Thursday, March 04, 2010

Stranger to the Gym

I'm a stranger to the gym. I never go to the gym. I am not even a member of the gym.

Don't get me wrong. I understand the importance of physical fitness to improving my performance as a Laser sailor. After all, this blog is mainly about "the delusion that it is not too late to discover how to sail smarter and faster." And I have written several times here about how my comparative lack of fitness is often a limiting factor in how well I do in races.

Stamina, strength, flexibility. I need to improve them all.

Cardio, weight training, yoga. I should be doing them all.

Actually, I do do a bit of all of the above. I like to run and do a bit of cycling as cardio exercise. I have some free weights in my basement man cave and do work out with them once or twice a week. I do some yoga stretches when I remember.

But I don't do enough. So, I often ask myself whether I would be more motivated to exercise more intensively and more regularly if I joined a gym.

I tend to address this question to myself at the start of every winter. During the warmer months with longer days, I do exercise more. I sail a lot (most years.) I run a lot (if I haven't injured myself while running.) I cycle. I swim. I do a lot of work for Tillerwoman in the garden. I go for long walks behind my lawnmower.

But then some winters... I hibernate. I allow the bad weather to become an excuse to run less, sail less, and cycle not at all. I eat more. I drink more. I sit in front of a computer more. I typically put on too much weight. I become less fit.

So every spring I have to start all over again getting fit for Laser sailing and it usually takes me until September or October to regain something close to my fitness and weight of the previous year... and then the weather becomes colder and the cycle starts all over again.

And, about that time of year, I ask myself... should I join a gym?

I read a lot of bad stuff about gyms. About how their business model is based on persuading enough people to sign up to pay for a year's membership dues knowing that a large percentage of those won't actually use the gym for more than a month or two after signing up. I think I might well be one of those people who would be in that large percentage.

I ask myself why I would be more motivated to jump in a car and drive 15 minutes to a gym to lift weights, rather than walk down to my own basement man cave and lift weights.

I ask myself why, if I wanted to work out on a rowing machine or a stationary bicycle, it wouldn't make more sense to use the money that I would spend on a year's gym fees to buy such equipment and put it in my basement man cave. But then I think of all the homes I have visited where it is clear that the stationary bike or treadmill hardly ever gets any use.

In any case, I prefer real running to running on a treadmill; and I prefer real biking to spinning my wheels in one place. And it turns out that my prejudices are based on hard scientific evidence; real running and biking and rowing outdoors are better for you than fake
running and go nowhere biking and pretend rowing indoors according to Winter Training - Faster and Safer Indoors? Of course, if you let the weather outside stop you from exercising at all it's a moot point.

So what do you think? Do you need to join a gym if you are serious about exercise? Does belonging to a gym improve your motivation to exercise? Or can you achieve all the fitness you need by doing some exercise at home plus some running and biking outside?


Bursledon Blogger said...

I grab running shoes three times a week for a run along the river, no one to bother me except a few curlews and oystercatchers. No one listening to a too loud iPod, no TV. Plus rowing at weekends and a few pushups and sits ups at home.

Am I fit, well fit enough for a XX year old!

Of course Mrs Bursledonblog might say I'm too tight to pay the £500 gym fees - and she could well be right!

SoxSail said...

I like exercise that is also a game: ultimate, squash, and of course sailing.

Baydog said...

Burlesdon: Are you really twenty years old? Also, there's nothing wrong with being tight. Tillerman, it sounds to me like you're comfortable with your present routine. If you have enough discipline to go to the man cave two to three times a week and use your free weights, plus run and bike even somewhat regularly, you my friend have nothing to be concerned about. Most friends my age have exercise equipment that serve no other purpose other than to act as a place to hang their exercise outfits. The gym lasts, for most folks, for a few months, then fades into the background only to be visited on guilt-ridden days where it won't help anymore.
I admire your penchant for running;
my arthritis pretty much prevents me from doing so, even though I always hated it. Keep it up. You're gonna live to be quite an old coot, I think.

PeconicPuffin said...

