Saturday, January 4, 2020

Tips for the New Year's Resolutionaries

 Re-upping my semi-annual greeting and guidelines to the New Year's Resolutionaries, aka the folks who vowed to get in shape. All this is offered with love, respect and a strong dose of reality.
  • Hey, welcome. No, really. I'm glad you're here. You've made an admirable goal for yourself. Everyone you see here made a similar vow at some point in their lives.Yes, I may have groaned loudly when I walked into the weight room because it's suddenly filled with people and now there's more competition/wait time for machines. Don't worry, I'll deal. In the meantime, here are some best practices to help us both.
  •  Speaking of wait times, don't hog a single machine for 10+ minutes. Don't just sit there resting between sets. If you wait two minutes, six other people could've gotten sets in between yours. Get up, move around. Make a rotation of several machines; if one's busy, just go on to the next. There's no rule that says you have to do all your sets at a station in a row. I will sometimes start and end my workout with a particular exercise.
  • Carry a towel and wipe down a station anywhere your body touched it. It's just common courtesy. And some people are seriously stanky.
  • If you hear a guy (nearly always a guy) loudly grunting/exhaling/verbalizing with each rep, drawing attention to themselves and distracting everyone, make sure to focus all your negative psychic energy at him. He is the enemy of all this is good and true.
  •  Resist the urge to buy a bunch of brand-new workout gear as motivation. Wearing your old stuff is fine, unless it seriously doesn't fit anymore. If you want to buy an article of clothing that's like three sizes too small, wait until you actually reach that size and then buy it. It'll feel much better as a reward than a cautionary totem sitting in your closet, taunting you.
  •  If you're not sure how a station works, ask somebody. Most will be glad to show you. If you're a total newbie hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions is a good move. If some muscle-head bro-dude interrupts your workout to say "you're not doing it right," feel free to ignore him because he's probably the same guy who grunts while he lifts.
  • Don't be a muscle groupie. This is usually a woman, but sometimes also a young guy, who is smitten by muscles and feels compelled to compliment and ask questions of the bodybuilders. You can identify them because they're following the biggest person in the gym around like a puppy. If someone bigger walks in, they instantly migrate.
  • Most serious exercise adherents don't actually want to get big muscles. We think it's gross and unnatural. Plus we're probably older and wiser and have better things to do with our time. The correlation between strength and size is surprisingly weak. If you lift regularly you will get stronger but won't necessarily get a lot bigger. Bigger is literally not better. Perversely, the steps people undertake to get really big -- pills, extreme dieting, water binging/fasting -- often impact their health negatively. 
  •  For all that is good and holy, don't stand in front of the mirror flexing. Or even looking in the mirror a lot. You may need to do that when you're first learning an exercise, but once you've got the motion down it's kinda creepy.
  • Look, most of you are going to be done by Valentine's Day. I'm not trying to be discouraging, just realistic. The business model of gyms is built around getting a lot of people to sign up for monthly subscriptions they end up not using very much. If everyone who had a membership showed up regularly they wouldn't have enough space/equipment/people to handle it. It's not very different from airlines overbooking flights or those gift cards you may have given or received during the holidays. Americans waste up to $3 billion on gift card funds that go unused ever year.
  • Remember when I said in my first bullet point that I'll deal with the crowds? This is why. Because I know they will seriously thin very soon. This isn't a wish, just the reality I've witnessed year in and year out. I hope you're one of those who stays. Or tries again in six months or a year and this time it sticks. And then you can write the next one of these.

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