Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Exercise & Obstacles

For some, there are serious obstacles to exercise--physical disability, over-extended work/care-taking schedules, economic barriers to safe exercise spaces, etc.

For many, the obstacles are in our minds and barrier thinking discourages trying new things or trying to approach fitness in a non-chore way.

And still, even when we've overcome these big picture obstacles, there's the little things that have to be worked through in order to develop good exercise and fitness habits.

Yesterday, I was at the gym at the university I work at (a great bonus offered by working in Higher Education is the opportunity to take advantages of the facilities, including fitness and cultural). Anyway, of course everyone is devoted to working out January 4th--those New Year's Resolutions are fresh, its super cold outside, so running/walking outside is a no-go, its a Monday and of course, everyone's wallet is significantly lighter after the holidays, so you might as well do a free/almost free activity like work out. So, the gym was packed and there was only one elliptical machine free (a few treadmills, yes, but I loooooove ellipticals--I know that this is a controversial stance to take, but I stand by it). Now, in the past, I knew that this particular elliptical gets crummy TV-reception, but HGTV does come through, somewhat obscured by snow, but better than anything else, so instead of Gilmore Girls or the News, I committed to a Renovation Show and 30 minutes.

Well, this elliptical was incredibly loose--shaking, noisy and frankly embarrassing for the big-girl to be on a machine that made a ruckus. I stuck with it for 22 minutes or so, until the next elliptical over became available; then I was on that for 3 minutes, until I accidentally cleared out the work out when trying to up the resistance, so then once I finally had it all set up, I set it for another 15 or so. I ended up on that elliptical for 18 more minutes. So, all in all, 43 minutes on two elliptical machines, calories and miles gone unknown because the math got wonky (also, I wasn't able to enter my weight and age on the second elliptical because its input was confusing, so the calorie count wouldn't have been accurate anyway).

Now, I'm familiar with this gym and ellipticals in general, but this odd mechanical blip got me thinking about people new to gym environments. For someone easily embarrassed, like say my mother, the loudness and the shakiness of the first elliptical would have been reason enough to get off, perhaps try a treadmill or bike, but not another elliptical. Now, certainly any piece of gym equipment can be faulty (and by the way, after my workout, I brought a gym attendant over to check it out, even offering to get on and show how it wasn't working and it's now being attended to, so do your part and keep your gym in working order).

Embarrassment and limited experience with gym equipment (especially the strength training machines on which improper form can result in injury) are obstacles for many people new to gyms or those trying to get into shape after a long period of inactivity.

Now, these little obstacles aren't really valid excuses for giving up--and perhaps someone using a shaky elliptical as an excuse not to exercise at all really isn't committed to the long-term requirements, but they are part of the puzzle.

There are some gyms that specialize in the elderly, some that specialize in women-only environments--what about a fatties only gym as a starter gym to get people familiar with the equipment in a non-spandex, non-full make-up context? Or how about two hours a week reserved for new participants to learn the ropes with less pressure and less perfection around to compare oneself to? Is this too hand-holdy or do you think this is a good idea? Let us know in the comments.

Oh, by the way, in addition to the elliptical, I did arm exercises--which is weird because today my arms aren't killing me which they usually are after I concentrate on them--I used hand-weights (3lbs and then I doubled them to 6lbs per hand when 3lbs wasn't doing it), did the chest-press (10 lbs--3 sets of 8), incline-press (10 lbs 3 of 8) and the tricep press (50 lbs 3 sets of 12).

1 comment:

  1. 1. Many gyms offer a free personal training session when you first join. This is your opportunity to ask questions.

    2. Ask the attendant when the slow times are at the gym. Octo-mom says she goes to the gym at midnight when all the kids are a sleep.

    3. There is a gym in New Jersey that has equipement suited to people upt to 350 lbs.

    4. Remember that if you are just starting exercise start slow. I didn't move to the elitipical until 3 weeks with the personal trainier. We started with the treadmil on a slow pace no incline and then builded up.