I Used To Avoid The Gym

Gym Anthropology 101

I used to avoid the gym. I wasn’t averse to exercise – it was just that the thought of working out amongst others’ sweating in an enclosed space on, what were to me, torturous devices never appealed to me.

So what happened? BASE 3. Created by a sister whose passion for encouraging others to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle, rivaled only by her husband’s drive to create a strength and conditioning temple where all are welcome to worship. Classes were gathered: CrossFit, Conditioning, Balance, and Performance – and I was automatically a part of it, whether I liked it or not.

Of course, I immediately dumped CrossFit in the ‘crazy’ pile along with other ‘cult-elitists’, and paleo dieters, and tried another class: Balance, the ladies-only class. Nice and quiet. A good workout with no testosterone slapping me in the face. Life was good… and then it hurt. And it hurt for 3 days.

I’ve been to this stage a few times in life and at this point I usually lose motivation. Take a few days off to recover, get busy with something else and don’t go back. However, this time was different. I was stuck at a gym, day after day with the worst motivation possible… that sister.

Eleven months down the track and I feel like the anthropology classes I took at University have finally paid off… I have somewhat successfully infiltrated this culture of gym-goers. And for any, like me, who have lacked motivation, here is what I can tell you.

Participant Observation:  It still hurts. There are days that I can’t tie my hair or walk without feeling pain.

Qualitative Data:  Recognising actual pain from a good muscle workout, and knowing when I can keep exercising and when an actual break is required. Understanding that stretching and rolling is important to recovery – as are rest days.

Participant Observation:  Routine is motivation.

Adaptation: Half the battle is just getting there. Generally, you get to the gym, do the work out – hate it, but finish it anyway – and then feel really good about completing it. The real hardship is to do that on repeat. Stop thinking about it and just do it. Sometimes you get there and you’re just not feeling it and that’s fine, jump on the rower or bike and knock out a few calories and call it a day, but just keep going. Eventually, training becomes part of what you do during the day.

Participant Observation: Everything can be scaled.

Qualitative Data: Unfortunately, there is no workout you “can’t” do. For every exercise there is an alternative to work the same muscle, so really, you have no excuse. We all have to start somewhere.

Participant Observation: Changes don’t happen overnight.

Qualitative Data: After the first three months, training 5-6 times a week, I hadn’t necessarily lost any weight, but that didn’t mean there weren’t changes. First, it became easier (not easy, just easier). Then I became stronger. Then I became faster.  And then I started noticing a difference. I had more muscle tone, was sleeping better, had less back and knee pain, more energy and I wanted to eat better, and drink more water, which in turn had its own benefits.

Participant Observation: CrossFit is CrossFit.

Qualitative Data: You know what? I don’t think CrossFit is that bad. It’s a great workout. It’s not my personal favourite (but it certainly is for others!) and I’m not afraid to jump into classes anymore. Variety is the spice of life, right?

My point here is this – if you want to get fit / become healthier / live a better lifestyle, joining a gym is one of the best places to start. You have access to advice from professionals in the industry, you have all the equipment available to you and you will be surrounded with like-minded people. All you have to do is show up… then show up again… and eventually showing up becomes less of a battle.