Adventures in physical fitness, part 2: What I’ve learned so far

Last week, I wrote in this space about joining a gym and indulging in a free training session at the facility — a venture that ended with me quasi-dry-heaving on the bathroom floor of said gym.

Despite that rather humbling experience, I am determined not to give up on my new commitment to physical fitness. After all, I don’t want to be the person driven to near-cardiac arrest by a few minutes of exercise. Like everyone, I want to be strong. I want to be healthy. I want to do 30 seconds worth of jumping jacks without feeling like I’m going to die.

So, in the interest of improving myself, I’ve headed back to the gym several times since that fateful day last week. In short, my more recent trips have been a bit less stressful, if still rigorous. And I’ve managed to learn a few things about myself and the environment of the American physical fitness complex. Allow me to share some of them with you.

1. Gym locker rooms are no place for shame: I don’t know who exactly coined the phrase “I can’t unsee that,” but I’m pretty sure that individual was standing in a gym locker room when he or she said it. There’s something about crossing the threshold of a gym locker room that causes people to abandon all shame and strip down to various states of undress. I don’t really have a problem with this. I’m not a prude. But it is a little weird, right? I mean, just because everyone in a room is of the same gender, doesn’t mean we all want to see each other in the altogether. I don’t know you. You don’t know me. Thus, neither one of us needs to see the other standing nude on a scale (something I in fact witnessed during my last trip). However, I’m trying to embrace the gym experience, so I decided on my second trip that I would change into my gym clothes out in the open instead of in one of the locker room bathrooms. But, as I attempted to do this, a woman walked in with a 4 or 5-year-old child in tow. It’s one thing to disrobe in front of other adults. But a kid? My resolve withered.

2. It’s easy to spot the people who aren’t 100 percent committed to working out. They’re the people who have the TVs attached to their exercise machines tuned to the Food Network.

3. Gyms are competitive. I don’t just mean that you might have to knock down a fellow exerciser to get access to the last elliptical machine (though that is something that could totally happen). I mean that, no matter your level of physical fitness, you will almost certainly find yourself peering at the computer display on the machine next to you and comparing your workout colleague’s speed, distance, heart rate, etc. to your own.
At least, I do this. I can’t help it. If I see a guy next to me watching “Restaurant Impossible” on his machine’s TV, I need to know that I’m outpacing him. Of course, this can be humbling. I haven’t yet had the experience of realizing that everyone in my immediate area is out-performing me. But it will happen. And when it does, I’ll probably end up being more likely to keep my eyes on my own machine.

4. When you approach a machine, you shouldn’t just drop your water bottle into the machine’s cup-holder, assuming that it has a bottom. It might not, in fact, have a bottom, and your water bottle might clatter to the floor, drawing every eye in the gym to the lumbering lummox who’s making all the racket. I mean, that could happen to someone. I’m not saying it did happen. It just could.

5. You need to choose your machine carefully. When I went in for my training session last week, I was told I might want to try cycling. So, on my last trip to the gym, I did. I don’t know how to put this delicately, but exercise bikes can be kind of painful. Specifically, they can cause one pain in a particular area where one especially does not want to be caused pain because it makes it difficult for one to sit for a prolonged period of time. It’s highly possible that this was my fault and not the fault of the machine. I might have need to adjust the seat before plopping onto it. Rest assured, I will not be plopping onto an exercise bike again in the near future. In fact, I’m not sure I’ll be plopping onto anything again in the near future.

Amanda Cuda