Gym memberships

Millennials turning to more expensive boutique-type fitness studios that offer a tailored exercise experience – read a recent headline from the LA times

The above headline and its accompanying article recently got my running shoes tied in knots.  Exercise need not be expensive.  As an aspiring financial humorist, and chronic exerciser allow me to examine the topic.

Is there an industry more trendy then fitness?  I think not, allowing perhaps for the nutrition / diet industries which are really all just different legs of the same stool.  As a professional athlete, physical education teacher specifically, I have tried and tested a few of these trends and enjoyed their consequences.

In college I had developed a regular weight lifting routine, at first this was focused on improving basketball performance, but by the time of college graduation lifting heavy objects was my equivalent of peacock feathers.  Now unlike your latest workout DVD that promises muscle confusion and ruined carpet at you thrash about in your living room, I was in the gym 6 days a week pumping some serious iron.

Although when you only weight around 175 pounds, the amount of iron one can move is somewhat limited.  One day, the squat rack taught me about those limits.  I don’t remember how much weight was on the bar probably somewhere around 350 lbs. but maybe it was more like 175 lbs.  Either way, it was just a touch to much.  I lowered the weight down, following proper form with my back straight, butt out, and continuing until my knees were at 90 degrees.

Now, it’s easier to lower the weight down, this is called an eccentric contraction, the problem arises in that you start the exercise with the downward motion, therefore I was in a deep squat position when I began to get the inkling that I might not rise again.  Surely, the other exercisers wouldn’t mind picking my squashed carcass up off the floor, so I hadn’t bothered anyone to serve as my spotter.

I nearly made it back to a standing position, but under the strain, I lost my balance and stumbled forward, smacking the bar into the rack.  Yes, I remember the weight now, it was 175 lbs., but at this point it felt more like 350 lbs.  Slowly but surely, I began to resemble a squashed soda can with joints oddly pointing this way and that.  At one point I got a good view of my knee and shoulder simultaneously.

Luckily, the squat rack had safety bars for just this sort of occasion; unluckily I had not bothered to check their location.  The lower I went the more certain I became that the safety bars must soon save me, but down I continued.

Eventually, I heard the clink of metal and I was safe, when another patron asked if I was okay, I said, “sure, I always squat that way?”  Maybe if I’d hired a trainer or went to some fancy class this won’t have happened, but then I’d be out some serious cash, and you wouldn’t have gotten to enjoy the story.

Neither scenario has a positive outcome.

In stead of forking over $30 per class session, I took matters into my own hands and decided if I got stronger then I could lift the weight, problem solved.

Even though every man, woman, and child in the US consumes enough protein to make a tiger jealous, I started downing some powdered protein mixture from GNC.  This went on for some days, until my mom went to light a candle and nearly blow the windows out of the house.  It seems I wasn’t digesting the powder properly, my intestines may have been suffering, but my wallet was still intact.

Eventually, I lost interest in weight lifting and moved on to running.  My early run training consisted of 3 runs per week, each around a distance of 3 miles, and I attempted to reduce my time every run.  I was running like a weight lifter, or like a currently millennial paying $250 for 10 sessions of Navy Seal workouts.

If you want to vomit frequently this is a good tactic, but I was actually more interested in getting faster, so I started training like a runner.  I can now run casually, at paces faster then those, heart in the throat, runs of days gone by.  You need to be active everyday, and some days should be easy.  Those easy days build a foundation allowing the hard days to build the body up, instead of tearing it apart.

Now, lest anyone think that I’ve mastered the art of exercise let me share a more recent tale.  I’ve been able to dunk a basketball since age 17, as I approached age 35, I thought wow, if I can still dunk I’ll be able to claim this ability for over half my life.  So with that nugget in mind, and 35 approaching, I set about doing nothing to prepare.  You may find this hard to believe, but this approach is unwise.

One day, a week or two before my birthday, I was feeling springy after playing a game with some 3rd graders.  Sensing opportunity, and feeding off their excitement, I decided that day would be the day.  I grabbed a ball and launched skyward, just missing my objective (it was close, honestly).  The students booed loudly, as they consider me an athletic wizard.

30 minutes later I could barely walk.

According to my physical therapist wife, I had possibly caused a stress fracture where my patellar ligament inserts into my tibia.  All I knew was that my knee hurt.  This is another example of the foolishness of these uber intense classes; sure it feels like you are doing something while you are there, but if your body isn’t ready, watch out later.  There are so many other ways to get a good workout, get a bike, or running shoes, buy some weights and put them in your garage or basement, invite friends and get to work.  Save some major cash, and call me for advice.

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