I’m a lazy fuck.
I feel like it’s important for me to say that right off the bat so no one will think I’m some kind of energetic go-getter who actually enjoys moving around and sweating. Given the choice between sitting on my ass, drinking wine, or like, playing frisbee or whatever, chances are pretty good I’m gonna ask you to pass the pinot grigio.
I’m also shy. Really, really shy.
So yeah, long story short, going to the gym? Not so much something I was eager to start doing. I was self-conscious and out of shape, and the last thing I wanted to do was go somewhere brightly lit and full of lots of really nice-looking people who’d snicker at the way my flabby ass kind of looks like a lump of spandex-covered jello that chases me when I run.
But I started doing it anyway because I really want to be able to outrun zombies. Y’know. Just in case.
4 months later, I’m going to the gym 5 days a week, and I’m not completely hating it. It’s taken me a long time to get comfortable with my routine, though, and I’ve spent a lot of time going, “Jesus Christ, seriously? How come no one’s ever written some kind of FAQ for geeks who hate the gym?” That statement led to a conversation with a friend who asked me for advice, which turned into an email, which turned into this post. So viola! A quick ‘n dirty guide to surviving the gym, from one shy nerd to another.
BEFORE THE GYM: The Shit You Need
1) You need to understand two things: no one looks sexy at the gym, and no one gives a fuck that you’re exercising.
I can’t stress this one enough. I know you think you’re going to get there and see like five Jared Padalecki lookalikes busting a move on the treadmills or whatever, but that is because you read too much fanfic. Most of your fellow gym-goers are going to be fat and/or middle-aged and/or sweating their asses off while crawling on their hands and knees across the floor with their personal trainer (I’m serious. This happened. And I won’t lie, it looked a little bit kinky.) Anyway, the point is that no one actually looks fuckable when they’re working out, okay? They just don’t. Besides, no one is going to have time to judge what you look like when you’re working out because they’ll be too busy sweating and wishing they were dead.
2) Learn about different kinds of gym equipment before you go to the gym.
I hate looking like a dumbass. I hate those embarrassing moments where you wave at the wrong person or you realize you’re walking in the wrong direction and then have to check your phone, pretend you just got a text, and then turn around and head the other way. Hate, hate, hate. So naturally, I also hate the idea of getting to the gym and being faced with a big ‘ol sea of gadgets and machinery, and having no fucking idea how any of it works. Thankfully, treadmills tend to be pretty straightforward, so if you don’t feel like doing any research before heading off to the gym, just veer toward the treadmills and you should be fine. Eventually, though, you’re going to get tired of using the same equipment all the time. That’s where the Interwebs come in. Head over to YouTube or your video site of choice and watch instructional videos on how to use different machines. Here’s a short list of cardio equipment you can usually find at any gym: treadmill, elliptical trainer, rowing machine, stair climber. Start with those and work your way up. No pun intended.
3) Get the right clothes.
This should seem like a no-brainer, but there’s a reason people don’t wear jeans to the gym. You know why? Because they fucking suck to run in. They’re heavy and they chafe in places you should never, ever be chafed. You don’t have to go out and spend $400 on new workout clothes (mine came from the secondhand shop), but you do have to make sure you’re comfortable. Take the time to find clothes that you look good in but that you also won’t have to tug at and fiddle with. I wear black yoga pants because they make my ass look good, a long black t-shirt because my shirts have a tendency to ride up when I run, and for the love of all that is holy, ladies, get a sports bra that fits. I know the squashed-boob look isn’t attractive, but the squashed-boob look means your bra is doing its job. Believe me when I say that there is very little in the world that is more painful than having a pair of DDs trying to bounce their way off your body when you’re running full-tilt. Besides, being in clothes that fit properly and don’t shift around too much will make you feel less self-conscious.
4) Get the right shoes.
Sorry, but your Converse ain’t gonna cut it. Unless you want to spend your days limping around like you just got fist-fucked by Kobe Bryant, you need a pair of decent shoes. What kind you get depends on what you plan on doing (general cardio, walking, training for a marathon, whatever). If you’re not sure what your end goal is, go with a solid cross trainer. Do not buy your shoes online, and do not buy a pair without trying them on first. If you can, go to a proper shoe store where there are salespeople who know the difference between running shoes and walking shoes, and ask them to help you find a good pair. They’re not going to make fun of you or look down on you for asking questions, I promise.
5) Get the rest of the shit you need.
I’d consider the following gear pretty much essential:
- Water bottle (or bring bottled water, but it’s cheaper to get the refillable kind, especially if your office has a water cooler)
- A towel if your gym doesn’t provide them
- Chapstick (The air in most gyms is dry from all the air conditioning and filtration systems. If you don’t feel like lugging lip balm inside with you, at least get some to stash in your bag or car.)
- Headphones and something that plays music
AT THE GYM: Pre-Workout Foreplay
I don’t use the locker rooms at my gym, so you’re on your own there. Sorry.
1) Make sure you’re comfortable.
I don’t mean this in a self-empowering, be-comfortable-with-your-own-body kind of way; I mean this in a basic, make-sure-you’re-wearing-underwear-that-won’t-give–you-a-wedgie kind of way. Wear the right clothes. Wear the right shoes. If your lips are dry, apply lip balm. If you have to pee, then go pee before you even think about getting on a treadmill. Eliminate as many distractions as you can before you start working out, because you can and will use them as an excuse to stop.
