Lessons from the Gym, Part IV

Lessons from the Gym, Part IV

I’m coming to the end of my first full month of going to the gym every morning, and I’m pleased to say that I haven’t yet exploded, died of boredom, or gotten slapped by female club members for looking at their backsides. And I even enjoy going to the gym in the morning now. The experience is actually reminding me a little bit of the online role-playing game World of Warcraft in that there are an astonishing number of things to do to improve your character. At the gym, the character you’re improving is you.


When I first started going to the gym (you can read about this in part 1, part 2, and part 3), my initial impression was that there were only a few things you could do there:

  1. Cardio
  2. Weight Training
  3. Classes
  4. Basketball or Boxing

That is not a particularly impressive feature list, and I was hoping that the sheer novelty of exercise would be enough for me to get hooked somehow. In hindsight, I can see that this was my mind, not my body, making the assessment. My mind is thinking, “Hey, what interesting things can be done for my intellectual amusement? Oh, just those 4 things.”

As it turns out, the rest of my body has found plenty of stimulation in just the cardio room. Every one of the machines there provides a different physical experience. The Stepper machine, which I used to hate, is actually a lot of fun because it reminds me of when I was a kid standing on the pedals of my my single-speed bike, flying up a hill as fast as I could. The various vintages of Elliptical machines all have slightly different motions. The feeling of expending energy, sweating, and pacing myself at a sustainable level is surprisingly enjoyable. My mind shuts off, and I feel more grounded with the world. It’s really weird!

Also, I’m becoming aware of the number of muscles in my body. Each muscle has its own feel and use, and I’m enjoying the process of figuring out how my body works through the use of these various machines. It’s like a giant puzzle!


I also started the resistance training, starting off with four machines that worked groups of major muscles:

  • the chest press – pushing straight out from the chest
  • the shoulder press – pushing straight up from the shoulders
  • the lat pulldown – pulling straight down to the chest
  • the leg press – pushing out from the legs

These apparently are exercises I should do every day after warming up, though I find them a bit boring except for the lat pulldown, which just feels good. After working with the basic four, the trainer introduced me to more specific machines the isolate specific muscles:

  • pectoral fly – closing your arms kind of like a book
  • bicep and tricep – I forget the exact name, but it works the back and front muscles of your arms. Two machines.
  • leg extensions – Same thing, except for the front and back of your legs
  • Hip abductors – for the inside and outside of your legs.

I mentioned to the trainer that I wasn’t really enjoying any of these machines, so today he showed me some machines that worked slightly differently. It was in a different part of the club, and the machines seemed targeted toward people who were more advanced in their body strength training. For one thing, the machines tended to be clustered in groups that worked the same muscles in slightly different ways. Also, these machines had independent arm motions and required a bit more concentration to do things right. The trainer showed me equivalents for the various machines I had been using before, so now I have some variations to experience.

I also was introduced to a couple other benches that worked my back and front “core” areas. One of them allowed me to do some kind of crunch while suspending myself in the air with my arms. This one was kind of fun, but my upper body strength is a little weak, so I kept sagging lower and lower. The other bench locked my lower legs while facing forward and down, and straightening my back caused my entire upper body to rise. I think this works the lower back. This one I liked because it reminded me of dolphins bursting out of the water.


I’ve lost about 10 pounds since starting, and my cardiovascular endurance is improved considerably. I’m still pretty flabby, but overall I am feeling a little stronger and looking a tad thinner. I think what I am enjoying the most is just getting sweaty in the morning and getting the heart rate up. I get sleepy afterwards.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m sleeping more. I may have been overdoing it slightly, so I’m pushing myself less. I’ve also been going to sleep too late every night, so when I go to the gym I’m slightly under-rested, which probably is why I tend to nap afterwards.

I’m still figuring out the pacing of things, and trying to get used to the weight training part. At the very least, I do know I like the 30 minutes of cardio in the morning, listening to music. I’ve tried listening to some podcasts, but they don’t really help keep me moving the way regular music does. There is one exception: Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. It has the energy and the good humor that keeps me engaged.


  1. Grzegorz Kedzierski 17 years ago

    Maybe I don’t understand something but does it mean that you’ve abandoned your habit of visiting a coffee shop every morning?
    I also discovered recently that regular workouts at the gym make me feel better and give me more energy to work what makes me more productive in overall but after a workout a feel exhausted and the only thing I want to do is sleep – even if I slept 8hrs or something. This is the reason why I go to the gym in the evenings. Don’t you have the same problem? Or maybe I just exercise too intensively?
    By the way, what kind of music are you listening to in a gym? Hard riffs that give you energy to exercise or something more relaxing?

  2. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    Grzegorz: Oh, I’m still going to the coffee shop every morning, and it’s the anchor for the morning gym routine!

    6:45ish … wake up (it’s automatic now)
    7:15ish … head over to coffee shop
    8:15ish … head to gym
    9:45ish … back home, start working

    The primary draw for the coffee shop has changed. I used to do planning in the morning, but now it’s more like “waiting for the bus”. I hang out with an acquaintance of mine who has to work at 830, and is at the coffee shop every morning too. So we catch up on the days events. I also have started to get to know the names and stories for the coffee shop employees, which is cool because they have become real people to me. It reminds me a bit of when I was on AOL in the early early days, when there was just one public chat room, and people just started to get to know each other. The commonality wasn’t profession, but just “being in the same room” with other people.

