Saturday, October 6, 2012

How to Love Going to the Gym

They say exercise is a mood booster. If that's so, why does finding a reason to skip the gym always make me so happy?

You know, there was a time when I didn't mind working out. In college, I would walk 2 minutes from my dorm to the Student Center fitness room, ride 15 minutes on an exercise bike, follow that with 10 minutes walking (pretty fast) on a treadmill, and then top it all off with a few lat pull downs, situps, and (if I was feeling reeeeaally wild) some bicep curls. I did this every day without fail (except sometimes when I was sick) for 3.5 years (the first semester of my freshman year, I only did it 4 days a week), and I never minded. I had good books to read while biking, decent TV to watch while walking, and the leisure to completely zone out and daydream if that's what I preferred. I never left the gym feeling like I was at death's door. I rarely even broke a sweat. Working out was just a part of my routine, like brushing my teeth.

Nowadays, that idyllic workout scene is but a fond memory. These days, I can only make it to the gym after a hard day at work when all I really want to do is go home. I have to cross the entire campus to get there, which would take 12 minutes walking, but which I do in 4 minutes biking, getting stuck behind annoyingly slow pedestrians and cars that actually have to stop at stop signs the whole way. I have to lug my non-workout clothes with me and stuff them in a locker, which also necessitates carrying a lock. I have to carry my ID rather than just sign in on faith. Because I'm older and I eat more these days, I have to work out harder to achieve the same effect as I did back then. This means I actually have to run on the treadmill and actually have to lift heavy weights. I sweat like a horse. I can no longer read while working out because I am bouncing too much to see the words, and besides, the effort of getting enough air kind of takes all my concentration. My gastroenterologist says I have a hiatal hernia, which may explain why, every time I breathe too deeply, I feel like my stomach has migrated up into my throat. Working out is just not fun. To be blunt, I have begun to feel like working out is pure torture.

I've been considering the possibility of just not going to the gym any more. But I have to! If I want to support my Giant Cookie habit, I must counteract it with exercise!

So I've been trying to think of ways to make the gym less of an ordeal, and here's what I've come up with:

1. Entertainment

Running is probably the most painfully boring activity on the planet. Now, there are TVs at the gym, but they are too high up to see when I'm on the treadmill. If I watch them, I will fall off. So, why not play music? Well, how about because every time I take a step, my earbuds fall out of my ears. I've always liked the earplug-like silicone variety of earbuds, but only lately, they've been very loose—and with all the flapping around that my cord does when I run, they barely stay in for a few steps. (What, do people's ear canals get bigger over time?) I read all sorts of suggestions for how to keep your earbuds in your ears, but none of them worked for me. I even tried to enlarge them by wrapping a rubber band around one several times, but all that did was hurt. It still fell out after a few flaps of the cord. Then I lit on a solution.

Since I've become a sweat monster, I've taken to wearing a headband to keep my hair off my forehead. Today, I just lowered the headband over my ears, and voila! Mega music! No breaks for readjustment! And my Skullcandy earbuds are great! I was hearing all sorts of nuances in my music I'd never noticed before! And this is how cool I looked!

(Now, you might be asking why, if I'm wearing a big old headband anyway, I don't just use regular headphones? Mostly it's a matter of space. I can fit a pair of earbuds in a small dental floss case in my purse. But headphones would add too much bulk, since I already resent the amount of stuff I have to carry.)

I was pretty happy with this new musical strategy, until Default by Virtual Vault (Dave 202 Remix) came on while I was doing my abs. And I realized I love that song waaaay too much to sully it by lifting weights while it's playing! It deserves my full attention! I can't ruin it by counting reps at the same time!

And then there was the problem of my earbuds blocking out all the external noise. It makes me nervous to be that unaware of my surroundings.

So, some other ideas I'll have to try:
  • Wearing an earbud in one ear only (but what to do with the other one?)
  • Audiobooks (I probably won't be able to concentrate enough while in the agony that is running) 
  • Turning off the music for the strength training portion of my workout

2. Style

At least part of the reason I hate working out is I know my gym clothes make me look like a complete loser (yeah, and wearing a big headband over your ears doesn't have this effect). I usually wear longish shorts so my legs don't stick to the equipment but can still get some air, and loose old T-shirts because I get them free all the time, and again because of the airflow. Together, they have the effect of making me look outright hideous. Last workout, I decided to sacrifice a tiny bit of comfort for the sake of vanity, and I traded in my ratty old promotional T-shirt for a slightly fitted one. I felt so much better. Not wanting to cringe in disgust every time you look in the mirror is always a good way to make your workouts more tolerable.

I did make it through my last workout without feeling the burning desire to quit. But as I was walking in the door to my home, exhausted beyond measure, the thought still slipped out: "I hate going to the gym."

So I was really kidding when I titled this post "How to Love Going to the Gym," because I haven't figured it out yet. Maybe I should just resign myself to a life of obesity and death by diabetes.


Julie said...

I feel exactly the same way! I struggle so much with going to the gym. Actually I wouldn't even struggle with it at all (I just wouldn't do it) except for the fact that the air force makes me work out to pass fitness tests... ARGG!!