically across the rib cage and counteracts the way that the crutches freeze the soft tissue in place. In a pinch you can do the movement off the edge of a reasonably hard bed, or on one of those large stability balls. Which is a handy tool for rehabbing injuries too, and they’re fairly cheap and you can deflate them when you’re not going to be using them for a while.

          That farm sounds dangerous…

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