Do I need to go to a gym to get healthy?

by Helen

The gym locates across my office has a brilliant idea. Instead of wall, the gym has all glass fronts so you can see everything and more importantly who work out. The women in my office all agree, the glass front design is the best feature of the gym because they can drool over hot guys, muscles and nice-looking abs.  The men in my office are also in agreement but they will never dare to say it out loud. I must admit some of the guys working out in that gym have great bodies, but I often wonder does great body equate to health? Do you have to work out every day and have tone body to be considered healthy? We do have an obsession with body image, do we?

Thus, it is not surprising that there has been an explosion of gyms in North America cities. You can probably find a gym in your immediate neighborhood and sometimes multiple ones within short walking distance of each other.  Rows and rows of machines, treadmills, body pump, yoga or spin classes all day. People are lining up to sweat their butts off on these machines and classes.  But is it working? Are all these gyms helping or hurting? Do you really need the gym or does it need you? I’ll share with you my own journey with smelly gym mat.

About just 2 years ago, my health was at the lowest point.  I was around 180lbs but I felt like a 200lbs penguin.  Constantly, I had stomach pain and my body was aching all over.  I was a 30 something in a 70 years old woman body. On top of that, I was easily short of breath after climbing the stairs. And no, it wasn’t a long stair. 3 flights of stairs were enough to knock the wind of my sail. Well, I couldn’t go on like that and I decided to make a drastic change. I decided to join a gym to get healthy.

Yes, the big G word. I will share something personal: I hate gym because I am very sensitive to smell. If you have been in a gym you know what I am referring too. To get those 6 packs you will have to really sweat it out. And that was my turn off. I didn’t and still don’t like the sweat smell. Just my luck, every guy that I considered “somewhat hot” usually sweated big time. It was a huge turn off to see big fat sweats just rolling down and then came the smell.  Yuk! I digress from my disappointment in the male specie. The bigger muscle the guy has the more sweat he seems to produce. Seriously! Ok, I need to stop here.

As it happened, my employer had a partnership with a well know gym and I would get a decent discount on the price. Well, this couldn’t hurt too much, so I decided to jump on the gym band wagon (or a treadmill in my case).  The sign-up process was quite easy and I met with an associate from the gym for a walk through after much dreads. I was somewhat a gym virgin (like I said, hate the smell of sweat) so I was uncomfortable with the machines. Sensing my uneasiness, the associate suggested meeting with a trainer to see how they could best help me. Hum…was this a sale pitch? Yep, it certainly was.  I could see the associate was practically jumping for joy when he discovered that I had very little knowledge about machines and work-out techniques but I was desperate to improve my health.

To be honest, I didn’t and still don’t have a problem with my body.  I like my shape and curves. I know that I don’t have model body and I am happy with that.  My main objective was to get healthy and if I got my butt into shape that would work for me too. So, off I went to meet with the trainer and he proceeded to check my Body Mass Index (BMI) and a few other things. He promised that he would be get me in the best shape of my life and just to drove the point home, he show me a computer graphic of my post 6 months training body.  Wow! The post 6 month training “me” had Kim Kardashian body?

This guy really knew how to sell. Sensing that I had a real concern about health issue, he talked in length about how exercise would improve my moods and health.  But I got a bit annoyed when he kept hooping on how much weight I would lose and how great I would look. So after 15 minutes of him went on and on about this, I politely said: “Look, I don’t want to look like Kim Kardashian. It doesn’t bother me that I weight at 180 lbs. I only want to get healthier. My only objective is to improve my health. That’s all”. Signal received, he stopped the weight loss pitch after that.

