2.27.2012

The Motions

I go to the gym three or four times a week and I see all kinds of people in there. Most are actively engaging in trying to improve their health through exercise. Some are merely going through the motions of doing it, probably on doctor's orders or spousal demands or something.

The other night I was getting started with a warm up row as I usually do (rowing engages nearly all of your body and is an excellent way to get your body primed for more). A minute or so into my row, a woman sits down at the rowing machine next to me. I think nothing of it and keep rowing my row. When I do happen to look up and glance over, I notice she's barely rowing and the display on the machine isn't even on.

Of course this piques my curiosity and I now start to surreptiously observe her. She half-assed her way through a few minutes of rowing then switched to a bike nearby and half-assed her way through some very un-engaged pedaling, again without bothering to turn on the display (the bikes at my gym require you to pedal before the display comes up). Now, I'll grant you, perhaps she was having a down day and just wasn't feeling it and just wanted to grind out a little something and then go home.


We all have days when life's gotten us down and we drag ourselves through until we can crawl into our bed and get a break. I've been there, so have you. And sometimes, when I am there and I still manage to drag myself into the gym, I'm able to shake it and get a good, sometimes great, workout despite my initial lethargy. It doesn't happen every time though and I'm honest enough with myself to pack it in if I can't turn it on.

But, having observed her a time or two since, both with and without her personal trainer (who does not let her bluff her way through the exercises), I have a very hard time seeing her being successful in her exercise based endeavors. Unless there is a sea change in her, she's going to do it in a half-assed way until she hurts herself or gets bored or runs out of money, time or patience. And then she'll go back to whatever she was doing that got her so out of shape but made her, ostensibly, happy.

And I think that is what happens for many of us. We want to make a change for the better, we want to rewrite a bad habit and change it into a good habit. We want to improve but it is damned hard work and it takes will power and luck and support. If one of those three is missing then it gets that much harder to balance on the other two legs, ever see a two legged chair?

I suppose that I am lucky in many ways, I've spent a tremendous amount of time in the gym as a professional and as a gym rat. I know what I like, I know what I want to do and I get it done. I can imagine that going into a gym is intimidating for many people, especially people who are well out of shape. And there's an old adage in the health club industry that we're not supposed to be repeat but it goes something like this, the best health club member is the one who signs up and then never comes in to use it. Which isn't to say that the club wants to take your money and not give you anything back for it, they will and do but there's so much less wear and tear on gear if it isn't getting used as much as it could be.

Part of the attraction of the gym, to me, is doing your thing in a public space. That is, you're being watched and watching others. There isn't any hard accountability but there is a tacit respect for those members who do it right, are in the gym and putting in the time and effort. I try to keep in mind that a new face to me doesn't mean they're new to the gym, they may be a long time member undergoing a scheduling shift. But I know all of the regulars who are at the gym when I'm there and they know me. I don't chat with anyone while I work out, that's not why I'm there, but I'm happy to chat while in the sauna or hot tub afterwards and have met some pretty interesting people this way. I've also met some people I don't particularly care to speak to again, much like regular life.

But my main reason for going to the gym isn't to socialize or ogle, it's to get my work in and get on with my life. And when I'm working out, I want to be giving it my full attention to make the best use of that time, otherwise I feel like I'm wasting my time. And time is one of those precious commodities that is gone for good when it goes. Going through the motions may kick you into gear so you can hit it for real but just going through the motions workout after workout is a recipe for failure.

In the aforementioned woman's case, she'd benefit from getting herself a training partner. Not a trainer, a partner to train with. Someone who will hold her accountable, keep her on task, motivate her and she will do the same for them. It is very much more difficult to blow off a workout if you know someone else is relying on you to be there for them and vice versa.
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