Despite what health fanatics proclaim, working out is not exactly a natural thing. Sure running is natural, if something is chasing you. Walking is natural, if you want to get somewhere. Add in a circular walking trail or a treadmill and the natural is not so much. Unless your walking trail features a pack of wild dogs. Then running is natural. But then so is calling the dog catcher and finding a new walking trail.
The gym is even less natural. Lets face it most of the machines are designed to isolate and work certain muscles. They do that because in nature we don’t exercise those muscles. maybe it is because we no longer run from packs of wild dogs. Maybe we are couch potatoes who would use those muscles more if we didn’t decide to spend the weekend watching a Hellraiser marathon instead of doing something productive. Or possibly the reason we once relied on those muscles to save us no longer exists.
Personally, I like thinking I have a muscle group that is designed to help me take down a wooly mammoth or fight off a saber toothed tiger. I doubt it’s true, but I like to believe it.
Now I’m not saying it isn’t good to run or walk or use the machines at the gym. At the moment I am doing all three. While I do my three times a week gym visits and walk every day, I also decided to try out one of those couch to 5K programs. Personally instead of hearing the perkily pleasant voice in my ear telling me ‘You are half way through this segment’s run. Good job. Keep going.’ I would rather hear someone yell that the saber toothed tiger is still chasing me.
But maybe that is just me.
At the gym, I will admit I felt a bit silly using the machines. While I do the routines I’m supposed to with the pulling and lifting followed by the machine that is intent on flashing my crotch to the room while I struggle to pull my knees together (I’m actually glad that in this gym that machine faces a wall, which means I’m not the only one who has issues.) I gravitate towards machines that do activities.
Like stair masters, treadmills and the rowing machine.
I love the rowing machine. Now. At first I was very self conscious about using it. There was a very wiry and fit man in my gym who used one of the machines regularly. He intimidated me because he went super fast and if in the water he would be the speed boat while I was in the leaky dinghy. He was a very nice man and I doubt he even noticed I was there. He was very focused. When he was done he stood up, wiped down the machine and left, never once looking in my direction. It was only my own insecurities making me feel silly about using the rowing machine.
But I liked the machine. So I decided to get over myself and embrace the silly. To help me, I downloaded a copy of Treasure Island to my ipod. I also got a bunch of nineteenth century sea shanties into a play list. At the start I listened to Robert Louis Stevenson (or the man reading his words since he is long dead and not in the recording studio). Oddly rowing while listening to pirates plan a mutiny worked well for me. As did the sea shanties. It also helps that the rowing machine faces the weights area and the tall machines with pulleys can, if you squint and are of a bent mind, look like ship’s riggings. I suppose that means the muscled men gathered around it are the pirates.
Pretending I was being marooned and trying to catch up with the pirate ship leaving me behind helped me work to increase my speed and pull harder than I actually thought I could.
It isn’t as hard as the man imitating a speed boat. But I no longer notice. I now pay him about as much attention as he does me. Which means none at all.
Rowing on dry land in the midst of a bunch of other machinery is a silly thing to do if you stop to think about it. But it is helpful for the body. And quite frankly I enjoy my time of piracy in the middle of my work out. I know most fitness gurus advocate being present in the moment and focusing on what your body is doing. But frankly, if I did that, I wouldn’t be able to work out. Embracing the silliness of it all and turning it into a game or a scene from a book or movie keeps me returning to the machines.
And with the rowing machine sorted, all I need to do now is find a running program that helps me pretend something is chasing me. Then I’ll be all set. Until then, avast ye land lubbers and prepare to be boarded. Once I catch you that is, which admittedly could take a while.