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Advice for New Year’s Resolutioners at the Gym

January 7, 2010

Several forums and websites I read have had recent stories and threads about the influx of New Year’s Resolutioners in the Gym and the hilarity that ensues.

My own globo-gym has seen such a tidal wave of newbies lately that they’ve re-instituted the “20-minute limit on cardio when someone’s waiting” rule that usually is allowed to lapse by March. And frankly, I feel sorry for the people who come in with the best of intentions but will be gone by March because they weren’t seeing progress toward their goals or were intimidated by the bodybuilders and gym bunnies.

So I’m serving up advice for those of you seeking to begin a new fitness regimen this month.

My first suggestion would be to visit several gyms before the NY crush and walk around. Look at where all the fat people are, the people who have been coming to the gym regularly, getting their sweat on, and by and large aren’t getting the results they seek. Since it’s a little late to do that now, I’ll tell you what the fat people tend to do that doesn’t get them results.

They will come in and get on a “cardio” machine, by which I mean treadmill, elliptical or bike, and go at a steady rate for 20 or 30 or even 90 minutes. They may sweat, but it’ll be a light sheen, not dripping in their eyes and on the machine. This is a half-assed attempt and will produce half-assed results. Especially if you follow 30 minutes of fast-walking or light jogging with an energy or sports drink that immediately sends your body into diabetic distress and replaces every single calorie you just burned off and then some.

Instead, you should be fighting to stay upright on the treadmill, soaked in sweat and finish it off with some refreshing water. Water is cheap or free in every gym I’ve ever been in and still has no calories. After 30 minutes of moderate exercise you don’t need to replenish the vitamins and minerals that you didn’t deplete. What’s appropriate mid-marathon is not appropriate for a newbie putting on two miles of jogging.

The other trap that fat people fall into is the machine trap. They’re given a tour by a freshly-certified “trainer” and shown how to shuffle the pins in the various machines. These machines are more useful for the club, which can use relatively-untrained trainers to get new members feeling like they’ve been coached, than they are for actual members.

Once you’ve identified where the fat people are and have decided to not do what they are doing, let’s go find the fit people. Where are they?

By and large, the best-looking people in the gym will be found in the weight room. If you want abs of steel or Michelle Obama arms, walk into the weight room and look around. Of course some people take it to extremes, but nothing is written in stone saying “if thou shalt lift weights, thou shalt endeavor to look like Ronnie Coleman.”

Frankly the vast majority of people who say, “I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to bulk up” have one of two issues. First, many of them are already bulky. They’re just bulky because they’re fat, not because they’ve grown a ton of muscle under there. Second, it takes years of Olympian amounts of training, food and often steroids or hormones to get so bulky that you become “muscle-bound.” It doesn’t happen overnight just because you picked up a dumbbell that wasn’t coated in pink plastic.

You also hear this nonsense about becoming muscle-bound or too bulky a lot from competitive and recreational runners. These athletes don’t really need to worry about bulking up because they added a couple days in the weight room to their 40, 50 or 60 miles per week. Not gonna happen. Don’t worry about it and get in there and clank some iron together.

Usain Bolt

By the way, runners, you might want to go ask Usain Bolt or Tyson Gay how much faster they’d be in the 100-meter sprint if they didn’t have to carry around all that unsightly muscle.

Tyson Gay

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