Good morning, dear Wobblers.
Here we are at the beginning of February, and here I am to ask those of you who live near our yoga studio to come try us out. I never like to make an ask without first offering something in return, so here we go–and this is for EVERYONE, no matter how far or near you are to Robbinsdale, MN.
Last Friday, an instructor friend of mine gave me a guest pass to her large gym to come to one of her strength training classes. I was so excited! It had been a really long time since I worked out in one of those places, and truly, sometimes I miss it–the rows upon rows of treadmills and bikes, the power-lifting corner, the big locker room with amenities, and parquet flooring on the group fitness studio as far as the eye can see. I grew up in these places, and when I was old enough, I worked in them joyfully, exuberantly, for 21 years.
With the barbell on my back squatting and lunging away to my friend’s capable cues, though, I also remembered why I left. Our class was large and there were many students who were not doing the exercises with proper form, which always makes me a bit nervous. Most of the people in class were VERY fit and well-muscled. Absolutely no one, save my friend the instructor, said hello to me or asked my name. And, another thing became apparent at this large gym—the pervasive message that my purpose for going to class should be to change the way I look. This was a message I bought into all those 21 years on the large-gym staff and in leadership, and it was only after having been away from that culture for a couple of years that I really could see the forest for the trees.
These larger facilities and their “change your appearance” vibe, no matter how unintentionally communicated, can be REALLY overwhelming for a new person to navigate. Here are a couple of tips to help you get the most out of your large-gym investment if you want to exercise and this is the most convenient and economical option for you.
- The day you purchase your membership, schedule an orientation on the exercise floor with a fitness staff person. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. This appointment should always be free, otherwise, choose another gym. This is your tutorial on how to use the equipment safely. Ask the staff person to show you about 3 pieces of equipment, and then practice using them for a week or so. Go back to the staff person after that, and ask them to show you three more pieces of equipment until you have the hang of it. Not every machine will be a good fit for you, and that is okay.
- Be okay with being a beginner, and only say positive things to yourself. For example: “Yay me! I did a whole 5 minutes on that treadmill! I got to know some of the buttons, and I survived! Maybe next time I will do 7 minutes!” Little moments of triumph like this tend to build on each other. No matter what the fitness floor staff tell you about what you SHOULD be doing, always congratulate yourself for what you ACTUALLY do, no matter how small a win it may seem.
- Put on blinders to the posters on the walls: “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” “It’s not worth it unless you sweat!” written over the image of a ripped, muscular body lifting mighty weights are counterproductive when you are the person feeling like you are dying after 10 minutes on a bike. Pain should never be ignored or viewed as a badge of fitness honor, and sweat is optional in improving our strength, flexibility, balance, and overall health. Be YOU. Hold yourself to no other standard than your own comfort and joy of movement.
- If you are going to a class, choose the one that best fits your schedule, and then expect to be successful at performing 25-50% of the exercises in your first month of classes. Go early and let the teacher know you are a beginner. Trust your own body, and have an experimental attitude. “Does my body like this movement? Let me try one or two squats and see how they feel on my joints. Maybe I can move my feet or shift my body so this movement feels really comfortable and strong for my legs.” If an instructor calls you out for not doing a full set or not trying hard enough, leave the class and alert the management about the behavior. They are getting paid to help you feel successful and keep coming back, after all.
- Finally, going to the gym even once per week can really help to improve healthy habits and get you learning and practicing new ways to move. Consistency trumps intensity every time. View your gym membership and the move toward better movement and health as a slow cooker, not a microwave. After all, there’s a good chance your gym wants you to sign up, but then burn out and not come back. Their membership pricing is low so that you will keep the auto-draft, but not make them deliver on all those promises for change they make by actually coming in regularly. Get the last laugh by putting yourself first at these large gyms.
And, here’s the ask part: COME SEE US at Wobble (or another boutique studio in your area.) We are local, we care about our communities, and we actually WANT you to come to class and have a wonderful experience while you get to know your classmates and work steadily toward more confidence, strength, stamina, and health. Your body may change in appearance. It may not. There are no gritty posters on our walls. Just a big “Well Done!” from all our instructors and the gift of #movingforjoy. No one needs a gimmick for that.
See you on the mat, Wobblers.