No Goal, No Gain


I do not enjoy going to the gym.  Still, I congratulate myself on having gone to the gym, sort of regularly, over the past two years.  Sometimes, my appetite for chicken wings won’t wait until later.  You know how it is…

My first gym membership came when I was in my 20’s, when I realized that I no longer was burning through calories absent the recreational opportunities of college life (racquetball, Frisbee, intramural sport).  Meh. There wasn’t anyone to play with.

Gym #2 resulted from the general realization that I was 1) getting older 2) eating at Lipids-R-Us during frequent business travel and 3) wanted to play with my kids as they got older.  Unfortunately, the gym seemed to cater to those who spent an hour choosing their attire and makeup before going to their social workout.  Ciao.  It wasn’t for me.

Gym #3 arrived without fanfare.  Playing with the kids turned out to require only finger dexterity for video game controllers.  Still, one’s weight takes on a measured reality of slow addition, and the word “limber” finds context only on a Scrabble board.

Excuses aside, the reasons for quitting a gym usually involve 1) no apparent improvement, 2) budgetary constraints, 3) lack of priority and 4) physical discomfort.  Oh yes, and putting oneself in an “uncomfortable” environment.

My wife and I anted up beaucoup cash to hire a personal trainer for our first three months.  Nothing spells commitment more than cash.  I’d like to say I regret the outlay, but I don’t.  When you pay someone, you make it a point to show up on time.  You form an attendance habit.   More importantly, being put through the paces familiarized us with the various workout equipment.  This isn’t a small thing.  As literally everyone else in the gym obviously knows what they’re doing, appearing uncertain invites the silent judgment of the masses as being unworthy.

Or, perhaps that’s just a curse of being analytical, as follows:

1) The iconic iPod reigns in the gym.  People are tuned out, and, considering the music rotated through the sound system, this is a good thing.  I’d estimate fully 90% of those not in a group workout environment are isolated sonically.  Conversation?  It’s really not the place for it.

2) People don’t work out with their eyes closed.  Eyes have to look… somewhere.  I’ve become less judgmental of those who check themselves out in the mirror.  Sure, there are some with bulging muscles and veins who perhaps love themselves a bit much.  But for most, mirrors provide the most likely means of positive feedback… eventually.

3) Actual eye contact is… well, I’m not sure.  It’s not exactly frowned upon, but it is carefully considered in the design of the workout space, in that machines are almost uniformly ordered so that everyone looks forward, such as in a classroom.  Looking at other people, then, is usually done from the aisles for the purpose of identifying which equipment is available.  Otherwise, it’s like being with people in elevators, airplanes, or subways.  Don’t stare.  It freaks people out.

4) But that’s eye contact.  Regardless of the gym, and mine includes people of all shapes, sizes, and degrees of fitness, there will be some who want to be looked at elsewhere.  And, it’s hard not to do so.  Like in Las Vegas when I can’t help but wonder if someone’s companion is personal or paid, I’m left to wonder at the motivations of wearing bikini style gym “workout suits,” form-fitting anything, and glamour make-up.  Sure, “if you have it, show it” plays a part, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s a secret language being shared amongst the glamour crowd, which, obviously, I’m not in.

5) Hygiene – Properly exercised, people sweat.  People hold onto handles, sit on seats, press touchscreens, lay down on benches, etc… There’s ample sanitary wipe dispensers, but few actually use them.  Workouts and hygiene?  Fail.

6) Rarely do I detect perfume or cologne, thankfully, but I have to admit that it makes sense to brush your teeth before going to the gym.  As a good workout requires oxygen, both inhalation and exhalation are required.  For the latter, yeah.  Colgate.  Workouts and dental hygiene?  Win.

7) Beginning an exercise program also creates a workout for the brain.  Not only do you not want to do those 15 curls, but you lose track of how many you’ve already done.  Work at it long enough, though, and counting becomes part of the subconscious.  When you do upwards of 50 repetitions, this is a good thing.

There’s other things I could comment on, like how the unlikeliest of people, based on shape, can jog for miles, or how others can ride a stationary bike and never drop a bit of sweat onto the book they’re reading, but I’ll move on to some kind of point.

I don’t feel better after a workout.  I begrudge “the waste of time,” including travel and resulting shower.  However, I hate when I skip a week, because not only is motivation lost, but pain is increased from quickly diminished strength.

But, overall, I feel much better when I’m not in the gym, and that’s worth something.  A the saying goes, “no pain, no gain.” 

That’s not exactly a motivating rally to jump into fitness of any sort.  I am, in my opinion, in a pretty good place.  I lost some weight, I’m significantly stronger, and I no longer feel tightness or hear odd sounds when stretching or bending.  All of that comes with exercising 2-3 hours per week and no particular goal in mind.  All said, I don’t look much different.

And to that point, I’m rephrasing common parlance to “no goal, no gain.”  I have a friend who has been participating in the USMC Mud Run the past two years.  It combines things I liked when I was a kid, or things I would have liked had there been the opportunity and a permissive parent.  Now, hey?  Why not? 

Having reviewed various footage on You-Tube, I’m motivated to get stronger and to work on what I really dislike… endurance, because I want to succeed at it.  4.3 miles, 32 or so obstacles, 4 person team, timed event…  Yeah.  October 15th, here I come.

And, just like that, the routine of what I’ve been doing at the gym suddenly has context.  More reps, more weight, farther distances…  I have a place to go, and I’m not there yet.

And there better be one fine (and clean) T-shirt waiting at the end.


  1. Okay, this looks like fun. Good luck in October! It didn't look like anyone was in too much of a hurry to get through the course, though, so you may not need to do TOO much gym work in preparation!


  2. trust me , for this event , you can not train too much. you might also want to rethink throwing out a set of old clothes , you will want to do that with what you wear on the day of the mud run. Having seen Tina run it and helping her clean up afterwards I speak from experience.