Archive for January, 2011

FITNESS: Don’t Disassociate

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Memberships at “full service” gyms are down.  With the internet and nitch marketing, many people now find the service they need in other ways.  Yoga studios, for example, can provide a specific service that used to be a part of a larger gym setting.

However, one of the main reasons that big gyms are not thriving is that the social aspect of being in the gym is disappearing.  People now disassociate.

Go to the gym and look around and you’ll see a majority of people wearing headphones and working out in their own little bubble.  Rather than interacting with those around them, they move from machine to machine to treadmill without any interaction at all.  The world of the iPod and iPhone has made the gym less social.

I admit I enjoy a solitary headphone workout on the rare day when my workout partner, John, is not there with me.  But on all other days I don’t wear the headphones because I am talking with John and interacting with those around me.  I love the social aspect of the gym, even if many interactions are just a quick “hello” to the regular faces.  And, of course, I can’t really do a good job of spotting and helping my workout partner have his best workout if I can’t talk or interact with him.  Any pairs of gym members who I see working out together while wearing headphones seem totally ridiculous to me.  A correct spot requires that I not only watch my partner but also listen to him.  Anything else is simply unsafe and ludicrous.

Even on the rare days when I am wearing my headphones, I will remove them if anyone asks for a spot or seems to want to interact or talk.

Granted, I love  my iPod when I’m trudging through 45 minutes of cardio.  This time in my “own world” helps to make the time go faster.  (Hint: I find a typical podcast of a show like “Fresh Air” times out perfectly for a cardio workout and makes the time fly by!)  But even though this makes the time pass, it’s more pleasant to talk to someone or interact a bit while doing this part of the workout also, if possible.

So take some days and don’t disassociate in the gym.  Take off the headphones and say hello to those around you.  This social aspect will keep you returning and add tremendously to your enjoyment and progress in the gym.

FITNESS: A Helping Hand

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

One of the most satisfying things about being an accomplished lifter in the gym is when you can help a young aspiring lifter to be more successful.  This usually takes the form of answering some simple questions, or maybe giving some pointers about exercise technique.

When I see these young men, usually high school aged, who are so enthusiastic and want so badly to make some progress, I immediately flash back to my early days.  Growing up, I was  the classic “98 pound weakling” who desperately wanted to be a bigger and stronger.  I also remember how intimidating the gym could be, and how much I had to learn.

So whenever a young lifter asks for advice, I am always happy to stop and take a few minutes and help them out any way I can.  The questions are often about supplements like which protein powder to buy, or when to add it to your diet, or even where to find the best prices and availability.

If I’ve had some interaction with this gym member, then I might also take the initiative to help them out on exercise form if I see them performing an exercise in an inefficient way.  And especially if they might be doing something dangerous where they could possibly hurt themselves, I’ll always step up to say something.  How you approach someone can be tricky, as I have to remember that I can be a bit intimidating if I’m not careful.  Luckily, I usually have my workout partner John with me, and he could charm the horns off a goat.  So if he’s there to put them at ease, then we’ll often show them proper form or give them some tips to help them out.

There’s no question they want to improve and be bigger and stronger, and correct form and proper nutrition are critical ingredients to their success.  I’m always very happy to be able to share some of the knowledge and experience I’ve gained from my (gulp) 35 years in the gym (!!)

Recently a gym manager saw me talking to a young lifter who was asking me how long it took to start seeing results.  After my conversation, the manager told me thanks for speaking with the young kid.  And I told him “I would talk to this kid all day because I remember exactly how it felt to be in his shoes.”  So if someone asks you a question in the gym, don’t think of the inconvenience, but rather seize the opportunity to help them out.  This is how the gym atmosphere can grow and be better for everyone.