Saturday, June 9, 2012

Misguided Reasons Behind Your Visits to the Gym, and How They Will Ruin Your Life

It's 2010 now. At least that's what the little numbers in the bottom right corner of my computer are telling me as I hold the mouse pointer over them. Then again, this is a really old computer and I don't know how much I can trust it, especially since I just watched Eagle Eye (excuse me while I unplug my wireless adapter and put a big magnet within arm's reach). Regardless, we as humans have evolved enough to put much of our continued advancement in the hands of experts in specific fields. Geneticists make advances in genetics, rocket scientists build cooler and more-and-more-likely-to-be-considered-a-threat-by-the-aliens-that-are-watching-us rockets, and farmers...well, they seem to be pretty good with the genetics stuff lately, too.

I'm far from an expert at anything, really. I used to be a pretty good magician, but I would never call myself an expert; not out of modesty, but out of a strong desire not to be mistaken for a LARP-er (Google it) and wind up getting drawn and quartered in a cardboard castle. I am, however, familiar enough with general common sense to know that there is no reason on this planet why we should not be taking better care of ourselves physically through some level of active lifestyle.

It is an indisputable fact that our bodies need physical exercise in order to function properly. We are built for a grueling lifestyle of building shelter out of stone or ice, hunting animals insanely bigger than us with sharpened sticks, and wrestling cat-shaped piles of muscle and teeth that enjoy eating people-shaped piles of meat.

Then one day someone took a circle-shaped rock (or possibly an air-filled rubber tube encompassing an aluminum circle, but I doubt it) and used it to push around a crude device that made moving rocks and wood and things a lot easier, and we can fast forward to the day where I'm writing this using touch typing instead of carving it into bark, and you may damned well be reading this in bed on a device that weighs less than your pillow.

My point? We now have to make time around our busy schedule of working, sleeping and watching House to keep ourselves healthy. Many people don't think much about it, and others have simply have given up, but odds are that if you're reading this, regardless of how iPod-ish a device you're reading it on, you haven't given up yet or are at least seriously considering making a commitment to your well-being.

Here is where your motives behind your decision to stay active and healthy make a big impact, as they may well begin to define the person who inhabits the new you-shaped body. I'm going to list a few of the reasons that I see people citing as why they're going to start hitting the gym. Then I'm going to suggest just why you might want to reconsider your chief motivation.

To Impress Him/Her

This is a tough one to get away from because whether you know it or not, everything you do you're doing to get laid, and I don't want to hear any arguments out of you about it. If you believe the Democrats we came from monkeys (or possibly space. Scientologists are Democrats, too, right?). And unless you're harboring a grudge against the space-pirate who imprisoned you in your current meat-sack, then you have one single purpose in life: sex. More specifically, reproduction, but that's a longer word and I only want to type it once. At some ancient level, all of our decisions are made in order to advance our chances of breeding with the most attractive mate possible. There are all kinds of factors on how physical form relates to health, and how health increases the odds of successfully raising offspring, and I could go into it further but like I said earlier, I'm not an expert in much. Basically, Gisele Bundchen equals good. (For you women reading, her husband is the rough equivalent. I think.) While it is perfectly natural for us to be (entirely too) attracted to someone like her, everyone reading this is exactly three Super Bowl rings and one cleft chin away from ever winning her over.

While she might be off the market, there are plenty of other women out there, and for each one of them, there's a guy who wants to do something to make her notice him, and a lot of them have decided that washboard abs and an Incredible Hulk upper torso/arms are the way to do it. So what do they do? Get a membership at a gym (good), possibly see a trainer about a program designed to gain some size and definition (hey, it's your body. Shape it as you please), and then use her, or even just the desire to be physically attractive to women in general, as their primary motivation to keep going to the gym (no, you fool!).

How It Will Bite You In The Ass

Here's a fun experiment. Go to a bar. Nowhere too loud, 'cause I want you to be able to hear other people talking. Now scan the room. I want you to find someone. He should be pretty easy to spot. He's wearing a tight t-shirt. It's either black, white, or it has some faded or indecipherable design on the front. It's only tucked in above his belt buckle, which is probably super cool. He obviously works out, a fact that is most obvious by his arms. They're hard to miss, because the sleeves of his t-shirt are shorter than they should be, if they're present at all (the North American Sleeve Weevil can eat the sleeves of the average t-shirt overnight). He's also probably well tanned.

