Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gym Intimidation - A Good Lesson

Sports bras, short shorts, loud music, seemingly ‘fit’ people everywhere; all occupied with a focused and intense mission.

As often as I frequent the gym, it is always refreshing to get a ‘non-gym-fanatic’ point of view – the other day was a classic example that made me take a step back and realize, not everyone thinks of the gym the way I do (as a natural part of life), so I thought it may be interesting and mildly entertaining to share this with all of you gym junkies and gym-haters alike.

It was mid-Saturday morning – peak time at my local health club, every machine in use, every class filled, music blasting, over-animated instructors and trainers yelling motivational direction at their subjects and all the regulars clad in his/her best workout gear of the week. Now usually I’d be in my element running, cycling or swimming, but I happened to be struggling with a naggy head cold and after days of rest I decided to try and test some easy cardio. I chose to jump on the ‘arc trainer’, which is an interesting breed of the elliptical machine. Within not three minutes I was bored to tears (not yet strong enough to do a dynamic workout ;), so I began observing people around me….

Immediately I was intrigued by the man ‘arcing’ on the machine next to me: no headphones, no book, no distraction, just a big man working very hard; clearly this was not his idea of an enjoyable morning. I decided to strike a conversation and to my delight we hit it off beautifully carrying on an insightful and thoroughly interesting conversation. Amazing what can happen when we unplug and interact with other humans.

In about 20 minutes of elliptical time, I got to know this man very well – he opened up about his own weight loss journey and gave me insight into his feelings on exercise and gyms. I often forget how most people view this subject. While there is the minority of the world (i.e. me), that love to workout, to experience physical pain and discomfort and to be in the midst of others all doing the same thing, the majority of the world gets anxiety just thinking about it. Most people would prefer to avoid the pain and sweat they must endure to get that perfect ‘beach body’, not to mention the whole psyche associated with the gym: “what to wear?? Am I not doing as much as the guy next to me? Everyone is probably staring at me. I look horrible working out. I sweat too much. I’m not sure what to do with myself when I’m there. Is there proper gym etiquette???” These, and many more, are all common thoughts that most people encounter.

Well, Thomas (this is what we will call my new friend), candidly talked about the struggles of being out of shape and uncomfortable with the whole gym setting, “ It’s never been my thing, no matter how much I try, I just don’t get the endorphin high everyone talks about after a workout. In fact, I feel like I just endured torture and need a nap!”

At this I laughed, Thomas had a humorous but very real perspective on this topic. And this lack of exercise motivation is hardly a failure - Clearly, Thomas’ passion lay somewhere else. And through probing I slowly learned that Thomas happened to be one of the best in the world in his particular ‘passion’ (humble man), but as he said, fitness just wasn’t his ‘thing’. But I came to greatly admire and respect Thomas that day, because no matter how hard it was for him, he never used his dislike for it as an excuse. He knew he needed to get healthy and fit for his quality of life and asserted that it would help improve his life is so many ways.

So, as tough as it has been, Thomas has been coming religiously to the gym and putting in the hours of hard work to achieve his new healthy lifestyle goals (and already 60lbs lost!). As intimidating as it was in the beginning, he did it – overcame the feelings of embarrassment, pain and struggle AND although he still doesn’t find it enjoyable, it is no longer something he dreads. I am confident that Thomas will soon feel that ‘great endorphin high everyone is always talking about’. It WILL come, the key is consistency, hard work and dedication.

Thomas was a breath of fresh air to me and someone I truly admire. It is a lot harder to do something that ‘isn’t your thing’ or that you don’t enjoy. I can only imagine if I had to learn to play an instrument that I didn’t like and wasn’t good at it, but was vital to my quality of life. It’s important to take a step in another person’s shoes sometimes.

AND for all the Thomas’ out there, don’t worry about what people are thinking of you, the truth is, most people are too consumed with themselves to notice what you’re doing at the gym!



1 comment:

  1. hey beautiful!! here I am posting things on here! so I really need to get my abs stronger and workout the middle area.. those are my super problem areas.. the rest of me I am starting to really love!!!
    what do you suggest?