Yesterday, I went to the gym.
I hate the gym.
But I suck at all-things fitness related and I love food, this combined with my lack of a job or, quite frankly, anywhere else to be every day has made me a lazy, lazy human. So I figured a gym would be a productive use of time.
So I strolled into a local gym and was immediately stopped by a smiley, fit personal trainer lady who somehow tricked me into a “personal consultation”. For those of you who haven’t been coerced into one of these sessions, let me walk you through how it went for me; first she asked me a bunch of health related and, can I add, very personal, questions (Do you ever feel chest pains when you try to exercise? Do you have a family history of diabetes? heart disease? depression?) And questions about your potential to become a gym addicted health nut: (Will you family support you in your quest to be more fit? How committed are you to reaching your fitness goals, on a scale of 1 to 10?) Then, as if to prove how great she is at getting you to exercise, she somehow convinced me to do more squats, lunges and push-ups than I’ve ever attempted in my life. She watched me attentively all the while as if taking mental notes on exactly when I started breathing more heavily, when my eyes begun to bug out of my head, and exactly which push-up I was on when my arms gave way completely.
Exhausted and mildly dehydrated she pulled me back into her office with a pleased expression (see that wasn’t so hard, she seemed to say) and asked me about my fitness goals. She read out an array of options from her questionnaire and seemed mildly annoyed when I had trouble answering her:
Personal Trainer Lady: “Is one of your goals to lose weight?”
PTL: Increase endurance?
Me: I mean I guess so.
PTL: Increase strength?
PTL: Get toned
Me: Toned? Uhh sure.
Based on my enthusiastic responses she put together a plan for me that would cost almost as much as tuition for my first year of university. And after some polite attempts to evade her pushing me to put a down payment on a year’s worth of her counting how many squats I could do, she left me alone at a treadmill to think it over.
Unexpectedly beat and a little overwhelmed I left the gym feeling like she didn’t quite understand what I was looking for. I’m already self-conscious about exercising so having someone stand over me, count how many reps I’ve accomplished and then judge how well I’ve done, as I lie in a sweaty pile trying to catch my breath, is pretty much my worst nightmare.
And part of the idea of joining that particular gym were the classes they offered. And once you’ve gotten past the fact that they’re all named something so cryptic that you have no idea what the actual class entails (Isn’t “Sh’Bam” a Ricky Martin song? and doesn’t “BodyJam” sound like some kind of kinky fruit preserve?), they sound more appealing to me than running like a mouse on a treadmill. At least you can dance around or jump up and down somewhere in a back corner so no one notices you.
But I think that the biggest disconnect has to do with the “fitness goals”. Of course I want to lose X number of pounds in X amount of time or firm whatever area of my body is jiggly, but how realistic is that really? And even if I end up enjoying whatever inappropriately named class I take, or make a friend that will chat at the treadmill with me I’m never REALLY going to love the gym. But as an adult, I understand the importance of not sitting on my ass all day, so my “fitness goals” are a little softer perhaps, but maybe more realistic.
They sound a little more like this:
ROCK MY RED COAT – A few years back I bought this red coat. As a Canadian, who understands that weather in this country can change drastically from day to day I have many coats to match the many forecasts that can get thrown at me at any given time. This coat is wool and bright red and is perfect for that late fall/early winter when it’s chilly but not hella cold yet, and it’s a little dressy so it works for fancy downtown dinners but isn’t too fancy that I can’t wear it to a work or to a concert. I bought it a little too tight (because the next size bigger was a little too big) promising to lose a little weight so it would fit better. Hasn’t happened yet.
FIT TO HAVE AN ADVENTURE – I don’t travel much, it’s a regret I have and one I hope to remedy. But occasionally when I talk about adventures I hope to have, something comes up; climbing a tower, hiking a trail or just spending an entire day on my feet exploring some foreign city, that feels intimidatingly exhausting. I just want to be confident that if a far off adventure gets flung my way I won’t chicken out because I feel like I will get too tired.
NOT FEEL GUILTY EATING A DONUT – I mean we can replace donut with burger, cupcake whatever … I love food. I obsess about what restaurants I eat at, where I buy my groceries, what I use to make my coffee, I take pictures of my food for pete’s sake. I understand that I need to eat more healthily, but really, a life without at least some chocolate and ice cream isn’t a life I want.
I could go on. But the point is, none of these aspirations are going to show up on a predetermined list of fitness goals that any gym is going to come up with. And no guilt-inducing, perky trainer is going to con me into telling him or her my fitness hopes and fears.
I understand at some point that setting goals and making commitments is important if I’m serious about getting fit. But I don’t want to be a body builder or a fashion model, I just want to be more comfortable in my own skin. Is there some kind of fitness app or step counter that can tell me when I’ve reached the point of less physical discomfort? Decreased exhaustion? Increased confidence? Can someone please work on it? If you can figure that out, you can be my fitness guru. As long as you don’t try to tell me to skip desert.