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10 Truths About Health Clubs

Posted by on Jul 7, 2010

By this time some of you know that I joined a health club. My story about my experience with the hot tub was one of my most read posts of June.

I have to say that I went into all of this with some preconceived notions, which seemed to be justified. After all, I did belong to a health club, this same one in fact, from 1988 to 1992. The thing is, that’s about the age of most kids getting ready to go to college, 18 years, and obviously a few things stayed the same, but many things have changed. And some thoughts I had going in aren’t the same as they were when I joined either. So, I figured I would share my 10 truths about health clubs to see if people agree, disagree, or whatever emotion it garners.

1. It does take more than just exercising to start seeing real changes. This means that even if I did 1,000 stomach crunches a day and ran 10 miles a day that there probably wouldn’t be all that much difference in my body if I didn’t change how I ate; that stinks! Yeah, I know we already read about this concept of diet and exercise, but if you weren’t doing either one wouldn’t you think that just adding one of these would still be a pretty significant change? We first visited the health club on May 7th, signed up for the free 7 day trial on May 9th and started working out on that day; that’s 59 days ago. I went in with two main goals; lose weight and bring glucose down. To date, I’ve not lost any weight except for the 9 pounds I gained within weeks after starting. My glucose hasn’t come down one bit. However, I have lost an inch off my stomach and hips. I also gained 3 1/2 inches on my left thigh and an inch on my right; that wasn’t supposed to happen. So I’ve backed off weights for my legs, kicked up stomach crunches because a smaller stomach isn’t a bad thing, work on reaching my cardio heart rate goal, and modified my eating habits a bit.

2. Once you get used to a routine, you’re supposed to change it up so you start hurting again. Okay, soreness, since that’s what they prefer you to say, but so be it. This means always increasing either the weight or the number of reps. They say if you’re not feeling any discomfort after awhile then you’re not really doing anything. Bah!

3. Guys are bigger than they used to be. You know, I’m not a small guy. When I used to go to the health club, I was never a big muscle guy. But the guys who were big muscle guys were pretty much my size, just more muscular. These days, young people are bigger and taller than we were, and thus when they work out they’re absolutely huge. I have to admit that I hadn’t noticed that kind of size difference in guys until I joined the health club; that’s somewhat intimidating, and I’m not used to that. I have to keep reminding myself when I’m alone that there’s no way I can get that big, so don’t even try.

4. Women are still hot. I’m glad that didn’t change, but something you see more these days are these really tall ladies who get on the treadmills and run like the wind. When I was originally going it was always the short ladies who ran on treadmills, so that’s another change.

5. Men don’t wear socks anymore; they wear “socklets”. When did this happen? I don’t pay any attention to fashion, but my wife tried talking me out of wearing my regular athletic socks the one day I decided to show up in shorts. I wore them anyway, then found that only myself and one man probably in his 70’s were wearing them like that. I always thought ankle socks were for little girls; I am still freaking out about this one. I now only wear sweats so my long socks stay hidden; the socklets just feel, well, weird. Maybe one day I’ll get used to it; maybe not.

6. You just can’t look cool while working out. Okay, this one I think I already knew, because I certainly didn’t look all that cool when I used to work out. But I’m coming to grips with some things that I just can’t do; my wife hasn’t really learned this one, though. For instance, I used to participate in a high impact aerobics class; that’s not happening for me. My wife has not only tried going into one of those, but she also went into one of those weight classes and then a yoga/pilates class and injured herself badly enough to need medical treatment and a week or rest. I have to fight all the time walking over and yanking the heaviest weights like I see the younger folks doing. I know I can get it up; heck, until I realized I wanted my thighs getting smaller I was pushing 300 pounds. But that’s not me, so for me, it’s lower weights, more reps, and not looking cool but not hurting myself either.

7. At a certain point in one’s life, they just learned not to care what others think. I admit it, I have some body issues. One on one, I can suppress them, since I like massage. In public, though, it’s just not happening with me. In the hot tub story I talked about men with no behinds. Well, you see all sorts of stuff in a health club that equals or comes close to that; almost nothing will surpass it. You find yourself often wanting to say “cover that up”, but it is what it is.

8. People are nasty. Okay, this is a different direction, and maybe my wife and I are just fastidious people. At the end of using a piece of equipment, we wipe stuff down. There’s a sign asking people to do that. However, almost no one does it, and that’s just nasty. Some machines I actually wipe down before I use them. If there’s head sweat involved I wipe them down. If there’s the potential that I might have followed a heavy back sweating person, I wipe that piece of equipment down first. It can’t be an only child thing since my wife is one of 7, but she’s also in health care and knows sterilization processes, and she’s not having it. I’m not either; ick!

