I wrote this a while ago, but it remains achingly true, haunting me in those moments when I've cycled up a hill, thinking it should be easier...
I had a gym membership in Australia once, when I was 23. I paid good money, went for about a month, and then when I started working full time, never went again. Easy money. I swore I would never join a gym again.
I joined a gym again. Aged 35. These are the observations of a wannabe gym junkie. I looked around and had decided on another fitness program, McUnsporty*. I didn't like the promotional poster "Lose weight with just 3 30 minute sessions per week" and two exhausted balloons, limply clinging on for their final hours. I kept walking. I was about to go home thinking "Rachael, you always pike out!..." when I saw it, a nondescript and unpretentious gym above shopfronts. I watched my finger push the lift button. I was in.
I was greeted by Sebastian*, who showed me a range of options without the sales pitch. He encouraged me to go away and think about it. I came back two days later, and signed up.
I had two sessions working out which instruments of torture would help me reach my goal: ie, not be quite so fat. Then came the weighing in, which I had been dreading. Within a few moments, I knew my bone density (not very) my level of hydration (not very), the ratio of muscle (not bad) and fat in my body (very). He then asked me the standard question (in German: würden Sie sagen, dass Sie trainiert sind, oder nicht so sehr? Und ich: Naja, es ist lieb dass Sie mir so höflich fragen. Sie wissen bestimmt schon die Antwort!)*
I was set up with 8 activies and 30-40 mins on the bike - with the goal of boosting general fitness and getting to know the gym and it's quirks.
Within the first weeks, what I have noticed: yes, gym junkies exist, looking like dancers at some rave party on the treadmill. Some very mild mannered looking people look like super heroes in their sports gear. Newbies like me are obvious. They wander around looking lost, keep readjusting seats, levers, weights, losing drink bottles and towels, and are looking more hopeful than knowledgeable.
I am still getting used to being greeted by people in the change room who are completely starkers* and in no hurry to change their status to "not starkers". I have lost my training program sheet within 3 visits, and I am hoping that I make enough progress before Sebastian reviews my progress in April.
I still take the lift to my apartment when I get home.
* Not it's real name.
* his real name.
* Would you say that you are fit, or not so fit? Well, it is kind that you ask me that so politely. I think you already know the answer to THAT question!
*completely and utterly in the state of undress, that is, naked.
So, you have been going to the gym regularly and although you are still an absolute newbie, you have worked out generally how things work to a limited degree. What tips do I have to make myself feel better about surviving this torture chamber?
1. Go between noon and 3pm on Tuesdays. That seems to be the time when the "Senior citizens" move around the gym. You can be sure that even if they are regulars, you can A) outpace them on the bike and B) out lift them on the weights. I don't care if they are 40 years older. I don't care if they have had a hip replacement or a triple bypass. I am still FASTER and STRONGER (even if just for 5 minutes).
2. Don't work on the same machine next to someone who is A) fitter or B) stronger. Try another machine or pretend to examine your training overview. Or pretend to stretch. Or pretend to adjust your MP3 player as delaying tactics.
3. Try and get a locker next to a person who is a similiar shape or size to you. If they are older or larger, even better. Most depressing is changing next to someone who is 60, with a well honed body. Avoid that if you can. At the locker the delaying tactics can be more varied (packing, unpacking, and then repacking your bag for example).
4. Dress down or dress up for the gym. Wear the best labels (black is always thinning) which suggest "I might not come to the gym much, but when I come, I mean business" or wear rags "I am going to sweat so much, rags are all I need..." Or wear a power suit to the gym. "I might not be fit, ...but I am smart or well paid". Or consider body piercings. Distract from body shape with the nose-to-ear chain. I would also suggest punk hair style but then you might be mistaken as being one of the locals.
5. There is a Cafe at the gym. Use it. Everyone knows a Latte Machiatto consumed at the gym has less calories than one consumed elsewhere. Right?
I have trained hard. My body deserves a little TLC after all those stomach crunches, the wieght-lifting and kilometres of sceneless bike-riding. At the end of the change room is THE door. The door to bliss.
I have never opened the bliss door. My trainer encouraged me to have a bike and sauna session once a week. At the time, I thought, "...now you are speaking my language." but I was so ashamed of my sauna etiqutte ignorance, I did not ask all the questions I wanted to. And although I have been in a sauna room in Australia, I am sure that germans do this a little differently.
So boys and girls, I need some sauna survival tips.
1. I presume I need sauna footwear. Can I wear anything else in the sauna room?
2. Is there a his and hers Sauna... or are both sexes chucked in together?
3. Is it acceptable to take a towel in? What do you do with the towel?
4. What conversation topics are expected, and do you just talk with a prearranged sauna buddy?
5. Do you have to pour anything on anything, adjust anything, not adjust anything?
6. Is the a particular sitting position that is somewhat more slimming?
7. How long should you stay?
8. Do you absolutely positively must have a cold shower afterwards?
9. Are there any taboo topics "wow, what an amazing birthmark you have, on your ..."
10. Can you take a beer in with you?