This is one thing that I like to point out: the gym associate and trainer will push for a private training because they work on commission. They will tell you a lot of good stuffs to get you to sign up but you are the one in charge of your body and wallet so don’t let them talk you into something that you don’t really need.  I didn’t buy in their sale pitch because I did the research in advance and I knew what I needed to do. I decided to go with a trainer due to 2 main reasons:

  • Maximize the workout result in short time. I didn’t know the work out techniques. And yes, I could just jump on the treadmill, but I didn’t have a lot of time to work out so I wanted to maximum result with little time I had at the gym. A trainer could help me work out more effectively and efficiently since they have the expertise.
  • Motivation. I knew that I needed to work out to get better health but I needed extra push. I would confess: it was easier and more enjoyable to watch TV or reading than went to the gym. I needed extra push to get my butt moving.

So, I ended up with a 6 months training program with 3 days per week which costed around $1000 in total.  I requested a female trainer because I thought a woman would more likely understand my concern and could relate to my health issues more than a male trainer.

First month – Not too bad

Well, I survived the first few workouts with only few scratches.  My trainer was fabulous. We discovered and bonded over our caffeine addiction, travel itches and curly hair maintenance. She gave me a lot of good work-out tips as well as better drinking habit. I sort of drank coffee as substitute for water. I called it my coffee flavored water. More on the caffeine, less on the water. My trainer gave me a lecture on this habit but she was sympathetic because she had the same love for the bitter and highly addictive beverage.  Caffeine, thy name is addiction.

Yep, I made the right call. The male trainer would probably be more of an eye candy but it was a woman that could really help me get better health. That is another advice that I would give: if you need a trainer, then go with the one who you can be comfortable with. The relationship between trainer and trainee is quite intimated, so you may get a better result and more enjoyable workout if you are comfortable and relatable with your trainer.

My trainer recommended that I focused on building my muscles to gain more body strengths, so I did a lot of weight lifting exercises. After 3 weeks, I stepped on the scale, and the result was a 10 lbs loss. I wasn’t surprise because I knew that there was a good chance that I could gain weight due to muscle gain.

Second month – Muscle pains

I was a bit more energetic as I got more comfortable with the work-out techniques and routine. However, my body pain and ache were getting worst.   My muscles cramped up badly that my trainer had to give me mini massage during one of the work out session.  It was tough, but I hung in there with the hope that I could improve my health. After 2 months of continuous work out, I didn’t lose any more weight and my body ache and pain continued. My trainer was shocked and concerned because I worked out 3 times per week for 1 hour each time and yet there was no weight loss and eased of muscle cramped.  I could lift some weights and gained a bit more stamina on the treadmill but there was not much else to show.

Third month – Unexpected discovery

It was quarter end reporting time, and I had to put in longer hours at work. As a result, I missed a few work out sessions. My trainer (aka: caffeine sister) was understanding and accommodating. She moved my session to later time even though I gave her notice just couple hours in advance. Yep, I got a good one. I was adamant that I continued on the healthy workout routine, so I did yoga after work at home when I couldn’t make it to the gym.

That was when I made an unexpected discovery; my muscle ache went away when I didn’t go into the gym for a week.  As soon as I hit the gym mat, muscle cramped up and ached again. My massage therapist could tell when I went to the gym because she always got my call begging for a relieve session.   Wait a minutes, I just doubled my spending. I had to pay for the gym and then massage therapist? What was the reason for me to hit the gym mat in the first place? Ah! Yes, to make my body pain and ache go away. Hum… this wasn’t meeting my objective at all.

I stepped on the scale and I lost 5 lbs only? My trainer couldn’t figure out what went wrong because there was no change to my eating habit or any other factor.

Fourth month – There was a little thing called fate

Do you believe in fate? I didn’t and then fate gave me a little kick to prove me wrong. As painful as it was, I recommitted to my exercise training regime after my workload slowed down because I was determined to get healthier. Came hell or high water, I would get healthier.  Then, in a training session, I noticed that my trainer was somewhat off.  Normally, she was a chatter box and very cheerful, but that day she totally gave off the zombie vibe.

Thinking that she didn’t have enough caffeine injection for the day, I asked if she was o.k. Grumpily, she told me that she was on a cleanse program to deal with her stomach pain issue with a nutritionist who specialized in gut bacteria named Ariell. What? We had more in common than I thought. It turned out, we both experience similar stomach pain symptoms so she gave me Ariell’s contact information. Well, you know the rest of my cleansing story.

