Good workouts strain more than your thumbs


There is a woman at the Edge who works out like an MMA fighter. She is short and lean, with tight muscle outlines sketched into her calves and shoulders. I watched her push-press a 50 lb. barbell one Thursday, fascinated by the jerky rhythm of her breath.

Exhale. The barbell drives up over her head. Inhale. It drops down behind her shoulders.

Matching this staccato tempo is the movement of her feet: they switch back and forth every time she breathes. The coordination is almost military in its precision.

About five yards away, a teenage girl is moving to an entirely different tune. It’s not her breath that comes fast, but her phone messages.

Send. She bends forward in her sit-up. Receive. She flops back to the ground.

I wonder if she knows an ab workout is more effective when uninterrupted by Facebook chats.

I am not suggesting everyone should work out like the first woman: in a 30lb weight vest with 50lb barbells. I just think everyone should adhere to the definition of exercise: “activity requiring physical effort.”

As in, accelerated heart rate due to muscle exertion, not due to the news that Kim and Nick are Facebook official.

Zumba, running, weight lifting, spin, whatever. Different workouts are hard in different ways. For example, I’m comfortable on a treadmill, but when a yoga teacher asked me to balance on my left foot and raise my right leg until it was level with my hips, it ended with me in pain, on the floor.

I do those kinds of exercises in my room, where no one can see me. I don’t like falling over in front of strangers. So I get it if you don’t enjoy wheezing like an asthmatic or sweating like an Olympian in a public place. The woman who works out like an MMA fighter clearly doesn’t have that inhibition, but studies have found it to be fairly normal.

So feel free to avoid the toughest exercises when you go to the gym. But if you are going to avoid every type of exercise, please don’t come.

Watching that woman push-press, run sprints, bike, and jump hurdle at high speeds makes me work that much harder. Watching two girls sit and giggle over a YouTube video makes me wish I could move all my equipment into an empty basement that gets no cell reception.