    I should try evening gym, but I would have to go earlier. I have thought about maybe going twice.

    I tend to listen to funky music, breakbeat type electronica, well-arranged pop/alternative/rock songs, and female singer/songwriter types with expressive emotional range. The main criteria is that I like the song enough that it turns off my rational mind and engages an emotional response. Sometimes that is just listening pleasure. Sometimes it is a boppy “want to shake my booty” feeling. Sometimes it’s being drawn into the way the singer is expressing something vocally.

  3. Anthony 17 years ago

    And here I thought I was the only one who listened to Wait Wait at the gym. The only problem with it is sometimes you’ll just start laughing and probably look a little silly.

  4. Corrie 17 years ago

    Congratulations on your progress and continuing to learn new things about the gym and yourself!

    I think I find weight training on the boring side as well. Some things that have historically helped me are keeping a sheet of paper that tracks the weight/reps I do so I can see progress, or really focusing on how my body feels as I’m going through the movement. Although sometimes I just zone out and allow my brain to rest as I go through my routine, and that’s surprisingly relaxing, too!

  5. seuss 17 years ago

    Good stuff. A couple questions:

      have you paired your new daily gym routine with new eating habits/diet?
      when can we expect release of the ultimate Calorie Tracker form?

  6. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    Anthony: Awesome, I’m glad to know someone else listens to Wait Wait at the gym :-) I haven’t busted out laughing yet at the gym, but I sense the dangerous possibilities there :-)

    Corrie: I actually do have a sheet of paper (the gym provides some, with file cabinets to keep them in) for tracking the weight stuff. I think it’s just the body motions that feel awkward to me, and I wonder if I’m doing them wrong or right. I guess if I just get over that, maybe they will be easier.

    Seuess: I’ve found that I’ve been eating less in general…I don’t eat to fullness anymore, because it spoils the after-gym feeling of lightness. I decided early on not to worry about counting calories while trying to establish the gym habit. I’m sure I’ll start creating some kind of tracking form for workouts and calories once I have a better grasp of how they work for me. Calorie counting in particular has always been rather difficult for me, so I’m thinking of an easier-to-calculate method, based in part on the Hacker’s Diet basal metabolic rate calculator, that eliminates the need for specific weighing and counting. I need to talk to some nutritionists some time I suppose about that.

  7. Fred 17 years ago


    Wow! 10 pounds,, an amazing start!
    It’s interesting,, you’re really blasting it.
    As for the “bike riding like” sensation.  Why not try that next? A bike, a real 2 speeder! (not a bike guy maybe?)  There are a bunch of clubs, but it’s just as easy to get it all going on your own,, plus it saves gas and you can do little trips. Plus, they’re a ton of fun (road or mountain, but don’t get a hybrid, get something that does one thing well, not a bad mix of the two).

    Once again congrats, it sounds like the gym and coffee shop are really paying off.  Watching “The New Dave” appear post after post is really fun!

  8. beth 17 years ago

    I am envious at dudes’ ability to take a 5 minute shower, and then be ready to go to work.

    This is one of the big reasons I don’t work out in the morning, I’d have to wake up waaaay too early to both work out and dry my hair.

    Congrats on your progress!

  9. Grotepier 17 years ago

    Congrats on keeping with it! Your opening mention of WoW reminds me of this XKCD comic:


  10. MikeC 17 years ago

    If you are interested in having a better connection with the level of exertion your body is experiencing, a heartrate monitor is pretty neat.  Besides giving you feedback, it helps pace your workout and set fitness goals (in % of your max).  It’s the one metric I’ve found that doesn’t change with one’s fitness level.

  11. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    Fred: I have a hybrid bike, but never really liked it because I miss my old coaster bike with the single speed. I should have gotten the road bike.

    Beth: That’s an interesting point. Is it entirely the hair that slows things down for the gals? I tend to just drive home and shower when I get back, though sometimes I just sit and work in my filthy state :-)

    Grote: Bwa hah! That’s exactly it! :-)

    MikeC: Oh, that’s what I’ve been using! I forgot to mention that. All the cardio machines have heartrate monitors built in (unless they are actually something else). I watch them constantly, and make sure I stay within a certain range until I’m sure that I can handle it. It’s also useful for trying out bursts of things, and watching how the heart responds. I’m sort of playing it by ear. Right now I try to keep it around 150-160 for extended periods of time, and cooling down to 135 before getting off a machine. It does make a difference as you’ve pointed out, because it gives me direct feedback as to what the body is doing.

  12. Travis Vocino 17 years ago

    At the gym, the character you’re improving is you.


  13. Yaow!!! 17 years ago

    10 pounds!!!

    That sounds great.  Dude, you’re something else!  Following these posts has been inspirational.

    Interesting too your answer to a comment that you enjoy the feeling of lightness and don’t eat to overeating.