I have this LOVE-HATE relationship with the gym.
It’s been about a week since I’ve last been to the gym.
Okay so it’s really been about 2 weeks… so hold on. Today is Wednesday, and… okay.
So it’s been about a month.
I hate the gym.
Going to the gym regularly was something I have told myself every New Years from about 1997 until about 2009 (the year I stopped making those dumb New Years resolutions). I can recall three times in my life when I jumped on Body Break mantra of “Get Fit and Have Fun” way of life.
1) Sometime in 2009 around my birthday I was on a work trip to Montreal and I ordered the P90 program after watching the infomercial on the hotel TV late at night. Another year older and I figured I finally take my health and getting into shape seriously. I lasted 73 of the 90 days. A side from traveling for work getting in the way I kept asking myself why am I working out 5-6 days a week?
Tony Horton has a money making system there and I was turned off by the “we’ll send you more DVD’s every 6 weeks” which were just more of the same stuff but a little faster and had the word “advanced” written on them. Some $60 more down the drain and some weird rubbery workout equipment I cut all ties for now with Horton and the gang. And they kept trying to sell me vitamins. In fairness to the program I was seeing results. But working about everyday for 73 days will do that to you.
2) I was living in Vancouver from 2011-2012 and working part time at Starbucks. Using the gym at the condo-apartment I was living in the time, I would go almost every day after work. There was something really relaxing about working out right after a shift at Starbucks. As you sweat the sweet aroma of espresso filled the air.
I was doing the P90X program (Let’s just say a friend lent it to me.) Stick with the devil you know: Tony Horton is actually super likable, and the structure of 90 days seemed to work for me. Not to mention I kept laughing at the chitchat he would make with those working out in the video, without them giving any sort of response. It really is something to see and laden with such natural comedy.
Not realizing how much more advanced the X in P90X was I almost puked the first two days working out. My stomach leveled out on day three when I realized I was only racing myself.
I was seeing results from using the program which was amazing. Then again I was going to the gym 5-6 times a week. At the time I was in a relationship with someone that I thought would have appreciated my getting into shape, but I found the more I worked out the more she would say things like “when you get fit you won’t leave me for someone better will you?” It wasn’t attractive. Slowly I started to work out less and less because I was stupid like that and didn’t want to make her so insecure. (That’s codependency folks.) My mind felt clouded and going to the gym was suppose to be good for me. The more I felt better about myself, the more I liked what I was seeing, the more I’d be asked if I’d leave her for someone more attractive and more fit than her. It was exhausting. More exhausting that pumping iron. Again to Mr. Horton’s credit I was seeing results.
3) March 2013 I had returned from Toronto to complete the next two semesters of my Masters program in Tel Aviv. The previous month while in Toronto I broke up with my then fiancee, the relationship I was in for 3 1/2 years. To be fair she ended it first on February 4th of that year but I thought I could fix it over the next ten days because I was suffering from a mixture of my good friend codependency, stupidity and the sunk cost fallacy. But in the end on February 14th I stepped away for good.
So when I returned I started to reorganize myself into the single world I was now living in. I would turn 34 in a few weeks and once again would reevaluate my life. I could probably write a whole post about that but the long and short of it is: I began by establishing goals, rediscovering who I was before the relationship and prioritizing my physical and mental health.
I finally got a personal trainer (www.shabofit.com) who worked with me virtually for three months, set my gym routines and got me to increase my protein intake and avoid certain foods for certain periods of times. For example, after keeping a food journal, I stopped eating oatmeal for breakfast for one month, stopped eating breads and other carbs, increased my protein intake to about 100g-150g and began working out 3-4 times a week. My workouts were great, and the only time I felt like puking was when I had to eat two large chicken breasts for lunch after a workout. I started drinking protein shakes soon after. It was just easier to consume. After the first month was over, I took in more carbs, and was able to enjoy froyo after a workout, under strict orders from my trainer! Which was great because I was working out 5-6 times a week, so I was racking up some serious free frozen yogurt with my buy 10 get the next one free card.
I Loved the Gym.
And I was seeing results. After three months I was bigger, stronger, fitter. By the time I came back home to Toronto for my mother’s unveiling (the one-year anniversary of her death, where we unveil the headstone) my entire family remarked at my changed physique. They also remarked how much happier I was.
