Workouts That Work

I’ve been trying out different ways of working out recently. The gym doesn’t work for me. I go there, I watch Netflix on the elliptical for an hour, do a few floor exercises that I do at home anyway, and I leave. It’s not fun for me, I don’t see any progress, and I’m probably doing something wrong without knowing it. Because of all that, I don’t feel excited or willing to go to the gym, and as a result, I spend money on a membership that does not get used.

So I started running. In case you didn’t already know, running is hard. It doesn’t look like it, though. It looks like it’s just fast walking, but to exert non-stop energy to propel yourself forward for an extended amount of time, pounding pavement on your own terms with your own time, is hard. In fact, I found my half-hour jogs more difficult than an hour on the elliptical (which tells your how much good that hour at the gym was doing me). I had to work up to those half-hour runs. I started with ten-minutes around the block, then longer runs of two-minute running increments with a minute of walking between, then three-minutes running, one walking. I ran about twice a week and it took a few weeks to get to where I could do the whole route at a run without stopping. I actually enjoyed the running. It was good to see my progress, going farther, running for longer, it made me feel good about myself. It cost nothing, got me spending time outside, and I could do it whenever I wanted. But there were downsides:

  1. Because I could do it whenever I wanted, I frequently deferred running to “later”.
  2. It sometimes made my feet hurt, because my running shoes weren’t really “running” shoes, and I was unwilling to shell out the money for proper shoes, especially because
  3. The weather often influenced whether I would be running, and I knew when September hit, the snow would probably come with it and it would be too dangerous or cold to run for the next eight months, which is now the case, and
  4. I felt like I was only really exercising my legs. Only my legs and feet were sore after a run and the rest of me still felt unchallenged.

All that said, I wouldn’t be opposed to running when the weather’s nice again, probably not until next May. We’ve had two snowstorms since late-September now, separated by periods of warm sunshine, meaning, the sidewalks are slick with ice formed from melted snow that has refrozen again. Running was a nice temporary exercise to do over the summer, when I wanted to exercise without paying for it, but it was not meant for long-term exercise. Not for me, anyway.

I was going to start tae kwon do in September. I’d found a place in April that I tried out and really liked, but I had a busy summer ahead of me, so I told them I’d come back to sign up in September. When I went to sign up, they’d permanently closed. I’d tried a few other tae kwon do places in the area (like, all of them) but this one had easily been the best, and bonus, the cheapest. After finding out it was closed, I couldn’t really bring myself to pay more at one of the other places for classes that I didn’t think were as good. However, I did learn a few things about myself and how I liked to get my exercise from those classes.

  1. I got more exercise done in less time when I had a structured class
  2. I pushed myself harder when I had a teacher/trainer/coach to show me where and how to improve.
  3. I exercised more often when there were set times to go. I knew I had to be at class at a certain time, for example, because if I wasn’t, I was wasting my own money and missing out until the next class. Unfortunately for this one, I have a pretty varied and unpredictable schedule.
  4. I liked exercise where I also learned a skill, or where I could see improvement not by looking in the mirror but by seeing what I could do that I couldn’t before, and having goals to get to, like being able to do a certain kind of spin-kick, or working towards the next belt level.
  5. I also liked exercise that was fun, challenging, and not repetitive. At the gym, “not repetitive” meant watching a different TV show every time I was on the elliptical. At tae kwon do, it meant learning a new jump-kick, or parrying, or a whole new belt routine.

So I retired the idea of tae kwon do, and started looking at other classes. I tried a single free trial for a half hour of kickboxing. That was actually pretty good, because there was structure, there were trainers, and it was fun. I really liked it and found myself satisfyingly tired after the half-hour of non-stop strength and cardio. My arms were sore the next day. It was a drop-in whenever, with a monthly membership fee, similar to gyms, which was a strike against it, but the biggest reason I had to pass on this was that it was so. darn. expensive. I mean, reasonable for people with normal jobs or retirement pensions, I guess, but it was about four or five times more per month than my gym membership (which, to be fair, was cheaper for me because my mom got a discount for being a government worker plus for the family deal we got). I’d say it was about twice as much as an average gym membership.

That was a shame, but I didn’t let it stop me. I found a dance studio which offered a couple of dance classes for adults. It was well-priced and close to home, so I signed up for weekly ballet classes. I chose ballet over the other adult class, tap dance, because I didn’t want to spend extra money on shoes. I’m really liking my ballet classes. I’m not too good at it yet, but it’s a small class and there’s structure to it, and as an added bonus, ballet makes me feel good about myself. It makes me feel prettier, even if I haven’t got makeup on and I’m in sweats and instead of a ballerina bun, I’ve got a messy bun. I think I just look better because ballet helps my posture so much. But all that aside, I’m learning a new type of dance and it’s exercising my whole body, and it’s fun. It’s suitably challenging, and I find myself looking forward to it every week. I’ve asked for that one day off from work so I know I won’t have to work and miss a class one day, since I’ve already paid for them all. I’ve missed one already anyway, because of some volunteering I’d agreed to before I started classes. Overall, I’m pretty happy with it. Some weeks are more difficult than others, and every so often I feel a bit sore after the class, but as far as exercise goes, it’s pretty gentle.

But a class once a week just wasn’t enough for me, so I signed up for another. My first gymnastics class was two days ago. I sucked. There were professional gymnasts and retired professional gymnasts at the gym, doing all these cool flips and tricks. One guy had to be fifty or sixty and was doing flips like nobody’s business! I was attempting a simple front flip for the whole class and did not succeed, so I at least already have a goal to work towards. The next day I could barely get out of bed for how sore I was; thankfully I didn’t have anywhere to be. It wasn’t like kickboxing-sore or leg-day-sore. Everything from the neck down hurt. My forearms hurt (I don’t think I’ve ever had sore forearms before), my gut hurt (I didn’t even know I had abs until they decided to remind me every time I laughed or coughed), my legs hurt (sitting down, standing up, walking!), the place where my shoulders meet my neck hurt (I mean, they usually hurt because of my bad posture, but this is different), my butt hurt (seriously).

I had no idea how hard I was working my body until the next morning, because in the moment, I was just having fun. And I think that’s the marker of the best kind of workout. The gymnastics class was partially instructor-run, but you had the freedom to do your own thing as well. It has a set time, but you can stay for half an hour after class if you want to keep going. It happens once a week, but it’s a drop-in class so I don’t lose money if I have to miss a week. It checks all the boxes for me, and was well-priced to boot, so I’m very happy with it.

It took a while to figure out what kind of exercise works best for me, but I’m so glad to have tried different things until I figured it out. There are alternatives if, like me, you’re not a gym kind of person, so if you’re looking for ways to get your workout in, I highly recommend trying a few different things to find what works best for you! And if you’ve already found something you love that also functions as exercise, I’d love to hear what it is! Comment below and we can start a conversation!

 

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