Why did I turn off the lights, you might ask? Here's why: when I got up there at a quarter to seven on a late August morning to our gym on the 16th floor of a building with two walls made up of windows, you don't need a fucking overhead light on to read. Furthermore, if you're trying to read while working on any cardio machine other than a bike, you're wasting your time. And even furthermore, if you've got a magazine and an iPod, how much are you actually absorbing? It's one thing to have music on while you study--I'm down with that. I've even seen people have the TV on while they work out. But at some point, I, as a 6-year veteran of the gym who has found herself 20 pounds lighter for her troubles, have to lift up my sneaker-sporting foot and draw the line somewhere.
Exercise, especially cardio, requires balance and hand/eye coordination. If you're going to distract yourself with somethign to read, you either have to slow down the intensity of your workout or you have to barely skim or understand what you're reading. Add an iPod or some similar personal music device, and you're not really getting anything out of anything. You're multitasking, and there's been some research here lately showing that multitasking isn't so good for you. And know who really pisses me off? The people who come up to our gym and turn on the TV, then go to one of the cardio machines around the corner from the TV where they can't see it, put on headphones, and start reading while they're on the machine. When the revolution comes, these people are going in my mass grave with Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston, and those God-forsaken gauchos that came out this year.
I get annoyed when I see people lean on the stair machine. i get annoyed when people stop to watch the TV while lifting weights. I get annoyed when I hear that TV on at all, because in my said 6 years of using said gym, I've noticed that people who watch the TV in our gym when they work out don't end up working out for very long. It doesn't really become a habit for them. And that leads me to why all these things bother me. They all bother me because something inside me knows that these half-hearted worker-outers are the same people I hear schlepping this pebble and tsk-tsk proclaiming in the line at Starbucks, "Yeah, I just can't make myself work out. I just don't see any benefits, and it's too early, and I still keep gaining weight even though I'll do it for a few weeks, it's just not working I think I'll just diet instead, blah blah blah." I want to beat these people unconscious with their own shoe.
I want to knock sense into these folks because working out does indeed help you out in the long run. Even during the long stretches where I lost little or no weight, I knew I was increasing my muscle tone, my lung capacity, my blood flow. I was reducing my blood pressure, the time it took me to run a mile, the pain I felt when I lifted ten pounds over my head. Best of all, after keeping up the hard work six mornings a week, I'm at the point now where gaining a pound or two over a holiday isn't a trauma. It's a matter of go-back-to-doing-what-you-usually-do-each-day and it falls right off. So I want to shake these people to their senses:
- If you lean on the stair machine while you use it, you're not actually burning the calories it says you're burning. If you need to lean, then you're working too hard for too long. Dial it down for 60 seconds and then dial it back up.
- If you just listen to music while on the treadmill or elliptical, you can use your arms to burn more calories instead of holding the book open.
- If you have to hang onto the control panel of the treadmill when it's at an angle in order to stay on it, it's too steep. Dial it down.
- If you pause only 30-60 seconds between sets and exercises while weightlifting, you'll still get a good rest but you'll have enough time to get a lot done.
Moral of the story: like any other job on the planet, if you pay attention to your workout and your form, you will see results, save time, and actually reap benefits from the activity. Oh, I'm sorry, did I distract you from reading about Lindsey Lohan's latest drunken escapade in US Weekly? My bad. Carry on. I'm sure your beer belly will disappear in no time at 3 mph and no incline. Enjoy.
(Look, I told you I was feeling cranky....)