Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Everyone Chooses The Most Perfectly Wrong Workout

My brain doesn't ever shut down. So while I'm putting in my daily 30 trudging minutes on the treadmill, I'm looking around and trying to Understand. It's all research for the grand unification theory I've been building to explain What the Hell's Going On Here.

I present, below, an abstract of my twenty years of observational lab data regarding human gym behavior, grouped by equipment preference.

The Bicycle Gents

I don't mean sexy trendy Spinning, I mean dumb ugly stationary Bikes, which are patronized exclusively by glum, haggard guys in their late 60s whose upper bodies are fading into flab and baggy skin, but who have enormous calves, making this the one gym task that comes easily (not that they're exactly pushing themselves here, either).

Too haggard to run or to Stairmaster, they see the bicycle as the equipment closest to their comfort zone, i.e. the sports-watching chair at home. Here there are no beers or pork rinds, plus they must execute some light pushing motions with their feet, but it's damned close.

The Bicycle Gents ought to be doing pilates to restore core strength, and weight-training their curling upper bodies. Instead, they're systematically hyper-developing their hyper-developed calves.

The Pilates Ladies

Your freshness-by date has passed. You used to be stunning and you're pissed off at yourself. So you CRUNCH your abs, OVER and OVER and OVER again, to expunge that ugly disgusting flab. You CRUNCH and you CRUNCH and you HATE and you CRUNCH.

You drastically overdo it - as you overdo everything, being a type-A go-getter who was once captain of the cheerleading squad - until finally your body has been bashed and pruned into a hideous ropey knot of tendons and gristle, your face, even at rest, a tight, ultra-low-body-mass mask of stress, determination, and throbbing temple veins. You don't look good, having obliterated all womanly curves and softness, but there's not one iota of flab anywhere on your drawn war zone of a body. Mission frickin' accomplished.

The Pilates ladies should be doing weight training to create the muscle mass that will prop up their sagging metabolisms, and yoga to gently restore connection to their bodies. But that would distract them from their obsessive "out, damned spot" approach to flab annihilation. The Pilates Lady will, of course, be played by Tilda Swinton in the major motion picture adaptation of this posting

The Elliptical People

Oh, god, the elliptical people. These are the Daffy Ducks of the gym. The most hapless, senseless gym folk of all. "Elliptical", indeed.

Let me offer some tough love:

1. An elliptical is not a Stairmaster. Every one of them approaches it like a Stairmaster, determinedly squaring hips and trying to push...down...with...their...feet, but it's never quite right because the machine really wants a jaunty cross-country skiing motion. Rather than accommodate, they square their hips, lean forward with an expression of screeching anguish, and try to make the screwdriver do the work of a hammer. All while vacant Stairmasters await just a few yards away.

2. Did you know that you can change direction, and do a reverse motion, to break things up and activate another set of muscles? No? Mind blown, right? How did you not realize this? Here's the answer: Stairmasters don't reverse direction, and you think you're on a Stairmaster.

3. If you're dumb enough to use the ones that also have arm-pulling poles (aka a CrossTrainer), you will kill your shoulders. If your goal is to build arm strength, pick up a barbell. You're here for a low-impact aerobic workout, and you have more than enough to worry about trying to achieve the correct lower body motion. Concentrate on that.

3. Going really fast with really low resistance is pointless and hilarious. So don't ever change. You make my day, every day.

The Free Weight Bros

Bruh, I can't believe I squeezed out that last rep, bro. I'm so frikkin' spent, so frikkin' ripped, just look at me, look at how bad I want it, bruh. I mean that, really. Seriously. Look at me. LOOK AT ME. You ain't lookin', bruh. I'm crashing my weight plates together, I'm screaming, I'm flexing, and you're still not looking. WTF, bruh? I'm a super hero right here. You spent $16 to watch that bumpin' Marvel comics flick last week, bro, but I'm giving you that for free RIGHT HERE, bruh. What am I even doing this for if I can't look at people looking at me? I do this for YOU, bro.

The Free Weight Bros - moistly red-faced, manic, and over-aggressive - should be chilling out on a bike. Instead, they lift and lift and lift, expanding their girth to occupy more space and be more unmistakably visible.

The Newbie Trendies

As described here, the newbies show up in their gleaming, expensive workout outfits, ponytails meticulously coiffed. Working with a bored, pot-bellied trainer (played by John Candy in the movie), they gamely run the latest trendy exercise gauntlet, flinging heavy thick ropes, leaping up onto platforms, and generally seizing the "No-pain/no-gain" approach right out of the gate. They are living the worst nightmare of what a gym is for people who've never been to a gym: A caricature of sadistically herculean labors.

Fitness has been their longtime adversary, and they've finally psyched themselves to slay the dragon. They're doing it. Of course, tomorrow they will be so sore and so disheartened by the grinding joylessness that they won't be back until next January, in new gleaming, expensive workout outfits a size or two larger.

The Newbie Trendies should be gently enticing themselves into a habitual and sustainable routine.

