Disclaimer: I’m pretty sick while I’m writing this, and on a ton of meds…soooooooo, if it gets a bit out there…. yeah… I’m sick. Not drunk. I almost typed “not high”, but considering the meds…yeah, probably high. Lawfully high. I bought this stuff from a pharmacist in a Walgreen’s…. which I’ll point out is always on a corner… where other drug dealers tend to work. I’m just saying. Wait. Maybe drug dealers are more prone to alleys…. There were no alleys involved with my purchase of legal meds for this massive head cold.
So the gym thing.
I haven’t held a gym membership and “belonged” at a real gym for the last three years. I mostly used the small walk-in closet of a room that my previous employer supplied – and I usually had the space to myself. Even then, I was one of maybe four or five people who used the treadmill there, and the only one who was consistent about working out in there. My current employer supplies me workout space in the form of running between terminals to catch flights and hotel closet-sized workout spaces. And it’s pretty hit-or-miss with the hotels.
On black Friday I got an amazing deal for a membership at the gym I used to love. (I’m having a hard time falling back in love with it again though, to be honest). I am happy to report that my husband and I have been putting it to good use. Stopping in to run a couple times a week and I’ve been doing weights there on the weekends (To supplement weight lifting at hotels during the week).
This week I’ve discovered the most difficult thing for me as a gym member:
I know what I’m doing, and the people around me do not.
They have inclines jacked to 11 (Honestly…11 is pretty tough to begin with, but this also makes a good joke re: “Turn it up to 11!”), the speed is up to 15min/mile speed walks (Yes, I did look – how could I not?), they are gripping onto the front of the treadmill for dear life because they’ve overshot the ability of their core to hold them at this incline and speed… and then they’ll flail their arms to grasp the side bars of the treadmills. And on like this – getting upper body cardio in as they windmill their arms violently from one clearly uncomfortable position to the next.
They are slumped forward, gasping, and clearly hating it.
And they’re doing that every day… in a row… that I see them there.
Hold on, readers. You all should know by now, but if you’re not, I am not the person who puts down anyone else on their journey. Especially not when its a fitness journey. I want nothing more for my neighbor than success in their health goals. This is where my issue lies. I see them doing these things so hard and so wrong that I can’t help but recognize this as the beginning of the fall.
This is where the injuries and the burn out start from. The knees and back ache when they get home, or the next day… eventually the discomfort becomes real injury. Either tears from slamming the ankles hard on the ground while the knees are straight, or from the overuse of poor training regime. The injury becomes, “I just don’t have the knees for cardio. I can’t workout.” And so on. And then you have people who have tired, feel defeated, and give up on fitness. When all they really need to do is… well… settle down.
It’s almost trite to bring up the adages that we runners and marathoners and ultra marathons and so on all hear and spout constantly. Things like: Rest days are just as important as training days. And having fluctuation in your training – sprint days, hard days, easy days, and fun days – is what makes the training bearable and lasting. I certainly wouldn’t be as deeply into my running now if I didn’t have those fun runs on Fridays or the running group to meet with and have adventures and road trips for running with.
When these newly formed gym goers, in their oddly mis-matched and weirdly fitting new workout clothes, climb onto those cardio machines beside me and start flailing their arms like they’re under attack from bees or Satan himself, I can’t help but have my attention captured. Repeatedly. And that’s when I noticed the inclines, the crumbling over the treadmill controls…. the hard-slammed heel strikes and straight legs upon impact.
It takes all I have in me as self-control to keep from leaning over and tapping them on the shoulder…. to stop myself from saying, “Do your knees hurt at night? After workouts? Do you feel good about this? PLEASE let me help you right now.”
I want to tell them that working out doesn’t have to be like this. I want to tell them to build up to that incline! To get their core in shape so that they actually get more than sore joints and bad feelings from this workout. I want to tell them that they have a good idea, but this isn’t where they are right now….they need to step back and accept that they have to get there slower than all this. I want them to know that they can do it, but they don’t have to beat themselves up ala Biggest Looser speed, because that’s not remotely healthy either.
I don’t, though.
I don’t say anything to them. I clamp my mouth shut, or kick up the pace on mine so I have to focus on breathing rather than staring at their legs and feet and cringing. The violent shifting of arms from front and top of treadmill to side bars keeps catching my attention, but I resolutely turn back away.
I want to help, that’s true. But I don’t want to be that person either. I don’t want to be the know-it-all. I don’t want to insult them…. me, this obviously fit person who clearly has been going to gyms a while. Me, small, not overweight, not new to gyms and definitely not them dealing with whatever they have going on. Talkative and unashamed me, who is not embarrassed about being seen there. How am I to know how my well-intentioned intervention will go over for them? I don’t. But I do feel a certain responsibility…. to let them know that they’re doing good, but they could get so much more from it without all the pain and heartache. They could be so successful, if they wanted to.
When you started working out – walking, running, using the gym… .did someone give you advice? Did you want someone to? I know when I started running I was constantly plagued with overuse injuries….and if someone had snagged me early on and told me how to do it correctly, I would’ve loved that. Instead, I didn’t get good advice and coaching until well into my running attempts and when I had practically broken myself doing three half marathons in one year…. because I was training stupidly. All of that changed with a friend saying he’d coach me through my first marathon. And then finding a group to run with.
I would’ve liked a tap on the arm, and a, “Hey. That probably hurts. Try it this way.”
Should…. Should I say something to these people? Because…well… there are many of them.