Saturday, March 23, 2013

Not About Running: Things I Learned At The Gym

Written by a gym class antihero 

This past week I've been on the afternoon shift. Theoretically that means 2pm to 11pm, and I cover any news that breaks late, but in practice that (There is no such thing as an off-duty journalist.)

What that really means is that I wake up around 8 or 9, and because I'm a chicken, I don't want to be roasted on a late-morning run. So to save my sanity and my skin, I tried out a Fitness First 5-day trial pass I got from the Green Corridor Run earlier this year. There's a Fitness First gym basically around the corner from where I live, so this was great. The goal was to try as many classes as I could, while also sticking to my sprint-tri training plan, and chat with a trainer.

Here's how it went.

I had a longish chat with a sales person, who handed me a couple of brochures. This was one...

Not encouraging... the whole purpose of working out (for me, anyway) is for my mental health and to be able to race faster and stronger.

Small digression: here's something else I got in a recent race pack: Shape magazine.

Check out the coverlines: there's one woman losing 30kg, 'the #1 secret of skinny women', and (because this is the Valentine's Day issue) '15 tantalising recipes he'd love' (so you can't cook sirloin, lamb chops or chocolate pudding for YOURSELF, just for YOUR MAN - hello, Cosmopolitan?...I will cook these things for myself anyway - they look delicious). Mixed messages much?

note also that the 'recommended' weights are 1.5-litre bottles. YEP 1.5kg.
i get a better workout carrying my bag to the mrt station.

looks like she does work out regularly, but that is still a WEE TEENY kettlebell.
story says '4-6 kg'.

Also, you can totally tell which photo shoots were done locally and which were done in the US. The models in the local ones have no discernible muscle definition. Now, I'm in media, and this could just be a limitation of the local industry (small). There are no fitness models here to speak of, I think, and finding models with the right experience is probably very difficult. It's still funny/ sad though. (I know, the world has room for a whole diverse range of body types, but poor underfunded Shape magazine looks as though it's been using the one same model this whole time.)

Trying to sell me exercise because it'll change my size or shape just doesn't work for me. I work out because I want to be stronger and faster and better at the sports I love to do; because I want to be more flexible and graceful for dance; and because it's fun and a source of stress relief. The size I am or want to be has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with it.

Back to the gym, or I'll get too annoyed to keep going.
Day 1 - Zumba class. Nothing new here - just a bit of dancey fun. Not the greatest class - I had more rhythm than the instructor. For better classes, try Gonzaga at Fiesta de Fitness!

Day 2 - Hot yoga followed by 4 x 800 on the treadmill. I quite liked the yoga class. Apparently it wasn't very hot - I just...sweat a lot...and lose a lot of salt. I could do COLD yoga and I'd still be a puddle. By the end of class my toes were cramping. Then I drank an entire waterbottle of Nuun and punched out a bunch of 800s on the treadmill in 4:06 apiece.

Day 3 - The branch I was at had a rooftop pool, so I went up there to do this: 200 warmup, some drills, 3x200, 4x50, cooldown. Skipped the drills. The pool was pleasantly chilly (plus) - I hate it when the pool is like hot soup before you've even started swimming. Also deserted (plus). Also rather short (minus, doubleminus because silly me bumped my head on the end of the pool after a too-fast sprint). After living in the US for 5 years and swimming all winter in a chlorinated, echoey hall-pool (as opposed to pool hall, duh...) I will NEVER take a 50m outdoor pool for granted again. We're incredibly lucky in Singapore to have full-size public pools you can get into for a dollar!

I also had a chat with a personal trainer. I explained that I want to get stronger for long-distance running and triathlon, and he was like 'you'll have to talk to one of our trainers who does specialise in functional strength training'. Oh well.

Day 4 - Spin class with a hilarious instructor, Sherlin (BIG PLUS) but I do like the feeling of riding outside and the wind in my hair (only a small minus, I ride at home on the bike trainer too). Then I did a core workout on my own in an awkward corner by the window of the 'functional training' section, between one machine and another. My flat is quite small so having space to lie down and stretch is nice. Lying down and stretching with other people watching you is just awkward.

Day 5 - I got off work at 11.30pm and had to wake up at 5.30am for a 6.30am event on a boat (didn't I say there is no such thing as an off-duty journalist?) and felt jetlagged all day so I skipped the BodyPump class I was planning on trying. Whoops.

Conclusion: The classes are fun, but I don't like working out on my own in confined spaces (AKA 'indoors'.) I'm quite happy to take classes - I just wish they didn't have to be tied to having a gym membership!
It could work for you - I have friends who are gym bunnies and go to all the classes by a specific instructor, or who are religious about their personal training - but it's just not for me. (I'm too lazy.)
Another thing - I think it's a riot that franchises like Zumba and Les Mills have managed to trademark exercise. It's like a little cult (but in a slightly healthier way)!

Are you a gym-goer? Favourite class? Should I try this again? 


  1. I wasn't a gym-goer until we moved here, actually. It's been terrific for me as I've been navigating injuries/running less than I prefer - the access to the pool and spinning helps me keep all my exercise eggs out of the same basket. This has been important. I also like the access to so many different classes - BodyPump has been a great find for me, and I can pop into a yoga class whenever I want. And, if need be, I can bang out a run on the treadmill.

    It's not perfect: the pools aren't great for serious swimmers, I do wish they had some policy in place for cleaning the mats regularly, and you'd probably get a more intense, "serious" yoga class at a studio. But as far as paying one price for so many facilities and classes goes - this is a great option. And I have to admit - it's a bargain, compared to what we'd pay for such a full-service gym experience in the US.

    And the magazine? Yah, know what I think about that.

    Also? Shirt I saw at the gym yesterday: STRONG is the new skinny. I kinda want one.

  2. You're right, it's a good one-stop shop. And I still need to try one of those BodyPump classes. Actually, that's how I got into jazz and hiphop - when I was 15 or 16 I took a dance class at my mom's gym, then followed the instructor to her new dance studio when she left to start it.

    Haha, that's a great shirt. I kind of want the Oiselle 'go fast/ take chances' one.
    I always enjoy your gym tales - more opportunity for weirdness/ hilarity when you're surrounded by other people. (Did I tell you about the time I went out for a run and saw a man walking his African Grey parrot AND another guy on a unicycle, all within 25 minutes?...)

  3. I think that go fast/take chances should come out when you endeavor to break 25 min. If you ever want a pacer, let me know. <--- serious offer. As long as I'm not planning to race, I'm a pretty good pacer. :)

    And really? People aren't watching you as much as you think. It's weird at first, then you get over. Plus, if I'm around, I'll be singing aloud, and I promise that a big white girl singing is much more notable than you. Unless, of course, you have your parrot. Or are riding a unicycle. :)