Now go sit near enough that you can hear him talk, especially when it appears that he is making a move on a girl. I'll wait here.

I'm willing to bet that at some point during his conversation he brought up "yeah, I hit the gym when I have time," contrastingly mixed in with "I dunno, I gotta hit the gym," mixed in with a healthy massive dose of "Forget about that guy. You can tell he doesn't even work out." He probably also sounds kind of like Keanu Reeves while he's saying this. Whoa! This is especially entertaining if he is talking to a female friend of yours who you had previously instructed to be clearly unimpressed with his physique. In case you aren't actually in a bar trying this out right now, just visualize The Situation.

My point is this... If your reasons for staying fit are solely so that you can impress members of the opposite sex, then it is increasingly likely that you will wind up having little else to present as your social personality, and that can be really irritating to be around. Yes, fit equals attractive, but Gym Douchebag usually equals, well, douchebag. He's one dimensional and seems to come off as thinking that he's better than anyone with a higher Body Mass Index (for the record my BMI is 25.1. Apparently I am overweight).

Nobody wants to be that guy, and fewer women than you'd think want anything with him other than a few hours and hopefully no Judd Apatow-style comedic fallout. And before you think to yourself (or say out loud to no one) "Hey, a few hours is all I'm after," grow up. Yeah it's fun from time to time, but the lifestyle that generally accompanies it is so counterproductive as far as your health is concerned that in the end, it's nothing more than a real easy way to get sick.

Being physically fit is already a step in the right direction to being attractive. There's no need to focus solely on that as your motivation, seeing as it comes as a natural side effect. This doesn't mean that you can't take off our shirt at the beach and flaunt your abs (hell, why else would you have them?), it's just unnecessary to draw any more attention than you're already getting by talking about it all the time.

To Be More Intimidating
Tired of being pushed around by those playground (or office, or carpool, or subway...) bullies? Sick of hiding extra lunch money in some kind of James Bond-esque shoe compartment? Here's the answer... secretly join a gym, visualize your tormentor's face each time you knock off a rep, and get steadily bigger until one day it dawns on everyone: you're huge. Suddenly everyone is nicer to you, everyone listens to you, and no one takes your lunch money. In fact, all you have to do is flex and suddenly your friends/enemies/coworkers/Gisele Bundchen are all buying your lunch for you. Or maybe you just want people to take you more seriously, and getting big can't hurt, can it? From time to time when you raise your voice you get your way. It's not like you abuse it, right?

How It Will Bite You In The Ass

You're going to get your ass kicked. Don't argue. It is going to happen. See, it's great that you can do a whole Arnie-load of pushups. Really, that is awesome. The world needs people who can do whole piles of pushups. But if you insist on using largeness to influence how people behave around you, you're going to piss people off, which you might not be too worried about. I mean, you're HUGE! But fighting is a very different thing. If it happens to be something that the person you've pissed off is particularly good at, then size really isn't that much of a factor.

Need proof? Watch "Karate Kid."

And you, in all your new found enormousness, will eventually run into Danny Larusso (I hope you all know that he's the karate kid) or some of his friends, and get your ass kicked. If, however, you run into Danny Larusso AND some of his friends, Google "How to Win a Fight Against 20 Children."

...the fact that by simply working out, your body releases endorphins. These make you feel good, which generally puts you in a good state of mind. With a good state of mind comes confidence. Maybe not a lot, but some. And yes, you'll get bigger, too.

It is the natural cycle of the gym. Yes, those first few weeks might hurt like hell, and you sure won't see results immediately, but in the long run, the payoff is more than just improved physique. It comes with better self image, which can lead to positive influences on all sorts of situations.

Balancing Out the Bad With the Good

There are a lot of ways to have fun in this world, and while some of us ride horses at breakneck speed or swim with the dolphins in Hawaii, many of us embrace equally safer and more dangerous pastimes: binge drinking and unhealthy eating are two examples which spring to mind.

