“I hate weights. I hate the gym.” (Photo of 45-lb plate with the subtitle: My nemesis).
I read this 43-year-old gentleman’s comments this morning with combination of compassion, empathy and some mild irritation.
Because look folks, for those of us who are genuinely trying to get in shape, who have hit a big milestone in life (30–40–50–60) and THIS IS FINALLY GOING TO BE THE YEAR, may I kindly remind you that last year was, too, and so was the year before, for so many of us?
This isn’t a slam on your intentions. Nor is it a criticism of your heartfelt desire to take better care of the vehicle that slogs you around for a lifetime.
It is, however, a gauntlet. Okay, okay, for those of you who have really been out of the gym for a while, a toothpick, okay?
I have to ask: why on earth force yourself to go back to the gym if you HATE it? Why would you or anyone else make yourself run, or hike, or swim, if you despised those activities?
This is akin to my heading to the grocery story and buying kale (vomit) and Brussels sprouts (ditto) to force them down my gullet because they’re good for me.
There are a great many things that are “good for me” that are about as appetizing as chowing down on a pair of used Odor Eaters.
I WON’T EAT THAT SHIT.
The same way a Paleo smorgasbord, offered at an evening here in Denver, was just about the most unappetizing, smelly, nasty-tasting food I have ever consumed in my life. I made it through a cracker with beet puree, spat it into a napkin and ate the Kind bar I had kindly brought along. If it tastes like crushed beetle testicles to us, funny thing, we are not going to eat it no matter how “good it is for us.”
Herein lies the prob, guys.
This gentleman, who is for good reasons full of excellent intentions, is like all of us human, and being human, like most of us, will opt for what he likes. Not what he hates. Eventually even the most dedicated (and here, please, I point to the very highly public weight loss battle of one Oprah Winfrey, who even after getting VERY slim went back to what she loved) will find a way to detour our detox.
Which reminds me of the joy of colonics, which was and still is a thing, although I have grave difficulty imaging the fun in lying in cold bathtub while some fluid is being delivered by tube into a place designed primarily for one-way traffic (please, I know some would beg to differ but stay with me here). I suppose that’s along the same order as rebirthing, which, frankly, since it wasn’t that fun the first time around, why on earth would we elect to do it again? Has anyone asked Mom about this? But I digress.
There’s a very, very good reason why he quit going. A very very good reason why the gym slid to the sidelines. Frankly, it wasn’t fun. And between you, me and the goalposts, we will not continue to do what isn’t fun.
This is not a bad thing. Nor am I saying in any way don’t try.
I am saying, for crying out loud, find something you genuinely enjoy doing. Whether it’s walking or gardening or cycling isn’t the issue. What is the issue is that you love it, which means you will do it, and do it for life. By that I mean in some form, allowing for our aging bodies.
For example, at 66 I won’t try Everest. But I did just summit Mt. Kenya at 17,000 feet. For me, it’s about the same. Besides, I don’t happen to have a hundred grand lying around the house to blow on an endless, frozen, thankless conga line surrounded by millions of tons of trash, shit and detritus. Including dead bodies. But hey, that’s just me.
Here’s the piece. If this guy throws his heart into a workout routine, and hates it, he will find a way to throw his back out so that he doesn’t have to continue. Our minds find a way, and we always point True North, to what we care most about. Just ask most men about pointing True North especially if they happen to be observing yoga class.
The subconscious rules, and if we secretly HATE the SOB who is our trainer, guess what? We’ll make sure that we’re so badly injured, we’ll never see the bastard again. Done. Fini.
If you and I find that yoga is not only pleasant, but fun, rewarding, easier than we thought and gives us results, we’re likely to do it. Daily. For the rest of our lives, as best we can, because it feeds us. It might also cripple us (see below), but then who cares?
As an aging athlete who is a dedicated gym pig, I understand what this man is saying. My god, do I. However I LOVE the gym. I love weights so much I have one of (his nemesis) 45-lb plates in my basement, along with a bench and a slew of weights, a mirror and tons of contraptions for days I can’t get to my facility. It’s woven into my DNA, the culture, the noise, the farts, the grunting, the endless teasing, and the grudging respect we give each other for being there on New Year’s Eve day to punch it out. Of course that’s because we also don’t have a life, but that’s beside the point.
Baby, if that ain’t you, go find what you do love.
Part of life is learning what we like, what we prefer, what works for us, our bodies, for our age, for where we are in our fitness journey, for the time we have and can give. No hack will replace hard work, but nobody is going to give his body hard work if it’s a program he hates.
With one exception: injury recovery. I effing hate PT, but if I want my right shoulder back after rotator cuff surgery last year, it’s going to get done. It’s temporary. And it has to be done. I can hang with that.
Besides, and there’s the deal, if I don’t do the PT I can’t get back to the gym and sling iron like I love to do. That’s the point.
The other is that slinging iron gets me in shape for the kinds of epic sports I do and I have at least two if not three big trips this year. Therefore, it’s imperative. Besides, the way my body has been going lately, I’m going to need my guns back just to manage my crutches.
But I love it.
This young man- and to me he is indeed young- would be far better served to experiment with a broad variety of sports, programs, machines. This morning as I did my three-mile circuit, I passed a working treadmill which is out on my neighbor’s lawn, free to anyone with a big enough truck ( and stupid enough to believe they will use it for anything other than drying out the wife’s underwear, a role for which I honestly believe most treadmills were designed anyway).
That’s my point. No Costco bench (that’s what I have and it’s excellent) or $3k Peloton bike investment is going to do a damned thing for you if you don’t enjoy it. My garage is full of kayaks and bikes and gear that I use because I love them. I’m no expert at any of it, but competent at all of it. Enough so that I will use my gear, will make time, and that sculpts this aging body into one hell of a machine. Um, well. That is, if you’re impressed with an old-fashioned coffee grinder.
Before you invest, as so many of us do, in another gym membership, I might suggest that we for once explore, with genuine curiosity, what we might like. Deny the pressure of the bullshit “Go Hard or Go Home” that permeates the heavily male-dominated world of the hard-core gym. Just take the time to ask what intrigues you? What’s fun? What do you enjoy enough to commit to for a good long time ( Sorry, I did NOT ask you about sex)
You’re NOT wimping out if you don’t like it or if it just isn’t for you.
You’re NOT a loser if HIIT isn’t a fit, and your style is slower, steadier, paced.
You AREN’T a slob if you do not like spin classes that cause you to vomit.
We all experience phases (Nautilus, Cross fit, blah blah). When you’ve spent all your adult life at the gym — not just for the sake of being at the gym but to serve your overall fitness- then chances are it was a perfect personality fit. Some of us are cyclists. Some, hikers. Others love the solitude of swimming laps before the Silver Sneakers classes begin.
Let’s face it. For some of us, Silver Sneakers is all we can do.
The world of the gym is uniquely competitive. Intimidating. And a lot more things which can be ultimately defeating. Those of us who spend lots of time there just shut that out. Not everyone can. That’s why it makes sense to explore, question, experiment, and find the program, place, space, instructors, support systems that you really love. Or, in my case, those who don’t laugh at me to my face.
That’s what will lead to a lifetime commitment.
You don’t owe a damn soul an apology for not loving the gym. Your only real journey is to find what moves you to move for the rest of your life. That’s nobody’s business but your own.