If you're not committed to a long-term fitness program, it doesn't matter what your plan is.

I don't know what the physical challenges of laser sailing are, but I couldn't windsurf to my satisfaction without the control and stamina that a solid exercise program provides (I've been at it for 19 years now). And I just started yoga (which one of the best windsurfers I know...a 65 year old referred to in my blog as "the Wolf"...swears by.)

The biggest single upside I've found to working out is not's sensitivity to the rig and the ability to control the thing with greater subtlety.

Anonymous said...

Exercise, regardless where you do it is necessary to sail a Laser or for that matter any serious regatta sail boat. While some can muster up the self discipline to go at it alone, which I did a lot when I was younger. Now I personally need to go to the gym to get whipped into shape by a someone in front of the class that keeps pushing me harder.

Probably the same effect that a sailing coach has for improvements on the water.

I do a spinning class three times a week, sometimes add some swimming before it, resistance training twice a week I place heavy emphasis on stamina using a heart rate monitor,legs with lots of squats, abdominal and back strength. I also do a lot of plyometrics to help improve my ability to do explosive strength bursts for short periods of time. This is especially good for crewing on the Etchells where I do foredeck.

Carol Anne said...

I know that I absolutely would NOT get my money's worth out of a gym membership. I don't like to exercise in view of a bunch of other people.

What has worked best for me, with my hermit-like attitude, has been a treadmill at home with entertainment in front of me. I could justify the decadent (my regular daytime drama) by using it to motivate the beneficial (the treadmill).

Alas, the burglars of Albuquerque have seen fit to kill that program. The first burglars stole the TV and the remote for the VCR. Then the next burglars -- or maybe the same ones -- broke in through the window right next to the new TV and VCR/DVD player that we had bought to replace the old ones.

I'm ambivalent about buying yet another TV. Pat and I are broke, and what's to keep the burglars from coming back and taking the next one we get?

On the plus side, the Albuquerque police have made some major advances in combating property crime. They've arrested an identity-theft ring; the queenpin of that ring employed a large number of petty burglars as accomplices who sold her identity information they picked up as they looted houses. The police have taken about 30 burglars off the streets so far.

At least Pat and I don't have to worry about identity theft if our burglars reported to this queenpin -- she ran credit checks on all her potential victims, and we wouldn't have passed.

Dan said...

For years, I cycled competivly and that and sailing was my excercise.

But I started noticing that my upper body was not as developed as it was, so I set up a home gym in a spare room. I have the works: stationary bike, weight machine, bench, TV and wall mounted fan.

When I retired, I forced myself to work on strength training on mainly my upper body and I have noticed a big differance. My arms are noticably larger(I am thinking of anchor tatoos) and my shoulders hurt less after grinding and tailing on the big boats.

As a single person, I could probably benefit from a gym membership for a social outlet, but I also might be less motivated than when I can just go downstairs three days a week. I am fortunate to have the extra room devoted to this equipment.

I still cycle on the road and trails and recently took a much younger guy mountain biking so that I could humuliate him!!!

ChrisP said...

Gyms are total health hazards. As you excercise, all your pores open and you gulp down air at maximum rate. All the germs from the guy on the treadmill next to you just pour into your bloodstream.
Have I put you off yet?

JP said...

Sorry, was going to comment but got distracted (and not by the picture (ok maybe a bit))

Anyhow I do use the gym and the pool as at different times like different exercise (and they are included in the service charge).

I do enjoy running along the Thames path but am a bit worried about the impact on the ground - the cross trainer is better for the joints.

The best approach seems to be not to do formal exercise: it sounds mad but you *must* see this TED video:

So don't retire and keep doing what ever it is that gets you out of bed in the morning. I think I can guess what it is with you.

Oh, and family i.e. grandchildren are a big plus too

Tillerman said...

Thanks JP. Lot of good advice in that video. It helped clarify a lot of things for me.

O Docker said...

Also liked the Dan Buettner video, JP. It's taken me too long to discover some of the truths there.

Blogger may have munched your link. Found this worked, though.

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