(last updated on April 29, 2014)
I finally signed up for a gym membership, having realized that it’s actually cheaper than my daily Starbucks habit, and therefore actually quite a good deal by comparison. At an average of $5 a day, the Starbucks habit costs me about $100/month. The gym membership will be costing me about $500 for the first year, minus a $200 yearly health insurance reimbursement, for a grand total of $300/year. After the first year, the cost will be $20/month, with no lock-in. With the health insurance reimbursement, the cost will be a mere $40/year. This is a no-brainer.
For my first year, I opted to sign up for program consisting of 5-7 individual 1-hour sessions with one of the club trainers. After that, there are 30 minute follow up sessions every so often. Although this costs $99, I figured it was expertise worth paying for since I know absolutely nothing about exercise.
OMG WHAT DO I WEAR
I am such a newbie that I didn’t even know what to wear. The general consensus is not to be too flashy or too slovenly. This article covered the basics, and after some more digging I settled on the following.
- Plain Cotton Dark T-shirt — I went with basic black microweave wicking (cost: about $7). White t-shirts apparently can stain yellow from deodorant running. Gray t-shirts turn dark from pit sweat…gross! A friend of mine also suggested that I wash the shirt every day so it’s fresh. I bought an extra one just in case I forgot.
Plain Cotton shorts — Not too baggy, but not too revealing. Should end just above the knee, to avoid looking like a dork. Mine are gray with a drawstring. About $7 also.
Plain White Cotton Socks — Cushioned socks, not going past the ankle. I went with the ankle-length socks from Haynes, 83% Cotton, at $9 for 6 pairs. They seemed to work fine.
Training Shoes — Cross trainers apparently have the arch support you need for this kind of exercise. I already had a pair of Nike Air cross trainers, about $40, from before. They’re white with dark blue trim. They weren’t so good for basketball, but they seem to have held up for today’s session.
Some other stuff I forgot to get:
- Gym Bag — I carried around my stuff in a plastic shopping bag like a yutz. Never again!
Gym Lock — I guess they make you bring your own locks for the lockers. Duh.
Towel — I brought a bath towel. It’s way too big. I need to get a smaller one.
Water Bottle — Not necessary, as it turns out. Just go to the water fountain.
WEEK 1 – ORIENTATION, CARDIOVASCULAR
I had to fill out a health history form to determine if I had any pre-existing medical conditions. The only ones I weren’t sure of: blood pressure and cholesterol. The last time I had a full physical they were fine (I was surprised), but it’s been a few years so I should really schedule a doctor’s appointment. The trainer asked me some questions about what I wanted to accomplish with my exercise, and I replied as follows:
- Learn about Fitness and the Variety of Fitness Activities — I really don’t know that much about physical exercise. The last time I did anything regular was when I was forced to in High School.
Improve strength across the board — I don’t want to have giant muscles, but I want to know my body can perform when it needs to.
Know what exercises might match with training for what sports — For example, what kind of exercises do rock climbers do? I was just curious.
Lose weight — I figure that this would come naturally while doing all the other stuff, so I listed it last.
Not be bored — This is the one that I am most concerned about. Is the gym becomes a chore, or doesn’t deliver results that are tangible, then I will lose interest. I don’t want this to happen.
The trainer, John, nodded through all these questions, and told me that the first thing to do was to focus on cardiovascular exercise. Minimum: 30 minutes a day of elevated heart rate. So for today, we focused on a variety of machines in the Cardio room. John indicated that we’d start with the hardest machines, and end with the easiest ones. I think the idea was to get the heart rate elevated quickly. As we walked to the machine area, I asked if I had to stretch. The trainer said it wasn’t necessary with these machines and that it was bad to do when you were “cold”, but stretching AFTERWARDS was critical. This not-stretching thing in the beginning was new to me, and I’m thinking there must be more to the story. I had always equated “warming up” with “stretching”, but maybe this isn’t the case. All the machines had a “quick start” button on them, which allows you to just get the machine moving and measuring your heart rate, calories burned, and so on. They all have programmed modes too to simulate different environments. Here are the machines I used today:
- Stair Climbing Machine — This was kind of like an endless staircase, like an escalator, with adjustable resistance. I actually like climbing stairs, so this was kind of fun. Although my leg muscles aren’t as strong as they used to be, I used to ride bikes a lot when I was a kid. They were single-speed, short crank bikes, and I lived on a mountain…I had incredibly strong leg muscles, which surprised people because I was kind of a pale geeky-looking kid. It did get the heart rate going quickly, I must say.