It was true. The gym helped me as much as all the things I had done to better myself psychologically from therapy to learning about and reading all the psychological mumbo-jumbo that goes on in relationships, our minds, and the nature of happiness and the self. As my previous post had talked about all the books I read on happiness and pop psychology, I found the gym a great release and reset on evolving myself into a more fuller human being.
But let’s be honest here, I wasn’t just doing it for the mental health. I wanted six-pack abs.
I think deep down we all do, be it a product of constant media manipulation and subliminal messaging (messaging women have been getting for way more years than men.) But deep down, all men kind of want 6-pack abs. We just don’t want to resort to eating boiled chicken and drink lemon water for the rest of our lives. I think part of us thinks 6-pack abs will get us into some secret club, where we can all just walk past lines, and get super special deals. We also think that’s what all women want. (It isn’t.)
Working out at the gym I always felt like I was getting close. Like a few more squats, and deadlifts, and a few more days of benchpress and magically they would appear. But they didn’t. I figured if I could get them I could keep ’em. Or at least 4 of them. But they never showed up. I kept telling myself they would, but they never did. Or if they did arrive, they always seemed to be wearing that winter coat. Canadian Goose Blubber.
So I made a deal with myself.
I just wanted 6-pack abs for two weeks.
Then I’d hire a photographer to take all the angles I would ever need and then just photoshop them myself into all future beach photos for the rest of my life. I’d be the 60 year old on the beach with the abs of a 35 year old. I’d tell my future children that with a little hard work the too can have abs like their dad. Now if they finished their workout they can get back to their Advanced Photoshop Techniques Udemy course.
But let’s be honest, 6-pack abs are a lot harder to attain then all the Men’s Health magazines suggested workouts and super foods they recommend combined. I don’t care how many Bulgarian squats while drinking almond-blueberry-egg-white-shakes it takes I just kinna-doit.
The white whale of the gym 6-pack has always escaped my grasp. And the more I thought about it, I realized I didn’t want to live my life trying to get something I really didn’t need.
I was happier and healthier, in an amazing relationship I didn’t seem to need bigger muscles. I didn’t need the key to the secret club with secret discounts.
Now the only benefit I see with washboard abs is using them to save money on laundry day. That’s just fiscally responsible.
While the Dad-Bod is all the rage now, I still think it’s important to stay fit as you get older. Going to the gym is a great way to relieve stress, build muscle mass to increase longevity, increase blood flow, improve your sex life, and mental acuity. If you look good, you feel better and that’s just simple psychological arithmetic. But don’t kill yourself over it.
Try not to hate the gym.
When go off the deep end you read all the magazines and online article telling you that if you do this and pump that you too can look a certain way. Eat this, not that. Give up sugar. Give up coffee, stop eating chocolate. Stop living. And with no sugar and coffee you might resort to punching old ladies in the head. I’m just saying, 6-pack abs come with consequences.
I found myself going 4-5 times a week but didn’t understand why. I was just getting sore.
I hated the gym.
So I started to go less and less. Truth is, it’s been about 3 weeks but I haven’t really been counting.
I’ve maintained my weight, and I seem to be eating mostly everything.
Food really is the main ingredient in maintaining a healthy weight. Some people say it’s 75% or 80% but it’s really 100%.
I read Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It. And it made me realize how useless the gym can be if you aren’t eating properly. I also read Perfect Health Diet as part of my pursuit for a better self – both mind and body.
I made changes to my diet. I have always eat relatively healthy – fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooked a lot at home. But I made small changes from reading more like using coconut oil exclusively, banishing vegetable oils, and reducing the amount of carbohydrates like bread, potatoes, pasta and rice I consumed. (I actually don’t eat pasta or rice at all, except the occasional sushi, and mostly sweet potatoes instead of potatoes. But I don’t deny myself any foods.) My biggest weakness is sugar.
Sugar is my frenemy.
But lucky for me a healthy relationship also has to do with it as well. I am with someone that appreciates the home cooked meals, and the fresh fruits and vegetables at home. She also expresses her appreciation for the fit physique, and encourages me to look my best. She isn’t worried about me leaving her for someone else, she likes that I’m taking care of myself so we can be together longer.
I hate the gym.
I love the gym.
Most importantly I love myself no matter what.
A healthy body, a healthy mind.
A healthy relationship with yourself with those combined.
Now let’s go for a schvitz.