The Adorable Bunnies Sticking With What Works

Cute-as-a-bunny early-20-somethings performing, with force of purpose, inexplicable exercises learned as adolescents which they credit with getting them to the ripe age of 22 looking comely.

I don't know where they got these exercises. Probably some piece they saw in Vogue. But they will not be weaned from their pointless routine, because, just look at them. It works! Dance with the one that brung you!

It can't possibly be that they'd look like this regardless because they're 22 and have great genes. No, they've accomplished this. So they sit on the mat, watching themselves making Serious Face in the mirror, grabbing their elbows and squeezing, or rotating their ankles in bursts of five, while the Free Weight Bros crash their weights extra violently to catch their attention.

They have a few years before transforming into tendony body-hating 35 year old Pilates Ladies. They don't realize they're in the green room for the pilates that is their destiny.

They should be instilling an aerobic exercise habit, along with some weight training to ensure muscle mass preservation amid the inevitable dieting.

Treadmill Wraiths

A wide swathe of humanity can be found on treadmills:
  • Morbidly obese slow-starters trudging at 2mph, obviously insecure amid the body-culture (though this is the last place they should ever feel insecure!).
  • A few Free Weight Bros doing high intensity workouts at like 16mph, clodding hard and loud for 30 seconds, gasping and braying like the overcharged stallions they are, craving, at the cellular level, their nutritious mix of physical pain and attentive gaze.
  • A warren of Adorable Bunnies who've finished their inexplicable exercises and need something else to do (and, being too tiny to experience much gravitational resistance, hardly break a sweat even while flat-out sprinting).
But I want to call attention to the ultimate grinders; the Treadmill Wraiths. They run and they run and they run. Well, wait. That sounded joyful. Wind-in-hair, nostrils flaring, peak-experiencing, etc. No, this isn't that. The Treadmill Wraiths are just meat atop shoes, and there ain't much meat left.

Like toast left too long in the toaster or a wool sweater left in the dryer, they're beyond overdone. Having blown through weight loss, blown through cardiovascular conditioning, blown through burning every ounce of muscle once there was no more fat to burn, their bodies are now burning, like, bone and fingernails and ear wax for fuel. Whatever's left!

Their clothes hang on them like on sticks, and one day there will be nothing left to burn and they'll fall silently into the treadmill and vanish. If you examine the belts carefully, you'll notice a smile here, a birthmark there. They never actually stop.

I once wrote about the perils of aiming for infinity, particularly in physical endeavors. For the ultimate example of not knowing when to stop, consider the Treadmill Wraiths.

Obviously, the Treadmill Wraiths should be lifting weights, recovering some muscle mass. But no. The same mechanism attracting us to the foods we're allergic to compels them - like all the denizens I've described here - to do exactly the thing they shouldn't be doing.


Yoga class is always a mixed bag but if there is one common denominator, it's that every single participant has a notably horrible ass.

For the average person, what yoga is is a means to developing "yoga ass". You wouldn't do yoga because you have a great ass and want to preserve it. That's what the twenty-something cute bunnies are executing with their inexplicable movements out on the mats. Just as you don't see happy people at therapy, or skinny people at the Big and Tall shop, you don't see people with acceptable asses at yoga class.

The other weird thing about yoga is that it's almost entirely women. So, for Jesus Fuck's Sake, my interest in it is yet another inadvertent gayness token, along with my Mazda Miata, which I was informed, after purchase, is a "gay car", whatever that even means. Thing is, women weren't even allowed to practice yoga until a few decades ago. For centuries in India it was a guy thing, like model railroads and beef jerky, but I think I get it. Guys aren't super interested in having a yoga ass. That's a more effeminate goal. Hence no guys in yoga class. That's just science.

Me, I have the calves and haggardness of the Bicycle Gents, but stick to treadmill where I'm pre-wraith and post-obese.

I've been a devoted yogi for 45 years, but I no longer do any yoga stuff at the gym, because the resident Yoga Ass Teacher occasionally strafes by to offer me her unsolicited expert feedback based on a decade of yoga experience with her guru Donnie. She once told me I need to "really try to connect with my body", leaving me mentally teeming with such a shocking array of abusive, violent, and pornographic responses that I resolved to never so much as touch my toes in the yoga room ever again.

1 comment:

Display Name said...

hope this isn't a double post. When I hit publish things melted down. Great fun read Jim. I'm a woman and I hit the free weights once a week. Ain't no one gonna stop me. Miata is a gay car? Your circle is weirder than I thought. Back in the day sports car were much envied. I know the miata is not a true sports car but it's pretty keen. Part of me would die if you told me it was automatic. There was the sports car salute where when two sports cars passed each other they would flash their lights. Ocean City NJ is a prissy dry town that Everyone seems to love. Once my mom and a bunch of other sports car drivers were escorted right back out of town when the cars tried to enter the city limits. They didn't want their kind there. /signed virtually no one. :)

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