Why I love to hate the gym

I never wanted to be a gym bunny. I have invested a lot of time into slagging the gym culture, in fact. And now here I am – a willing and paying member of the gym (non) reality.

I have always preferred the idea of exercising out of doors. Go for a run, a walk (a hike).

Or get what I call ‘incidental’ exercise while doing something that you love like dancing, Capoeira, canoeing, whatever.

The idea of going into an indoor area filled with sweaty bodies who are there with the sole purpose of working specific muscle groups always struck me as unhealthy and unnatural.

Which is why I have been so surprised to find that the gym rocks.

For one thing it’s open all kinds of insane hours when it might not be convenient to be on the road. In fact there are quite a few great things about the gym:

  • It’s open in the dark
  • It’s open when it’s raining and has cooling facilities when it’s hot
  • There are some mean looking dudes (instructors on duty) who will give you evil eye balls if you try to be lazy and downscale your work out
  • The same guys also show you how to use all the equipment – safely
  • The instructors at my gym work out a program just for you and your specific wibbly bits, no extra charge
  • You actually work out – because you are there. Whereas at home it’s easy to get distracted and think of other more pressing things to do.
  • No one is looking at you – 80 % of the other people there are feeling just as pathetic as you are – and they don’t actually give a crap about you
  • Contrary to what I always believed – you can wear anything that’s comfortable. No-one notices.
  • The equipment I always laughed at actually helps you sculpt exactly the areas you want to
  • Unlike a class – you can fit it in whenever you have time. you don’t have to be punctual or specific
  • No politics – unlike many group activities
  • The crappy music actually vibes you up
  • There is free filtered water on tap
  • Free hot showers, and hair drier!
  • You don’t have to talk to anyone if you don’t want to. This is a huge plus for me. I work with people all day, and come home to two kids every evening. I really enjoy that I can nod at someone once and not have to be sociable AT ALL while I am sweating.

As with all exercise the gym calms me down and gives me an endorphin buzz that lasts a couple of hours. Just 45 minutes at the gym takes away my desire to shove someone’s head through a wall and helps me restore my sense of humour.

My gym survival tips:

  • Don’t waste money on fancy gym clothes, no-one is interested in anything but themselves and they won’t notice
  • Wear something funny if it picks you up – I like to go with an eighties theme.
  • Bring tunes. If you get bored bring your own mix and head phones – works a charm
  • Always remember your water bottle and towel! Sounds obvious – I have forgotten both – more than once!
  • Go easy on yourself. Even if you cut your reps in half and slow that treadmill down to a walk – you are still doing 100% better than every person sitting at home in front of the TV. Rather have a slow day at gym than not go at all.

So sure, it’s soulless and without scenery. You are not learning a skill, practicing an art form or breathing fresh sea air – but you are doing something that is good for both your body and your mental health in a safe, convenient and professionally monitored environment.

And the beach (or forest) will still be there for you on Sunday.

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