- Stepper Machine — I think that’s what it was caused…I privately thought of it as the “bouncy” machine. You stand in it and lift each leg up in a kind of bouncing motion, like you are a hop-scotching bunny. I actually liked this machine a lot too, but mostly for the silly reasons above.
Elliptical — This was the freakiest machine of the bunch, with a foot motion somewhere between bicycling and walking. I thought of it as “peddle-shuffling”. Apparently it is very good for working the butt, which might explain the number of women using it. I didn’t particularly care for the first one I used, though I could just feel the years falling away from my ass (or so I imagined). The second variant of the Elliptical had hand levers attached to it, so as you peddle-shuffle and move your arms at the same time. The motion was sort of like a toddler learning how to cross-country ski. I liked this second variant a lot, because it moved my arms more. I commented to the trainer that I liked this one because of that.
Treadmill — Realizing I had never used one before by the way I stood on it, the trainer warned me to put my feet to the side of the conveyor belt before hitting the QUICKSTART button (all machines had one). Thus, I narrowly avoided one of those cartoon gym moments, when the noob flies off the treadmill. I wasn’t looking forward to the treadmill, because it looked super boring, but it actually sort of grew on me. You have to maintain a fluid rhythm to stay in place. There’s also TV to watch. You can kind of move and zone out. Not nearly as bad as I thought. The trainer showed me some alternative standing and holding positions too, suggesting I try taking longer strides if I wanted when I inquired about it. He said 2.5 miles per hour was a good walking speed, though clearly there were people actually running on the treadmill. They looked like gazelles.
Stationary Bike — Sit on a bike, and peddle. I was bored before I even got on it. I guess when I’m on a bike, I want to go somewhere. I guess it wasn’t a bad way to cool down.
Afterwards, the trainer showed me how to stretch out:
- Leg Stretches — sit against the wall on the mat, one left straight out, the other pulled in. Reach toward the stretched out leg until you feel it pulling on the backs of the leg. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch to other leg.
Squatting Stretch — put the bottom of your feet against each other, pull them in, let the legs flop to the side like you are sitting crossed-legged, and stretch the inner thigh. Hold 30 seconds.
Lower Back Stretch — Lie on back, relax the upper body and make sure it’s contacting the mat. Lift both knees toward you, hugging with arms. Make sure upper body is relaxed. Pull them up, vary the machine a bit. Do this for like 30-40 seconds.
Stretch The Body — Lying on back, stretch arms up above your head, and get as LONG as you can.
p>At this point, I was ready for my carton of milk and cupcake, but there were none forthcoming. I even asked about it, but all I got was a laugh in response. Harrumph.
All in all, I did 40 minutes of cardio, and I got sweaty, and I actually felt really good afterwards. We’ll see if this is the case tomorrow…I may be sore. Next week, I have a second session scheduled to go over the weight training machines. Until then, I’m planning on going every day to do about 30-40 minutes of the same thing to see what it’s like and try to get addicted to it as a habit.
Before I left, I asked about eating beforehand. The trainer said not to eat too much, no more than 1/4 of a meal. I mentioned that I typically don’t eat breakfast, and he said (predictably) that this was the MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY. I asked him why, and he said it was because while we’re sleeping, our body metabolism shuts off. The first meal of the day signals it to turn back on again, and start burnin’ calories. I also learned that the reason you want to eat a lot of small regular meals is so your body doesn’t go into “calorie hoarding” mode. The description reminded me of older people who grew up during a depression or wartime famine; they had been so conditioned not to know when their next meal would be, they would hoard as much as possible. You probably know someone of an older generation who loves going to CostCo and buys tons of laundry detergent, way more than anyone reasonably (in today’s age) would need. But you know, it just puts them at ease so they don’t bite your head off :-)
So, if you want your body to run efficiently, you need to maintain it at predictable intervals. This covers sleeping times, drinking enough water, and when and what you are eating. The overall principle seems to be surprise your body as little as possible, except perhaps in the case of weight training when you DO want your body to start hoarding muscle.
I’m looking forward to trying this all myself again tomorrow. Overall, not a bad “first day of school” :-)