I have always enjoyed visiting other gyms. Every club has its own culture and can vary widely in terms of the types of people it attracts and caters to. I have some of my best workouts when I visit a new club. I generally work in a small private club that is often only occupied by clients and their respective trainers. Sometimes it is nice to work out among larger groups of people. I often find myself inspired by the people around me and my workouts fueled by the energy of those working out around me. On occasion though I find myself in a facility where the people around me are less than inspiring. Sometimes they are a downright drag. I was sorely tempted to title this post “Don’t be that guy” but decided against it.
It does bring me to the point of my post though. I was in a new club the other day and my workout partner and I were engaged in a very intense weight training workout. Unfortunately, we found ourselves working around a gentleman who spent the majority of his time parked on a bench reading a magazine and doing the occasional set of bicep curls which arguably were as useless as his monthly membership fee. Now don’t get me wrong. At least he was in the gym. At least he was doing something. Something is always better than nothing. I see these folks though and have to wonder what they are getting out of their time. It is not uncommon to see an individual who is walking on the treadmill slower than my ninety-two year old grandmother while reading a brief, magazine or newspaper. Are they really getting anything beneficial out of their time and efforts? Sure. Could they be getting much more out of their time? Absolutely. Many of my previous posts have dealt with establishing good exercise discipline. Getting to the gym in the first place is often the biggest hurdle. Furthermore, I have advocated that regardless of the intensity and the time you can put forth, something is better than nothing. I most certainly believe this and it is very often the first piece of advice that I give new exercisers. It would serve a new client a very limited amount of good though if I lectured that client on how hard they are working out when they have only managed to get exercise twice in the last month. It is obvious to say the least that working out hard enough is the least of that client’s problems. Ultimately though, we have to start putting in some real effort when we finally establish these good exercise habits. I have seen so many folks over the years who although they have good discipline and often get to the gym three or four, even five days a week, never really come close to achieving their goals. Why? Because they simply aren’t putting in enough effort to force their bodies to change and adapt. We have become a society that values multi-tasking and efficiency. Some things though really require and deserve our full attention. Exercise is one of these things.
So how hard should we be working to meet our goals? The answer is simple. Our bodies adapt to a stimulus that they are unaccustomed to. More to the point, our bodies have little incentive to adapt or change in response to a stimulus it is accustomed to. If every time I go to the gym I perform the same exercises with the same weights than our bodies have no reason to grow stronger. Is there value in maintaining our current level of fitness in this way? Sure. I would argue though that very few people who exercise regularly are interested solely in staying just the way they are. Most if not all of us would like to be thinner, would like to have more shapely abdominals or larger biceps or greater cardiovascular endurance. So what does it mean to work harder? Progression is the key. We should be continually striving to challenge ourselves more each time we work out. Now progression is not linear. Often when we begin an exercise program we see a rapid increase in strength and endurance that cannot be expected to continue at this same rate indefinitely. Regardless, each time we work out we should strive to challenge ourselves just a little more. Lift a slightly heavier weight, do a few more repetitions, run a little faster or a little further. I would argue that many people potentially spend to much time in the gym. If we could focus our efforts and make every minute count than we would not only find ourselves seeing results on a more regular basis but potentially spending less time at the gym altogether. If that gentleman would put down his magazine and put some serious effort into training the muscle group he was working on than he likely would have had plenty of time left over to relax and enjoy his magazine after his workout. He would also likely be much more pleased with the results of his efforts in the gym. Think about it. Are you working hard enough?