New PW columnist Timaree Schmit has some advice for workout newbies.
At a few of the gyms where I work as an instructor, there are signs counting down to summer. Every few days, someone (likely in lower level management) crosses the number out and writes a new, smaller number. Before that, there were nearly identical signs counting down to spring. The idea is that if someone gives you a hard deadline, you’ll finally get your act together.
Every year, a crop of folks wander into a gym, filled with resolutions and carbohydrates, and start a membership. They take a tour of the place, gawking at a spin class like an 8 year old at the zoo’s slow loris exhibit, and then hand over a credit card that’s going to be charged every month for at least a year. For a few weeks, these Resolutionaries make a valiant effort to transform their lives—and evoke Tourette’s-like epithets from the regular members who would really appreciate it if you could stop being such a damn noob and also get out of that spot, that’s Kristi’s spot, she always puts her mat there.
Out of this population of newcomers, a handful will stick with it. They’ll find that super fun dance class, they’ll stumble into yoga that fits perfectly into their schedule, they’ll lay eyes on an instructor whose toned, spandex-wrapped body prompts increased blood flow even before class starts. And that’s it: they’re hooked. But, realistically, most won’t. These folks’ membership dues subsidize the regular users of the facilities and make it possible for you to pay less for an entire month at the health club than you’d pay for a nice dinner.
It’s now basically summer. I know this because of those aforementioned signs—and the fact I no longer crave death as an alternative to biking in the snow. So if you’re one of the folks who joined up with a gym for New Year’s, now’s a good time to assess. Let’s say your aim was to completely waste your membership. Other than simply never going, what more could you be doing?
Continue being scared of classes. Insist that your lack of flexibility, coordination or other fitness component is actually a logical excuse to avoid a class, rather than the exact reason you should go. Stay paralyzed with anxiety that you won’t be as good as the other students, who shot out of their mothers with the ability to do burpees. Imagine that everyone else is as obsessed with how you look working out as you are.
Come late to class and leave early. Show up and leave whenever, since you’re a magical creature who doesn’t require a warm up or stretching. Miss all relevant instructions and equipment setup directions at the beginning, especially if you’re new and not really sure what you’re doing. That way, when you do things unsafely and end up with an injury, you have a surefire excuse for not working out for weeks on end.
Do the exact same routine every time. Decide whatever it was you learned in high school is probably still adequate, and assume a PE teacher probably would have corrected you if your pushup form was whack. Stick to the same exercises, machines, number of reps and amount of resistance every time. Sure, trainers might be able to escalate your workout exponentially, but you need that money for drinks and late night cheesesteaks.
Completely ignore entire sections of the building. Don’t get a full tour, ask questions or look at the gym’s website to find out what’s available. Remain blithely unaware there’s a pool. Decide that only certain types of people go into certain rooms by merely glancing in from the hallway as you walk by. Decide you are not one of those types of people.
Never talk to anybody. Infer everything you need to know about someone from what they wear to workout. Assume everyone is vain, stupid or otherwise unpleasant based on nothing in particular. Despite seeing each other regularly and clearly having a shared interest, be convinced that it would be painfully awkward to start a conversation. Certainly don’t start hanging out after class and creating a sense of community, which will make it harder to skip working out when you feel lazy.
How’d you do? So far, so good? If not, there’s always time. There are only 100 days till fall.
Sexology scholar, fitness trainer and podcaster Timaree Schmit will be writing about physical life in Philadelphia every week in PW.
Calendar: Aug. 26-Sept. 2