9. There’s a fine line between knowing your limits and suddenly being beyond them. The people at the health club are always saying to step it up. Well, I’ve seen some people stepping it up to the point where suddenly there’s a “pop” and, uh-oh, we won’t be seeing you for a few weeks. Frankly, one of the gripes I have about the health club is that the only training you’re going to get at all is if you pay for it after your first complimentary session. I’ve seen people doing things that my mind has said “someone should show that person how to use that thing”. Heck, the first week that “person” was myself and my wife, the supposed health club expert. When I was younger, I’d just do a machine I didn’t know how to use and risk the consequences; these days, I look and study, and if I can’t figure it out, I’m not using it. I think there should be a trainer on hand at least during peak periods, walking around and making sure people are using the equipment properly.

10. Smoothies are refreshing; are they healthy? Seems it depends on who you ask and who’s making them. This young lady who I get mine from, and only if she’s working, has learned that I won’t drink it if there’s not enough chocolate in it. She’s also stopped adding yogurt to mine and makes it only with ice; tastes good to me. She says it’s saving me at least 150 calories, and she’s adding something in it called “burn”, which is supposed to keep my metabolic system burning more calories throughout the day. I have no clue, and I’m not going to worry about it. Taste, especially chocolate, rules my life.

There you go; long post, but that’s what it takes to get through 10 points. If you belong to a health club, do you see any of these things yourself?

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It seems surprising, in this age of lawsuits, that they’d let people come in and work out on potentially dangerous equipment without any instruction. They should also be enforcing the wipe-down-the-machine rule. Leaving free weights on the floor is another thing that bugs me: When you’re done, put them back before somebody gets hurt! I guess a fitness club is another place where you can tell a lot about a person just by watching what they do for five minutes. By the way, I don’t get the ankle socks either. I’m trying to imagine a boy wearing those to gym class at my high school. It wouldn’t have been pretty. And speaking of not pretty, thank you for sparing us the locker room details (this time) in point 7. I was getting ready to bail out there.

July 7th, 2010 | 10:23 AM

Charles, I wouldn’t put you through the naked men bodies again; I’m still scraping my brain from those memories. Oh yeah, if they’d had those ankle socks for men back in the day you know there would have been a lot of beatings. lol

July 7th, 2010 | 6:01 PM

Congrats on joining the gym. I haven’t noticed anything, because I don’t go. My son is after me to let him join, but I want to gain some more weight before he starts hitting the gym. Oh about the socklets, my son wears those during the summer.

July 7th, 2010 | 2:18 PM

Rose, the socklets thing really threw me off, and I’m slowly getting used to it at this point. Just rarely wearing them, I must admit.

July 7th, 2010 | 6:02 PM

Great work Mitch! Hope that you continue to keep up with everything and eventually start to enjoy it!

I love your idea about having a trainer walk around during peak hours to help people. It would obviously be good for the patrons, but it would also help the club with customer service and retention. You should suggest it to them.

I hate it when people don’t put the weights back when they are done with them. Maybe that roaming personal trainer could double as a “gym etiquette coach”.

Also, weight training your legs is one of the best things that you can do to loose fat. Doing a ton of stomach crunches wont make you loose any fat, and it could potentially add to your waistline.

July 7th, 2010 | 2:27 PM

Thanks Keith. I figured that the cardio work will help the legs, because every weight I’ve done makes my thighs get bigger, and trust me, they’re big already. But there you go, a real trainer would be able to tell me better what to do so they weren’t getting bigger. And don’t be scaring me about crunches making my stomach bigger! lol

July 7th, 2010 | 6:11 PM

Even though I do not look cool while working out, I still enjoy every second of it. 🙂

July 8th, 2010 | 8:22 AM

I guess someone has to enjoy it, Alan. lol

July 8th, 2010 | 9:44 AM

I never fully understood the idea of going to the gym. Why pay money when you can run in the park? It’s healthier this way. I don’t really like to workout indoors, i only do that when I do my Pilates session.

July 9th, 2010 | 3:40 AM

Depends on where you live, Mia. I live in snow country, so to speak. At least six months out of the year, being outside doing things could be kind of a chore. Over the last few days, the temperatures here have been in the 90’s, and we’re not used to that. Being at the health club was a safer experience than exercising outdoors, as I have a recent history of too much heat and sun kind of hurting me a bit.

July 9th, 2010 | 10:05 AM


Your story about joining a gym is motivating. You gave me a little motivation to make sure I get a workout in today. I workout from home though. We are spoiled because we have a “workout room” with a treadmill, stationary bike, weight bench and dumbbells. Even with all of that, my favorite form of exercise is going for a walk or light job around the park that is a few blocks from home. If you haven’t done any real exercise outdoors in a while, I suggest you give it a shot. Working out in the great old outdoors is more rewarding to your soul. You just feel more satisfied after an outdoor workout. Check it out.

