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Advice from a gym rat

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The weather has finally broken, and it is officially Spring. People are certainly feeling the season. I can tell just from the fresh faces I see at the gym.

Let me explain.

I have periods in my life where I become a real gym rat. You can’t tell by looking, but I usually work out four or five times a week. For the most part, I see the usual suspects hitting the weight room, track, classes or what I call the machine room. The gym is a habit for us. I may not know their names, yet I do know what they like to do, and that they will be there the next day like clockwork.

There are two times a year at any gym in the country that a boatload of new enthusiasts show up to get in shape. The first period begins on Jan. 2 when guilty holiday indulgers and resolution-bound promise-makers decide it is time to get in shape. The second wave comes when spring is near and the desire to get those beach bodies inspires people to get off the couch and get into shape. Unfortunately, it never lasts. and after a week or so, it’s me and my fellow heavy-users again.  

I’ve tried to figure out why people don’t stay, and I think I have found a couple of reasons.

The first deterrent, I think, is comfort. Imagine someone who does not exercise in public often showing up at the gym and running into us heavy-users. They may not know what to do, where to do it, and are probably concerned on some level about looking silly in front of people who are methodically pushing through a workout.

My advice is to toss that aside. No one is born knowing how to work out. More importantly, fitness is as trendy as fashion or pop music, so don’t worry about knowing how to work out immediately. I’ve been told and re-told since high school the “right way” to exercise, and I’ll be darned if it does not change six months later. It’s like the coffee is good for you; coffee is bad for you back and forth. So, as long as it is safe for yourself and everyone else, do what you want. And, don’t be afraid to ask people questions because gym rats are way more than happy to give advice.

The second thing I’ll say builds on the first. If you want to stick with working out, do things that you enjoy. If you like walking, then walk. If you like lifting weights, then lift weights. If you’re like me and you don’t care for the machines, then don’t use them. There are also some different facilities throughout the county to choose from.

Admittedly, it can be hard to find out what those exercise routines are. Personally, I have found the program that works best for me in the latest fitness craze known as Crossfit (Google it). It wears me out, leaves me in pain, and I like doing it. Before that I was always lifting heavy weights in the latest and greatest way to do that and then moving onto 20 or so dreadful minutes on some machine. I wish I had thought about trying something different sooner because I would have never stopped exercising had I found something I liked this much.

Derek Johnson of Dover can be reached at derekeus@hotmail.com.

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