Out There: The Gym Sucks

Even hamsters can't wait to escape from the gym, aka their cage.

It’s the offseason, which for many runners and triathletes means logging their training time in the gym.

Written by: Susan Lacke

The gym is no different than a hamster cage. You can't get out of their fast enough.

Let me be completely honest here: The gym sucks.

You may disagree. Some people love the gym and can spend countless hours there. To me, the gym is no different than a hamster cage. You go to one area, push some woodchips into a pile, run on a wheel for a bit, drink from the water bottle, then go to another area and push some more woodchips into a different pile. A lot of activity in a very confined space — where’s the fun in that?

And, as long as I’m being honest, lean in and I’ll tell you something I haven’t admitted before: The people at the gym scare me. They’re good-looking, musclebound, and grunt a lot. I’m a softy who makes fun of the grunters, gets tangled up in the resistance bands and spends 25 minutes of a 30 minute weightlifting workout distracted by the gym TV.

I don’t use the word “hate” for many things, but I admit it: I HATE THE GYM.

If you listen closely, you’ll hear a multitude of runners, cyclists, roller derby-ists, and even golfers yelling at their computers right now: But you have to go to the gym! It’ll make you a stronger athlete!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I hear you. That doesn’t mean I have to like it, though.

My first foray into a gym involved an overly chipper personal trainer named Libby. She was blonde, petite, and spunky – everything I’m not. At first, I really liked her. She’d tell me to do push-ups, and I’d eagerly obey. I’d be rewarded with pats on the back and eager cheers!

But now I understand it was all a ploy. Beneath all the “woo-hoos!” and “you can DO its!” was her diabolical plot to make me suffer.

I finally realized this one day when she was making me do a challenging circuit routine involving lunges, pushups, crunches and weights. I figured the sweating, the panting, and cursing, she’d figure she was pushing me too far, but that didn’t stop her.

“Can we take a break?” I asked.
“No.” She pushed me down with her foot. “Seven more.”
“Libby, I hate you.”
“You whine too much. Six more.”
“Go <bleep> yourself.”
“Yeah, like I haven’t heard that before. Five more.”

Normally, I wouldn’t take that kind of abuse. But I’m pretty sure the athlete-trainer relationship is its own special form of Stockholm Syndrome.

After the Libby experience, I decided to cower in fear at home for a while.

At first, I took the Plank-A-Day Challenge for my core workout. That workout regimen lasted all of 30 seconds, which included laying out a yoga mat in my living room. I can swim, bike, and run until the cows come home, but put me in a plank (the workout one, not the funny one) and I’ll begin whining faster than you can say “8-Minute Abs.”

I tried the stability ball, but it was too easy to get distracted by the novelty of a giant bouncy ball! Also, said giant bouncy ball broke a lot of things by its very state of gigantic-ness and bouncy-ness.

And don’t even get me started on doing squats. I’m pretty sure I saw my dogs laughing as they watched me try to stay upright during my first (and only) single-legged squat attempt.

Sensing my frustration with trying to get a good workout at home, my friend Meghan sent me some home exercise equipment to try out.

The Power Wheel, at first glance, didn’t look all that threatening. It’s a 14-inch wheel with a bar jutting through it. My five year-old niece plays with something similar in the sandbox. But after three minutes of doing the video that came with the equipment, it chewed me up, spat me out, and made me wish I could surgically remove my own abs with a butter knife.

So I did what any good athlete would do: I popped some popcorn and watched the rest of the video instead. Entertaining stuff, if you ask me: Good-looking muscular men doing astonishing physical feats. It was like watching Twilight without the stress of picking Team Edward or Team Jacob.

Fine, I admit: The only thing getting exercised at home is futility.

As much as I hate going to the gym, it forces me to at least pretend I’m working hard. Even half-heartedly going through the motions of stomach crunching is better than staring at the Power Wheel in the corner of my living room with a glass of Pinot Grigio, which is how my offseason will go if I try the home-workout thing again.

That’s why, this offseason, you’ll be seeing me in all my sweaty-hamster glory at the gym. All I ask is that the TV stays tuned to a good channel and grunting is reduced to a minimum so I don’t injure myself rolling my eyes at you.

Oh, and if you see a chipper blonde trainer named Libby, warn me so I can hide.

See you Out There!

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