July 9th, 2010 | 6:37 AM

Thanks Kathy. Man, I wish I had your set up; maybe one of these days. Then again, I keep hoping I’ll see one of those bodies that I actually think I can attain to motivate me to better things; so far, it’s not happening. 🙂

July 9th, 2010 | 10:08 PM
Rui Soares:

Hi Mitch!

I live in Portugal. I workout at Holmes Place. They have gyms in many countries. There’s always someone keeping an eye on what’s happening, but if you do need a guide to help you with your exercises and weight loss, you have to pay an extra fee to get a personal trainer. I don’t know if that’s how your gym works…

I see a a few photos of you doing weight training. Don’t you have cardio workout at the gym? I would recommend doing treadmill workout, fast walking, NOT running, and if you can cope with the extra resistance, just add some inclination (running will hurt your knees). And other cardio workout exercices.

If you have more muscle, you will loose more weight. But you should focus on losing calories at the gym. And improving your stamina. Let’s imagine that you’re not in your top form. You will only loose 200 calories in a 1 hour cardio workout. But in 12 months from now, you will have more stamina and you will loose 500 / 600 calories per hour. So, I guess I’m saying: build the tools to loose weight and you will eventually loose it. Build your stamina.

Be reasonable on setting your goals. You will not loose the weight in 3 months. Think 2 years… And if you don’t quit, you will eventually loose the extra weight.

You’re 100% on target. You have to change your eating habits. Most of us need to look at what we eat. And it’s not a loose weight moment… It’s a life change. It’s not a diet. It’s about eating healthier. Eating more vegetables and fruit.

I’m going to be a little controversial. Stomach crunches are about gaining muscle. If you want to loose those extra inches in your stomach, you will have to do cardio exercices and loose calories. You will only loose wait by burning calories. And when you compare exercices, stomach crunches will not make you loose as many calories and you will loose in a treadmill or step exercise in a 1 hour period.

Did you check your heart before joining the gym? Do you have indoor cycling at the gym? Something called RPM? That will make you loose quite a few calories per hour.

I enjoyed your post. Especially your socklets resistance. I use socklets.

Have a great weekend.


July 9th, 2010 | 8:52 PM

Hi Rui,

Yes, my gym has about 30 different cardio machines and 20 bikes in the spinning room. I don’t often use any of those machines because my hips hurt and therefore I usually last only 5 minutes or so. That, plus it wouldn’t have made as impressive a picture as me pushing weight. lol

There seem to be a lot of rules about losing weight. Your comment about it taking 2 years isn’t a great selling point to almost anyone, even if it’s the truth. The people at my health club said that if I wanted to reach my intended goal I’d have to go to the gym 6 times a week for 18 months; not only isn’t that going to happen, but it’s the type of thing that makes people want to stop going.

And yet I continue going, mainly because of the other things about the health club that make for pretty good stories. That is, when it’s not too humid, like it’s been lately with multiple days over 90°F in a row; their air conditioning isn’t strong enough to overcome that.

July 9th, 2010 | 10:07 PM

Love this post! I am so glad that I can work out at school in an almost empty gym every morning. I was part of that whole health club culture for a while. It wasn’t until I left the traditional health club that I got serious and saw great results! And yes, the smoothies are delicious!

July 10th, 2010 | 8:50 PM

Nikki, if my wife hadn’t wanted to join there’s no way I would have joined. And yet, without the gym, I’d be doing nothing; what an interesting conumdrum, eh?

July 10th, 2010 | 9:37 PM

I haven’t been to a gym for ages. I converted my kids cubby house to my own personal gym and it has free weights as well as an exercise machine, but I rarely use it as I don’t have the time.

Like you mentioned you need a routine but every time I start getting into one something happens that interrupts it and it upsets me so much I don’t bother starting it again.

One day when things quietens down some I’m gonna join a gym because once I spend money I make sure I get my money’s worth, that and I don’t mind looking at hot chicks. 😉

July 17th, 2010 | 11:50 PM

I knew you didn’t mind looking at hot chicks, but you know, it’s not the impetus to work out that it once seemed to be. Now I just look, smile and think “wow”, then move on because I can’t be distracted from the goal, whether I’m going to get there or not.

July 18th, 2010 | 12:08 AM

They’re not a distraction Mitch, they’re just there to exercise another part of your anatomy……your eyes.:D

July 18th, 2010 | 12:17 AM

Ah, I hadn’t thought about it like that before; I like that! lol

July 18th, 2010 | 12:32 AM

I think that this iTrain program seems like it could really be a great idea.

September 8th, 2011 | 6:25 PM