Remember that insane gym-going scheme my friend Adrienne and I cooked up in January?
It totally worked.
It turns out shame is an even better motivator than uplifting cat posters. My goal was to be able to run a 10K with ease on Memorial Day, and I DID IT.
I RAN SIX MILES. If a zombie was chasing me, I could start running now and not get tired/eaten for at least SIX MILES. (Unless it’s one of those athletic Resident Evil zombies. If that’s the case, I’m in trouble.) That’s about six more miles than I ever thought I’d make it in a zombie apocalypse.
There are some things regular gym-goers don’t tell you about exercise, though. Maybe they’ve repressed their woes beneath all those extra endorphins. Maybe their metabolisms are so fast that they absorb awkwardness before they even have a chance to recognize it. Maybe I just didn’t research physical fitness well enough before I started. Whatever the reason, someone needs to break the silence.
Things No One Tells You About Going to the Gym
2) You gain weight when you start exercising.
For the first month, I would morosely pick at my tiny salad bowl during dinner. Friends would ask what was wrong and I’d say, “Have you noticed anything different about me? No? I’M FATTER THAN I WAS BEFORE I STARTED WORKING OUT.”
People gave me a lot of explanations: exercising makes you retain water, you have to build muscle before you lose weight, muscle weighs more than fat, etc., etc., on and on. Every new piece of advice I got conflicted with something someone else told me. The good news is, there’s a lot to be said for visualization during work outs. Whenever I got discouraged, I’d just imagine punching one of my stupid friends for giving me those dumb explanations. It was a real motivator.
3) It takes FOR.EV.ER to see results. FORRREEVVVVVEERRRRR. FFFFFFFOOOORRRREEEVVVVVVERRRRR. (It takes a really long time, is what I’m saying.)
In January, my friend Dillon said, “You have to work out for at least three months before you see results.” It’s easy for him to say things like that because Dillon is secretly Captain America.
Three months is a long time. When you’re working your butt off six days a week, it’s hard to understand why your butt is still, you know, there. You were supposed to have worked it off by now. Other people could see the difference before I could, but it took me about 12 weeks to notice any significant change.
4) When you finally do start to get in shape, you spend a lot of time asking friends to poke your various muscle groups. This is a good way to alienate the people you love.
I don’t know how many times I’ve caught myself saying, “No, seriously. Poke my stomach. Now poke my arm. Poke my thigh! I KNOW, RIGHT?!” in the last month, but the number is embarrassingly high.
5) Important body parts may disappear, and you’ll be forced to confront some facts about your shape.
I don’t know where my boobs went. I didn’t have a lot happening up top to begin with, and my chest has always had commitment issues, but at least I could fill a sweater. No more. Now I have to adjust to the idea that I’ll never be shaped like Lara Croft without some major surgical adjustments.
6) There will always be someone stronger, faster, or more flexible than you, and they will always work out annoyingly nearby.
Say you’re running on the treadmill. Chances are, some guy is going to hop onto the treadmill next to you and start running 10 mph faster than you are without breaking a sweat. He’ll probably look over at your calorie count and smirk a little. You have to resist the urge to unplug his treadmill suddenly. If you’re lifting weights, someone across the gym is lifting more and doing more reps, too. Even when you’re stretching, the girl on the mat beside you will have her left foot behind her right ear while you’re struggling to touch your toes. Going to gym will either keep your ego in check or completely crush your spirit.
8) The gym makes you really gross, but people hit on you anyway.
Workout clothes give you wedgies. Every body part, including parts you didn’t even know have sweat glands, sweats. All that sweat makes you break out and forces you to do laundry way more often because all your gym clothes are really smelly. On top of all that, exercise makes you fart. So while you’re at the gym, you’re picking wedgies and zits, sweating on everything, and stinking up the place. For some reason, people will try to pick you up anyway.
My roommate developed The Headphone Strategy for exactly this reason. Before you walk into the gym, put your headphones on. If you must interact with someone, take out one earbud to talk to them, but otherwise keep those suckers in your ears. Even when if your iPod is completely dead, keep the headphones on and sort of wave vaguely or smile when anyone tries to talk to you. I haven’t figured out what I’ll do if I forget my iPod. Maybe that’s where the ability to run six miles will come in handy.
9) You become the thing you hate.
The other day, I caught myself running around the track because I was feeling angsty. Yes, the thing that I promised myself would never happen happened: I’ve started running to relieve stress and manage anger. Somehow that makes me even angrier, which makes me want to run more. I miss the days when I could just eat an entire box of Girl Scout cookies in front of the TV and feel better, but even worse… I DON’T REALLY MISS THOSE DAYS THAT MUCH. Gah! I have to go run or something.
P.S.: Look at this. Awwww. It’s so cute I’m gonna puke.