2) Pick your spot.
Don’t feel like you have to walk in and go straight to the first machine you see. Pretty much everyone stops and surveys the room when they first get to the gym, so no one is going to think you’re lost.
Some tips for finding a good spot:
- Avoid the mirrors.
Most gyms have at least one wall that is entirely covered in mirrors. Supposedly, they’re there so you can watch your form while you lift weights. In reality, they’re there so you can spend your whole workout obsessing over the way your thighs bounce around like lumpy water balloons when you run. Just stay the fuck away from them. Trust me.
- Get as close to the air conditioning and/or fans as possible.
Look, gyms are freezing for a reason. I know it’s tempting to stay as far away from the AC vents as possible, but suck it up. Pretend you’re Jon Snow or something and get your ass as close to that AC as possible, because I promise that after ten minutes, you’re going to wish someone would dump a bucket of ice water over your head.
4) Stash your shit.
If you don’t use the locker rooms, you’re probably going to end up bringing stuff out onto the floor with you. In my case, I bring my car keys and my lip balm. Most cardio machines have trays on them, but if not, you can usually just leave your stuff on the floor beside the machine you’re using. Just make sure it’s out of everyone else’s way.
AT THE GYM: The Main Event
Look, I’m not going to bullshit you: your first workout is going to suck. You’re going to be sweaty and out of breath. Your stomach will hurt. The next day, you’re going to feel like you spent the whole night getting punched in the ovaries by your own shins. But it gets better.
(Joking aside, the first time I got on an elliptical, I thought I was going to fucking die. I don’t mean that metaphorically; I really thought I was going to have a heart attack. I wasn’t even that out of shape, but the elliptical was making me use my muscles in ways they weren’t used to, and it fucking hurt. Unfortunately, that’s just what happens when you make your body do things it’s not used to doing.)
Anyway, I know you think the “runner’s high” is a bunch of bullshit made up by flat-stomached assholes who eat tofu and talk about colonics (I’ve lived in L.A. for 6 years, and I still have no fucking idea what a colonic is). It really does exist, though, and it’s actually a pretty badass feeling, but it’s going to take a few workouts before you experience it.
Now, I’m not going to waste my time or yours by trying to tell you what you should and shouldn’t be doing when it comes to the actual mechanics of your workout. I’m not a fitness expert, and I’m really not interested in target heartrates or whatever the fuck. There are plenty of resources on the interwebs that can help you figure out how much cardio you should be doing, so go do some research and come up with our own plan. We’re all special, sweaty fucking snowflakes here, people.
What I will do, though, is tell you how I manage to survive 40+ minutes of this bullshit 5 times a week.
1) Music, music, music!
And I really do mean music. Not audio books. Not podcasts. Not the laugh track from whatever shitty sitcom is playing on the gym TVs. The treadmill is not the right place for you to be learning German or the banjo or whatever the fuck. You should be pushing yourself hard enough that you shouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything except the beat of the music and whatever your body is doing.
That said, I set my gym playlists up to match the flow of my mood during a typical workout. For example, this is my current playlist:
Stage 1: Fast but upbeat. By the time I get to the gym in the afternoon, I’m dragging ass from work, and I need something to lift my spirits a little.
- Daft Punk – Derezzed (The Glitch Mob Remix)
- Rihanna – We Found Love
- Tricky – UK Jamaican
Stage 2: Steady beat but not as fast as the first couple of songs. I’ve usually slowed down a little by now, and I’m ready to settle into a steady pace for awhile.
- The Glitch Mob – Fortune Days
- M83 – We Own The Sky
- Mat Kearney – Ships In The Night
Stage 3: Basically, I want to die. Or kill someone. Or both. I’m covered in sweat, I feel like I’m jogging through Death Valley in August, and I hate everything. I need something hard and unforgiving that will shove me through the last 1/3 of my workout.
- Suicide Commando – Bind, Torture, Kill
- Roterstand – Exterminate, Annihilate, Destroy
- :Wumpscut: – Christfuck
Most of the time, music and willpower aren’t enough to get me all the way through a workout. I have to fuck with myself a little bit to keep myself from pussing out and stopping at the 10 minute mark. Some of the tactics I use are ridiculous, but whatever. They work. Don’t judge me.
- Get OCD about it (i.e. Set smaller goals).
I have some kind of messed up kink for numbers that are multiples of 5s, 10s, and 25s. You’ll never catch me stop working out at the 27 minute mark, it will either be 25 minutes or 30 minutes. But if I’m almost at the 25 minute mark and the elliptical says I’ve done 4567 strides, I can usually convince myself to keep going until I get to 4575 strides. And then the 30 minute mark. And then 5000 strides. Etc.
- Remember you don’t actually have to keep going if you don’t want to.
It’s a (mostly) free country, and I’m (mostly) adult. I’m not at the gym because someone is forcing me to be there, I’m there because I want to be. And if I don’t want to be there, I don’t have to be a whiny bitch about it, I can just get off the treadmill and go home.
So that’s pretty much all I’ve got to offer at the moment. I’m never going to love going to the gym, but I’ve learned how to tolerate it at least, and turn it into something I can do five times a week without getting too disgruntled about it.
Hopefully at least a handful of people manage to 1) get through this whole post, 2) find it useful, and 3) not think I’m a total asshole.