While outside of Montana binge drinking is not likely to get you a broken neck by being thrown from a horse into a barn wall, it is taking a toll on you that is not immediately obvious. According to the CDC, it is associated with everything from unintentional injuries to neurological disorder and sexual dysfunction (!).

Yet today we see more and more people partaking in this dangerous habit, and it is more and more often accompanied with attempts to "undo" some of the more obvious effects. Got wasted last night? Run it off. Downed a two-six of Jameson's? Sounds like motivation for a heavy chest day.
And you know what? On the once in a very long while occasion, this might be a good way to get your blood moving around your body again. So if that's the case, why wouldn't it make sense that it can be used as an eraser of the effects of a partying lifestyle? Sure, you might not make any really impressive gains at the gym, but then again you also just might.
The same principle applies to food with more and more people. If you're going to go to the gym anyways, then you can skimp on a healthy lunch and down a Big Mac and some fries. Maybe you won't be undoing all of the damage, but you'll be a step ahead of if you weren't going to the gym, right?

Why It Will Bite You In The Ass

It really isn't my place to tell you that the binge drinking and partying lifestyle is wrong. Hell, going out and tying one on occasionally is generally good for your psychological state so long as you're smart about it. While I don't subscribe to it at all, we each have the choice to make for ourselves. I merely feel that it's important to consider the toll that you are taking on your body when it becomes a regular pastime. This is going to catch up to you at the gym, and be a strain your overall health.

I will now take the time to deliver some shocking news... Just because you ran 20km, or had an awesome workout lifting heavy, heavy weights doesn't mean that you can "reward" yourself with a pile of bread pudding or a night of drinking. If you want to treat yourself, go ahead, but don't fool yourself into thinking that the time you spend in the gym will balance out against the negative effects of putting unhealthy food groups inside of you. That which we add to ourselves as a result of training comes only after a lot of hard work. It can take weeks, even months before any truly noticeable changes take place. But that is not the same with food and drink. When we are not smart about our intake, it doesn't take long before it shows. A day of crunches doesn't outweigh a night of pizza and beer. Please now refer to the bold text above so I don't seem like so much of a jackass.

As far as using exercise to jump start your system after a night of getting wasted, well, that's a whole other story. There's a damned good chance that you're going to hurt yourself in the gym. One day your brain is going to be too busy holding your liver back from kicking your ass, and it's going to forget to tighten the collar that one time you go to bench 225.

And don't forget that alcohol, as a depressant, makes you depressed to some extent. In other words aside from the headache, the nausea, and the other headache (the one you woke up next to) it will make you not want to go to the gym, thereby causing you to waste however much money your membership is costing you, which benefits the Man. And we can NOT let that happen!

Finally, it can become a downward spiral into chemical stimulation; not necessarily anything illegal, either. But when you need coffee to keep you up, supplements for pre-gym energy, more coffee to get you
through work, and a drink or other depressant to wind down at the end of the day, you're suddenly caught in a cycle dubbed by a friend of mine who is currently in it as a "Counterbalance of Substance," that will eventually do you some damage, or at least force you to go on one of those god awful cleanses.

...balance. Yes, go out and have a good time, but try and be smart about it. Try a night where you don't do any shots. Not one. Stick with your highballs (no, you can't drink them like shots to make up for all the shots you aren't doing) or beer, and maybe focus on being social instead of getting wasted. I'd be willing to bet that you enjoy your night more.

And here's another idea... Humour me... go for a month without drinking. Give it a try. During that month, make it in to the gym 5 days a week (or whatever your schedule permits). Even go as far as using a complex algorithm (or basic arithmetic, whatever works for you) to figure out how much you typically spend on going out, and put that money towards hiring a personal trainer for the month. After the month is over, step back and see how you feel. I'm willing to bet that overall you feel, well, better.

At the end of the day, you each have your reasons for wanting to be healthy and fit, and nothing can take them away from you. Nor should anything I write make you stop taking care of yourself because, "Oh My God, he's right! That's me!" I'm only asking you to look at that which motivates you, and see how it affects the person you are. After doing that, ask yourself something: Do you want it to consume your life, or compliment it?

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