I don’t know about you, but the last few years as my thirties have been looming over me, I’ve had to face a few harsh realizations. I’ll never learn to do my “nine” times tables without using my fingers, my left knee will always forecast the weather better than Al Roker, and unfortunately; I’ll either have to work out until I’m 65 and don’t care anymore- or I’ll end up working in Vegas as a Rosie O’Donnell impersonator.
I’m weird about working out. I do it in spurts. For months at a time I’ll get on a kick where I’ll be getting physical more than Olivia Newton John- and then I’ll get burnt out and my hard core workouts will slowly trickle into slow walks around the block. Or mosies, as I like to call them.
For years, I hated going to gym more than I hated doing algebra. You couldn’t pay me to enter a building where people wore tight clothing and made faces like they were having sex as they lugged huge pieces of metal and ran on a machine with no destination and when no scary person was chasing them with a gun. A gym used to be nothing to me but a sweat sauna. I thought that I would walk in and everyone would stare at me and judge me for my rolls of fat and for not being enthusiastic about doing sit-ups. I hated that there was a place that encouraged people to do sit-ups. A gym, in short- was my version of hell.
Now I see things a bit different.
Don’t get me wrong, I still despise going to the gym. If given the choice, I’d rather sit on the couch and watch a Hannah Montana marathon, but as I said before- I don’t really have that choice at this point in my life. I can still complain about it until my face turns blue- and I could will throw tomatoes at Tony’s stupid face on the TV screen if you make me do P90X, but that doesn’t change the fact that it has to be done. I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy it. I will say that I still enjoy dancing and I love the way yoga makes me feel, but everything else? Is for the birds. If someone says that they truly love spin class, their pants are either on fire or they are freak-flying over the cuckoo’s nest.
I will say this though, as much as I hate going to the gym- I have learned how to thoroughly enjoy myself once I get there. And since I love you all so much, I’ve decided to let you in on my secrets.
1. Be better than someone.
Whether you are a newbs at the gym, or a novice at pumping iron- I can promise you this: there is always someone there that you can beat at something. My gym is full of older people and women who use the gym as social hour…there is always someone I can beat at working out. It may sound a little mean, but let me tell you- you get on a treadmill next to someone who is about the same level of in-shape as you, and keep a close eye on their treadmill to make sure that you are going a tiny bit faster and burning a few more calories- and it’s no longer a workout- it’s a competition. Within a few minutes you’ll want to break out in a full-on run just to prove that you can.
That’s kind of why I like going to aerobics classes. The minute that I want to keel over and die, I simply look around for someone who is half-assing it more than I am, and then turn it up just a tad bit. It doesn’t mean you have to work a whole lot harder. Just enough to feel good about yourself that you can do more sit-ups than an 80 year old man. Win. And it’s always fun to win.
2. Pretend that it is all a performance.
This may sound a little weird, but if you change your frame of mind a little bit- it’s a guaranteed good time. Rather than thinking of my work-out as simply a time to burn calories and firm up my jelly, I prefer to play a character. This will probably be a little easier for those of you with a flare for the dramatic, but if you can get there- I promise it will change your life forever.
As I mentioned before, I have always loved to dance. More than that- I love to be on stage and role-play. I do it in all other facets of my life, so why not at the gym? If I’m in spin class, I pretend that I’m actually a biker on get-away race. If I’m swimming laps, in my brain I’m actually in the movie Jaws, trying my damndest to out-swim old sharp tooth. When I’m in aerobics class, I am performing in an aerobics video. When it looks to you that I’m lifting weights, in my head I’m actually starring in a sports movie-montage. The music you choose to listen to plays a key role in the tone and mood of your performance. It’s your soundtrack, so choose wisely. Bob Dylan is grand- but he doesn’t make well for a well- played character, unless you want to go all Clint Eastwood in the gym. Not only does role-playing take your mind away from what your actually doing, but it also helps you to achieve a damn good work-out. You don’t think Natalie Portman lost 20 pounds by just sitting on her ass, do you?
