Friend Probation

Mar 26, 2014 by

          The gym is great. It keeps me healthy and has the potential to make me feel on top of the effing world. But you know when you just don’t want to fucking go anymore? Welcome to my every weekday of March. If I could unfriend the weight room like a Facebook connection, I would. Unfortunately, the gym holds guilt over my head like a master of mental torture. We are linked for life (if I continue to do what’s good for me). How overwhelming is that? Some days, when I’m crunching my stomach for no return on investment, I remind myself that this is forever. That’s worth hyperventilating about. I wouldn’t commit myself to a guy for life after a little over a year of seeing each other, yet I’m just supposed to give myself to the gym? Forever?

          I want a divorce.

          To my own irritation, I’m not going to allow it. If I could maintain my gym routine last April, during an extreme life low, I have no justification to quit now. (Plus, I just helped my dad and my sister lift my couch up the stairs and into my bedroom the other night! Remember when my strength goal was simply to lift groceries without struggle? Friends, I’ve transformed into superwoman! #hugeexaggeration #progress!) I go through friend probation periods with the gym. This is merely one of them. Their timing typically mirrors the timing of frustrations in other aspects of my life. Thus, when I reach an I-hate-the-gym mentality, I’m aware that it’s not the gym that’s bothering me; it’s the fact that I have to continue to go to the gym while coping with unrelated circumstances. The gym gives me time to think, and sometimes I don’t want to be so well-acquainted with my thoughts. Sometimes, I need a distraction. The gym forces me to focus, and that can be annoying. Nonetheless, I push through, because the post-gym feeling of empowerment makes me happy and all Maria-gym friend probations eventually pass.

          Still, that forever bit needed addressing. I couldn’t fathom repeating the same workouts from now until my grave. Something needed to change. I had been spending way too much time at the gym only to maintain my current level of fitness. I wanted a more effective workout in less time, and I wanted to feel it. On Monday, I did some research. First, I found that, like other muscle groups, it is actually beneficial to rest for a day between abdominal workouts. Fab! I had been working my abs every weekday; but, in light of my findings, could knock out Tuesday and Thursday ab exercises to make these days cardio-only days. Second, I was reminded that, due to muscle memory, it is ineffective to repeat the same exercises for too long. Guilty. I had been doing the same ones for over a year. My muscles were no longer being challenged. I already knew this. It’s what prompted my research in the first place. Having reached a frustrating plateau, I was exhausting myself at the gym without gain. I implemented new arm, ass, ab, and leg exercises that day, and I immediately felt more motivated. Clearly, I had gotten bored of my old workout. Most importantly, I acknowledged that I was a culprit of quantity-over-quality fitness tactics. Accepting this enabled me to change it. My reps were high, but my form was terrible, which is why I feel nothing in my abdominals during workouts. Not cool. The good news: I can cut down on reps, reducing my time at the gym, and actually get better results by doing so and placing more focus on form. As a result of these changes, I haven’t felt like I’ve been dragging myself to the gym over the last few days, as I have all month. I’ve actually looked forward to going this week. Monday’s workout was so good that I can still feel it in my arms, shoulders, and upper back two days later.

          Yesterday, during what should have been my first cardio-only workout, I bumped into a guy I met at the gym a couple weeks ago. He’s a fitness professional, so I asked him if he had any suggestions for effective ab exercises. I still felt nothing despite trying new ones the day before. That question turned into hours of working out with this guy in the weight room. I essentially got an extensive personal training session for free! (That’s what happens when you’re open to making new friends wherever you are. Just sayin’!) He was awesome! I still think my form is flimsy with regard to ab exercises (likely due to my weak lower back), because my abdominals aren’t sore at all today. The rest of me, though, is hurting – in a good way. I actually had to use my hands to assist my right leg in crossing my left leg at work. I love post-workout pain. It means my time spent at the gym was worth it. After a long stretch of workout monotony, my gym motivation is finally back!

          P.S. That guy who spent the evening teaching me exercises from his work with competitive fitness models and athletes was Michael Ryan, VP of Fitness STAR. I’m sure you’re curious as to what we possibly could have gotten up to last night that interfered with the function of my legs this morning. You’ll have to ask him! Give him a shout at He’ll save your gym life!

          Mike, thanks again for the late-night workout, friend!

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