Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Newbies in the Gym

I was working out this morning (at 5:15, because Melissa and I are idiots like that) and watching one of the newbies at my gym work on the elliptical trainer in sweats and a heavy cotton hoodie. And I was pretty warm in my short-sleeved tech tee, so he must have been dying under all those layers.  Maybe he wanted to sweat some weight off?  At any rate, that's what got me thinking about newbies in the gym.

We all know what January and February bring - all the New Year's Resolutioners come out to the gym in droves. And they hog the machines, and they don't understand letting someone else work through, and they just get in the way.  And most of the regular gym-goers grit their teeth until March or so, when the rush dies down and most of the New Year's Resolution crowd has gone back to their former ways.

I think, though, that we should all welcome and encourage new people to come to the gym, or join us on the trails.  Even if they slow us down a bit at at first, and even if they get in the way.  Here's why: even the most athletic of us was new to the gym or to the trail once.  We've all been there! Maybe somebody was kind enough to mentor us, or maybe we soldiered through on our own, but we were all the newbie at some point.

Additionally, obesity and inactivity costs money.  And we all pay - to the tune of $147 billion a year or so. Some researchers predict that if we keep going on our current path, half of the US will be obese by 2020. Think about that - half of the population.  It's mind-boggling! And, yes, a person can exercise regularly and still be overweight, but I really think that a lot of the health psoblems associated with obesity are also a result of inactivity - if a person who is overweight is exercising regularly, I think it's safe to say that they'll have fewer complications than someone who spends the day on the couch.

It's also true that fitness feels good! But it doesn't necessarily feel good while you're getting there, and if you've never been fit you don't know how good you're going to feel when you do get fit and healthy.  Wouldn't it be great if everyone in America could feel what we feel after a good race? Maybe that newbie just needs a little encouragement so they can get past the initial aches and pains and start feeling the rewards of their hard work.

Finally, the more people engage in a given activity, the more resources are alloted to that activity.  So, if a large part of your community takes up cycling, for instance, it's a pretty good bet that more cycling trails will be built, and there will be more cycling events to participate in.  Numbers = resources, and which of our sports couldn't use a few more resources? And I can assure you that those of us at the back of the pack are perfectly happy to support those of you at the front of the pack - and we do so, by paying entry fees into races we have no hope of winning, and by buying merchandise from the vendors that sponsor you, and by simply admiring you as you race ahead.  More newbies means more dollars to go into the prize pots, and more sponsorships for elite athletes.

As to gym and trail and race etiquette, well - that can be taught.  So, consider taking a newbie under your wing this year.  Teach them to share the trails and the gym equipment, and teach them to line up appropriately at the start of a race. I think you'll find that helping someone else has rewards of its own!


  1. You're so right. We should all give them our support.

  2. it was so hard last night to bite my tongue when the random chick at the grocery store started telling me about her 1 meal/1000 calories a day diet!

  3. Great post, but don't let the cotton hoodie fool you. He might not be a newbie at all. My boyfriend, much to my bafflement, still runs in cotton: hoodies, long sleeve and short sleeve tees.

  4. Thank you, MisZippy!

    Brooke, oh my - really? 1 meal and 1000 calories? Where do I find the information on this diet? :)

    Leah, you may be right - I only know he's new to the 5 am crowd at my gym!

    Thanks, Meredith!

  5. What a great post. And attitude. Since I don't go to the gym, I'll count my hubby as a newbie and take him under my wing =)

  6. Thank you for posting this! I actually had a "friend" on Facebook bemoaning the newbies on the treadmills and putting them down for attempting to keep their resolutions while she was in training. She was being a real snot about it.

    Thank you for reminding us that we all have to start somewhere, and it is more likely people will stick with it if they don't feel judgment seeping from every pore of the "serious athletes".

  7. you're so right. i get caught up in the selfish me-me-me mentality sometimes.

  8. Candice, that sounds like an excellent idea!

  9. Great post. I am getting a little fatigued of all the "I hate the new people in my gym" posts. Great way to address this issue in a positive way.