How to hate the gym, but not hate yourself: A lazy person’s guide to fitness

This article will not provide you any scientific insight. It will provide you tips and tricks gleaned from personal experience, popular wisdom, and folklore.

 |  5-minute read |   09-09-2018
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I hate the gym. No, I abhor it, loathe it, despise it. It offends me on both the man and machine levels.

First, I find a room full of heavy machinery depressing. I am perpetually broke and go to low-end gyms, the kind that run illegally from basements. The lack of natural light plus industrial equipment everywhere plus Honey Singh/Badshah blaring from loudspeakers is not the aesthetic I want to start or end my day with.  

Second, gyms are full of unhappy people pushing and punishing themselves. Of course, there are those who truly enjoy working out. But many are here only because they don’t like their bodies, or have been promised transformational changes to their lives if they exercise, and are frustrated with the delay in the arrival of achche din.

Sweat, grit and tears: The gymnasium is a cruel place. Sweat, grit and tears: The gymnasium is a cruel place. (Photo: Reuters)

Third — and this is especially true for the great land of NCR — it is very disconcerting, when, tired and at the end of your tether, you look up into the mirror and catch random sweaty dude from next treadmill staring at you.  

So yes, I hate the gym, and cannot bring myself to go there for any sustained length of time for exercising.

In the not exercising bit, I am not alone. In fact, a recent study by the World Health Organization has found that a quarter of the world’s adults don’t do enough physical activity.

I cannot presume to know why a quarter of the world’s adults are shambling their way to an early death. But if you, like me, belong to this section, and if your reasons, like mine, are mainly laziness and lack of self-discipline, here are some things that might help.

1. Gym is not the one true path: It’s okay to not like the gym. The path to fitness does not lead through its tortured, tortuous paths. The machine shall not deliver you. They are merely the means, not the end. The idea is to get physical exercise, and the treadmill or the bench press or the dumbbell is a simple, streamlined way to do it. It is not the only way.

2. Find something you actually like doing: This, my own experience and popular wisdom has taught me, is the single most important factor. You may have embarked upon the road to fitness all fired up, aquiver with noble intentions.But intent fails, motivation dies. The desire for that perfect body alone does not keep us on the straight path of the treadmill. Find something you would enjoy doing even without the promise of a beautiful body at the end of it. Something that is fun in itself for you.

Find an activity you would do because it's fun. Not because of the prize of a shapely body. Find an activity you would do because it's fun (you will find something, look), and not because of the promise of a shapely body. (Photo: PTI/file)

Dance, cycle, swim, jog, do yoga. Go on nature walks. Play a sport. Even if you never played anything in school, never thought of dancing sober, try different things. You will find something you like, and, along with a fitter lifestyle, will find a new activity that gives you joy and acts as a stress buster.

3. Weed out logistical challenges: The loftiest ideas perish in the morning commute. Don’t join a dance class an hour away from office. Do not sign up for a football club if you have to negotiate traffic jams to reach it. There are people who manage to never miss hobby classes halfway across town, but those people have willpower. Chances are, you have read this far only because you know you do not have will power

4. Charity begins at home: It is not easy to find handy grounds to go jogging in. It’s not easy to find a swimming pool that meets all your budget/time/commute constraints. But there is a lot of physical activity you can squeeze in at home, or in your daily life.

Start off with walking briskly while you are on the phone, doing basic lunges, squats, push-ups or sit-ups (these are all easy, I promise), while watching TV, while cooking, while listening to music.

Do some basic exercises while cooking, watching TV. Even five squats a day is better than diddly squat.  Do some basic exercises while cooking, watching TV. Even five squats a day is better than diddly squat. (Photo: YouTube screengrab)

Another thing that really helps is stop Ola/Uber-ing it everywhere. Walk to the nearest autorickshaw stand, see if you can walk to destinations from train/metro stations. Do your ghar-grihasthi shopping on foot.  

The idea is to start. Once your body is used to some physical activity, it will stop rebelling against more

5. Stay away from new converts: If you find them, turn around and run. New converts are people who have recently — most probably six weeks ago — discovered the joys of the gym. They will fix you with a glittering eye, and rave and rave about how exercise helps them sleep better, keeps them fresh, has lit up their skin, booked them a spot in heaven. They will make you feel inadequate and disappointed with your own tiny progresses. Chances are, they are trying to convince themselves as much as you, and will never enter a gym again in a month.   

An important part of adulting is taking care of yourself, and accepting that your youthful metabolism bade you a silent goodbye at 25. You HAVE to get some exercise, not just to stay in shape, but to stay healthy, to stay alive. However, the giant leap into fitness begins with a small step. Take that. Even the road oft-travelled can make a lot of difference.   

Also read: Snacking is great, but here's how you can do it in a healthy way


Yashee Yashee @yasheesingh

The writer is a journalist.

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