One of the initial down side of the 6 months cleaning program was it could drain your energy due to lack of carbohydrate and sugar. Yep, we need the little something…something to make our body energy and start moving.  Due to my lack of energy, I couldn’t keep up the regular work-out routine. I was quite concern with this and brought it up with Ariell.

Surprisingly, she said that while exercising was healthy thing to do, I shouldn’t do excessive weight training. She came to this conclusion after reviewing my blood test results.  I have a health condition that will limit my muscle build. For someone who has my health condition, it would be more beneficial to do repetitive motion exercises while weight training would do zero for my health.  Instead, Ariell suggested that I walked regularly to get my heart rate pumping better.

Well, you know the result of my 6 month cleansing. I have gotten much healthier and I lost weights. I was so jazzed that I no longer have to endure gym smell and the sweat. Yes, we can’t forget about the unattractive sweat.

Fifth month – Parted way

By the fifth month, I was already doing well with the cleansing program and saw good health results. With just my tiny dumbbell and YouTube yoga videos, I was feeling much better. I didn’t sweat excessively and my massage therapist stopped getting my phone calls. I didn’t see a reason for me to continue to hit the gym mat when I found a more enjoyable way to regain my health. I spoke to my trainer/caffeine sister and she understood. Having been on the cleanse program, she knew that I didn’t have the sugar and carbohydrate in my body to give me the fuse for gym workout.

In all honesty, I always disliked the gym and workout, but I hung in there for health improvement reason.   Now, I no longer need to do so to get my health back.

Would I do it again?

Most likely, no! I learned some useful information during my time at the gym that I still use but that knowledge certainly did not cost to $1000. On top of that, I didn’t enjoy the fact that I had to make time to go to the gym after work. It felt like a chore to me instead of enjoyment. All the eye candies and drool worthy abs in the neighborhood couldn’t change my mind about the cost of gym membership, the smell (oh…the smell), muscle cramps and the time commitment.

I find that working out at home suits me best. It is much more enjoyable to take a walk with Karen and talk about all kinds of thing even when the little monster tags along.  Seriously, try it. I would venture a bet that you may find it is far more enjoyable to have a walk with someone you can share interest and have a conversation with than sweating your butt off in a gym. Hot guys or not, I make my choice of exercise.

Before I leave you to your thoughts, I like to share a few things that I learned from my gym venture:

  • Find the work-out method that work best for you and your existing health conditions. While weight training maybe the best exercise for most people, it does nothing for me due to my health condition. So, I choose to do thing that works best for my health and it doesn’t include a gym.
  • Be comfortable in your own skin. Be healthy and happy in whatever body shape you are in and love it. I recognize that we North Americans have an obsession with being skinny but you should be happy and comfortable in the shape that you are in. I am all for individuality and celebrating the diversity in all of us. Don’t conform and be unhappy. Be different and happy!
  • Stick to your objective and don’t give in to sale pitch. I know of a few of these gym sale pitch stories and I won’t bore you with them. All I want to say is: spend your money wisely. If a personal trainer is what you need to get healthy than by all mean do it. But don’t let anyone pressure you into buying something you don’t want. And choose a trainer that you are comfortable with. Eye candies are good to look at but they may not help you get healthier.
  • Listen to your body. You know your body best. I didn’t listen to my muscle cramps and pains at the gym, but you bet that I learn my lesson.

At the end of it all, I don’t regret hitting the gym mat or paying for the personal trainer, but I would not do it again. I spent $1,000 and a lot of sweats (literally) and it did zero to improve my health.  Staying active and healthy is a big part of my happy and blissful life philosophy and I will continue to do so. But I will do what is right for my health which is walking, yoga and chasing after my niece. Yes, you betcha it is an exercise.

How about your gym experience? I would love to hear about it!

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ergfirnolikz January 9, 2019 - 9:02 am

Wow, incredible blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is excellent, let alone the content!


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