3. Make it all a performance.
Sometimes, playing a role in your head just isn’t enough. In fact, once your in character- often times, you can’t help but letting it out a little bit- and it feels good. It might be a little daunting at first, but a lot of people do it. Just look around. Those dudes don’t HAVE to make the grunting sound when they’re lifting dumb-bells. No. They are letting they’re inner Sylvester Stallone show through- and you should too.
It doesn’t have to be overly obvious; you can just take it as far as you feel comfortable. For instance, when your walking on the treadmill and listening to a Hilary Duff song on your ipod that you don’t know the words to, mouth them anyway. Nod your head. Don’t be afraid to dance a little. This is the only time in your life when people won’t know that you don’t actually know the words that you’re faking. Even sing a word out loud now and then. People around you will feel jealous that you are having so much fun, which once again- makes your workout a win.
If you happen to be in a Palates class, don’t be afraid to stare at yourself seductively in the mirror. If you’re in weight aerobics, add in the hip shakes and shoulder bounces when you feel so inclined. Focus on yourself in the mirror, and just know that everyone else in there is focusing on themselves as well. If you’re running on a track, stop and do a silly dance. If you’re lifting weights and Bohemian Rhapsody comes on your ipod, stop and use the weight as a microphone for a moment. Stop caring what anyone else thinks. Working out doesn’t benefit anyone but you, so you should only worry about yourself while doing it.
4. Point and Laugh.
This is going to sound completely hypocritical after all that I’ve said before about feeling self conscious at the gym and how everyone focuses on their selves while working out; but your just going to have to accept the fact that I am, actually a bit of a hypocrite. But I would be even more so if I said that I didn’t enjoy making fun of people in my head a little bit. And believe me, if you follow my advice about roll-playing and making your work-out a performance, I can promise you that people will be making fun of you in their heads too, so just think of it as pay-back. And payback is always a bitch.
Besides, other than Six Flags, there is no better place in the world to people watch than the gym. There are all kinds of interesting people who have to work out just like we do. People wear weird things to the gym. They make weird faces. They talk to their friends about interesting personal matters. They do weird things with their mouths when they think no one is watching. They wear gray pants so it looks like they have peed when they get crotch sweat. So watch…. and laugh quietly to yourself as you do your own weird things. It makes time go by so fast, and it will get your mind off of thinking you are going to pass out.
5. Mix it up a bit.
Everyone always says to mix up your workouts so that you won’t get bored. That is not what I mean at all. Although I do have to say that that works too.
What I’m talking about though, is something entirely different. As much as you might mix your actual workout up, it’s still a workout. So to make things interesting and entertaining- you have to really think outside the box and change the other factors that play into your workout.
Try listening to something out of the ordinary on your ipod. I use my exercise time as music exploration time. Yesterday, I listened to nothing but jazz. Last week, I listened to history podcasts. When I do choose to listen to my same old mix, I have to keep myself on my toes somehow, so I decided a while back to put Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You up” in my work out mix several times, only I went into my itunes and changed the title and artist as another band that I put on my mix so that I will effectively rickroll myself at least once a workout. It never fails to make me laugh.
I also decided that since the girls who wear sports bras and other ridiculous work out attire, are so entertaining to me- that I would join them in making my outfit enjoyable to others. I try to always wear ridiculous t-shirts to the gym. I even cut the arm-pits out of an old NSYNC shirt, because it makes me laugh.
If your really brave, try wearing an early 90’s thong leotard paired with lycra leggings and an exercise belt. Then you’ll really be able to role-play flash dance! Perhaps the next time your in aerobics and your teacher decides to put on techno-music, you should get up and flick the lights on and off to make it like a gay-bar. Why the hell not? Your paying for it. What are they going to do, kick you out?
Well maybe…. But regardless, working out sucks balls- but I hope that I could be of at least a little assistance in making it more fun for you.