Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gyms are awesome

Part 4 -- Exercise redux

I spend at least 7 hours in the gym each week, so that gives me plenty of time to get judgmental. Some things are fairly obviously wrong -- not wiping down the machines, not putting back the weights after you've done with them, and generally creating more work for other people. Then there are things that are just inconsiderate -- hogging the machines by sitting on them between sets (unless you only rest 30-60 seconds between sets, there's no call for it), aggregating in the aisles to chat, sitting down on the equipment to text etc.

Then there are things that are merely annoying -- the aforementioned aisle-cloggers who apparently go to the gym to socialize, loud talkers, texters, attention-seekers, grunters, weight-slammers and other noisy individuals. Oh, also those who are better than headphones and listen to their music on their Blackberries.

On the other hand, I do love the gym. I love it because of the variety of machines and weights one simply cannot have at home; and even if one does have the world's best exercise equipment, gyms are motivational -- once you're there, you have to work out, and might as well do it as quickly as possible and go home.

Variety is important to me: with exercise, it is easy to fall into a rut, and just do the same thing over and over. By switching up, I find that I can challenge myself better -- for example, one day I might do dips for chest, the next -- seated presses. Some days, I isolate muscle groups and others opt for full body exercises. One day, I might do a biceps curl machine, the next -- pyramid (starting with 40 lbs, moving to 30 and then to 20 without resting, to exhaustion).

I mentioned before that I tend to do single sets of 8-12 reps (with occasional exceptions of multiple sets of more reps); that caused some questions, so let me elaborate. Single sets with heavy weights=increase in strength, reasonably quickly. You start with the heaviest weight you can do 8 reps with, build to 12 reps, and move onto the next one. To me, increase in strength is the main reason to lift weights. Doing high reps with low weights kind of defeats the purpose -- or at least, tends to be much slower than high weights-low reps route. Not to mention that one set takes up a lot less time.

I do see, however, that a lot of people (anecdotally, mostly women) tend to work out with low weights, doing tremendous number of reps. This makes me curious -- why? Is it fear of bulking up? Some misguided notion of ladylike workouts?

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