When I started going to the gym, it was for exercise. But I have since learned about myself in the process.
On a frigid morning, I park in the only open spot outside my gym. It’s January, and I’ve been going several times a week for months and months. When the new year rolled around, I shifted from evenings to mornings, trying to avoid the January joiners.
It’s been mostly a success. My gym isn’t the most popular one in our city — though it certainly fills up at times. And it’s not the biggest either. But by going earlier in the day, I’ve found that I am most likely to get to the machines I want without delay.
And in these last several months of gym going, I have learned a few things about myself … here they are in no particular order.
- I hate the treadmill. While I love walking and hikes, I find the treadmill boring and redundant. At first, I tried to build up endurance running on it but quickly found it just didn’t work for me. I’ll try running again in the spring, when I can do it outside. And I am really excited for hiking this summer. My endurance is bound to be better.
- I love the exercise bike. I used to hate exercise bikes (see above, treadmills) but I’ve grown to love them — particularly ones that have a more reclined pedaling position. Not only do I get off the bike feeling good, but I also end up working out for long periods. That’s due in part to being able to multitask so easily on the bike. I’ve edited, read, answered emails and even written this blog post while riding.
- Water is essential. This is like gym going 101, but learning how important it was to me myself was an interesting realization. I almost always need to refill my water while working out too — I drink a lot (and my body is happier for it).
- People wearing jeans, khakis and other non-workout wear make me uncomfortable. Honestly, I don’t care what anyone wears to the gym as long as they are respectful of other gym goers and clean the machines when they’re done with them. But when folks come in wearing jeans, khakis and even work clothes, I get distracted. Inevitably I find myself falling down a rabbit hole of WHY?!? I wonder how the limited motion allowed by such things impacts their workouts. I also wonder how comfortable that could be. And then I find myself thinking back to all the other gyms I’ve worked out at and wonder why I’ve never seen folks do this outside of Maine.
- Headphones aren’t essential but they help. I can workout without headphones. Reading isn’t easy, but it’s possible. And sometimes I can just think while working out. But while they aren’t a must, headphones do help make the most of the time. When I have them, I can listen to music, but I am more likely to be listening to audiobooks, which leads me to #6 …
- Audiobooks are my favorite workout soundtrack. There’s no question: I love listening to audiobooks while working out. It makes the time go by so fast and I end up experiencing so many more good books this way. Last year, I listened to Trell by Dick Lehr while riding and didn’t want to stop because I was so into the book.
- Cardio alone isn’t enough. I wish it was. And for some goals it is (endurance, for instance). But I want to be healthier so working out has shifted a bit. I still do a lot of cardio, but I also use weight machines to help chisel and tone my muscles. I need to add more strength-related exercises in too, but I have been stalling on that. Also, what I am eating matters too.
- To make all this gym going worth it, I need to eat better most of the time. When I started going to the gym, I didn’t change my eating habits. Then I entered a time of extreme stress and changed them substantially. When the stress time subsided, my eating reverted — and I need to fix that. A healthier diet makes all the exercise more effective toward hitting those weight and health goals.
- I like how my body feels. Nothing is perfect. I have a long way to go to a healthier version of me, but exercise alone has made my body feel so much better. I have more energy, less aches and pains and generally feel younger after going to the gym regularly. That’s why I keep going.
How about you? What have you learned about yourself while going to the gym?
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. Her latest cookbook is The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook, published by Rockridge Press, which focuses on quick, easy, from-scratch cooking for busy people. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.