There was a period in my life when I did hot yoga all the time—back in the days before I hurt my shoulder from excessive chaturangas, and before I realized that maybe I shouldn’t squander my journalist’s salary on the studio’s exorbitant membership fee (even though they did serve free herbal tea in the reception area).
During this time, I came to identify certain annoying trends among my fellow yogis. Sometimes there was a person who came in inexcusably late and had to step over our slippery, contorted bodies to find a space. Often there was a teacher’s pet who showed off their moves in the front row. But always, always, always, there was a Loud Guy™.
And he was the worst of all.
Loud Guy™ wasn’t one specific person, but a role played by various men. Put simply, the Loud Guy™ made noise—and I’m not talking about normal, workout-induced grunting. The Loud Guy™ exhaled like a goddamn leaf blower during his vinyasas. He moaned and sighed as though every downward dog was helping exorcise a demon from his chest. He sounded like he was dying, or worse, masturbating. Think Jason Segel in this Forgetting Sarah Marshall scene:
To clear up any confusion, I want to point out that not all men who make noise are Loud Guys™. It’s fine if a few animalistic noises escape your lips during a kickboxing combo or a kettlebell swing—in fact, grunting has been shown to boost your performance in certain workouts! A regular loud guy becomes a Loud Guy™ when he wants to let you know he’s there, and that he’s definitely working harder than everyone else in the (predominantly female) class.
That’s another thing about the Loud Guy™: He’s native to the group fitness studio, an environment traditionally associated with women. This makes him insecure about his masculinity, thus prompting him to huff and puff like an angry (and very powerful!!!) boar for all the world to hear. A woman may be incredibly loud during a workout class—perhaps even to show off—but she is not, by definition, a Loud Guy™.
Finally, the Loud Guy™ may not be doing any of this consciously. That’s probably why, when I talked about the Loud Guy™ on social media, hardly anyone came forward to identify themselves as such. (The Loud Guy™, silent for the first time in his life!) However, I did learn that my friends had encountered their fair shares of Loud Guys™, too.
My former coworker Lale Arikoglu said the Loud Guy™ in her yoga class is a man she’s dubbed “The Walrus.” “It sounds like some sort of guttural orchestra and it ruins yoga for me!!!” she said. “The breathing exercises are particularly painful to listen to, but there’s also just a lot of snuffling going on throughout. I feel like it’s to show off? The Walrus is always at the front of the class.”
I suggested that perhaps The Walrus is insecure, and needs to assure himself that it’s okay to do yoga instead of something more stereotypically “manly,” like picking up weights and putting them down again. “Oh absolutely,” Lale said. “It’s seems like it’s to tell the room, ‘I’M HERE AND I’M EXERCISING THE HARDEST.'”
But the Loud Guy™ is hardly unique to yoga. As I discovered when I traded in hot yoga for a New York Sports Club membership, Loud Guys™ are performatively grunting and groaning in fitness classes of all kinds. They’re everywhere!
My friend Jenna Amatulli insisted there’s at least one Loud Guy™ in every Barry’s Bootcamp class, and it seriously irks her: “The treadmill sections are hard, but they are not scream-out-like-a-barnyard-animal hard,” she said. “I had a dude next to me once who screamed ‘UNHHHHHH’ every two minutes and it actually scared me a few times. Like, I almost tripped while running because it was that jarring.”
Jenna agreed that the Loud Guy™ is shaped by a traditional (and outdated) concept of masculinity. “I think there’s machismo behind it,” she said. “Like a nod to everyone around that says, ‘See how hard I’m working?'”
To all the Loud Guys™ reading this: There’s no shame in the group fitness game. Even if the clientele tends to be female, there’s nothing inherently gendered about the movements you’ll do in pilates or yoga, so you needn’t worry about being too “manly” to reap their benefits for strength and mobility. Apprehensive dudes should also remember the reason they’re taking a class: instruction. You’re better off learning from a coach in a group than struggling in a weight room alone if you’re just starting out.
Loud Guys™, we know you’re there. We see you. We definitely hear you. Now can you please cut it out? We’re not impressed—just annoyed.