As mysterious as a fog machine and about as helpful as a man dressed in leather who occasionally steals your siblings.

What the Goblin Sommelier suggests you would be wise not to argue with.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How to Successfully Set Up a Home Gym - Part One: Atmosphere

It's a whole new year!  And the internet knows it and there are ads and inspirational photos of happy, or unhappy and grunting, people exercising all over.  A New Year's resolution for a lot of people is 'go to the gym' -- but here's the thing, maybe there isn't a gym near you, or you work a million hours a week, or have a spandex phobia, or (as in my case) you live in the most expensive city for gyms in the entire frigging country.  There is no going to the gym in D.C. without paying more than a hundred dollars a month, before you sign up for any extras and classes, etc. Yeah, how sad is that?  The saddest.

But I'm sure some of you out there are in the same boat, so I've decided that I'll share some of my tips for successfully setting up a gym at home over a couple of posts.

Part One - Atmosphere

Is your living space highly angular?  Impersonal and unwelcoming?  Vaguely anxiety-producing?  If not, don't worry!  We can achieve all of these effects easily, and get you feeling like you're at a real gym in no time.

First, choose a part of your living space that you'd like to render slightly ugly, temporarily. The requirements are some wall, enough space to turn around in, and some clear floor space.  If you'd like to simulate the real gym experience of walking around and around the weight-lifting machines in a daze, try instead creating several small 'exercise stations' throughout your house -- weights might be in the living room, resistance bands in the kitchen and a yoga mat in the bathtub.  Maybe don't set up your yoga mat in the bathtub if you have roommates, or any visitors to your house at all, or if your yoga routine involves any actual yoga postures, as you may end up needing slightly more room than a bathtub can provide and people can be so cranky when they're trying to take a shower in the morning but you're in there doing downward dog.

I think you should know that I'm not really an expert in yoga, I just think downward dog is fun to say.

Now, you might be saying now, hey, I already own one large expensive piece of exercise equipment - shouldn't I just set up my home gym around that?  The answer of course is no - you want any actually useful large piece of exercise equipment to be as far away as possible from your other exercise stations, to make it as annoying to use as possible. Otherwise, that is the only thing you will actually use for exercise, neglecting all other exercise activities, and then you'll get bored with it, and then you'll stop using it completely.  (Imagine me glaring at you like an angry muscly trainer here.) See, at a gym, invariably someone else will be using the equipment that you want to use, which means you need to wait a few minutes.  When I've gone to gyms those waiting times were really the only way I could force myself to do exercises that I really dislike (hi crunches!).  With no wait for your own equipment, it's hard to give yourself that kick in the butt to do unpleasant but useful exercises and build a little variety into your routine.  Thus, my theory is that you should make sure that there is some built-in frustration with the use of your exercise equipment, so that you are somewhat but not totally discouraged from using it.  To go even further, you can invest in some wet wipes to wipe down your equipment after use, even if you haven't sweated a drop to make sure that any future use of that equipment feels not only annoying but also clinical and alienating!  This may not be a sound theory at all, actually.


Moving right along, back to uglifying! Now is a really great time to see how many mirrors you can lay your hands on.  I have one giant one from ikea, and some make-up compacts with mirrors in them.  Array them around your chosen exercise space (or spaces if you're bein' really fancy as I suggested!) -- these will do a couple of things. One, they will probably make you feel uncomfortable, at least to some degree.  Two, they will genuinely aid you in some exercise activities, such as weight lifting, in helping you make sure that you haven't accidentally twisted yourself into a pretzel of pain.  Basically, if you're ever doing an exercise and you look in the mirror and find yourself thinking, wow, she looks really uncomfortable and like she's going to injure herself in her current position -- you should really use that as a sign that you should alter your exercise.  Some of us, for a lot of reasons, are really crappy at listening to what our bodies tell us, so your eyes a very important injury-prevention tool.  Another benefit of tiny mirrors everywhere is that chi is going to be flying all over the  place, and that can only be a good thing, right?  Right?

Yeah, I am really not an expert in feng-shui either.

But what else do we need for ambiance?  You're going to need your laptop or some type of magic image box set up near you - close enough to where you're exercising that you can't quite ignore it, but not close enough to tempt you to just sit down on the floor and watch movies.  Everyone knows that one of the best things about modern gyms is those enormous elipticals and stair-steppers with the built in video-screens for watching trash television.  Here's the thing - you can recreate that experience in your own home!  If the thought of watching t.v. while exercising feels like cheating, then put on an exercise class video that you can ignore while doing whatever exercises you actually want to be doing.  If the noise becomes overwhelming, rather than turning it off, do what you'd do at the gym - put on a pair of headphones and listen to podcasts.  It's all about creating these low-grade impediments to focus that really will give you a true gym experience, and keep you from saying f* this, I'm alone in my house, I'm going to go make a sandwich.  Sandwiches are awesome, but they are the enemy of home gym time.  No one in the history of life has ever come back from a sandwich break to do more abdominal crunches. 

And now we come to light.  Pretty simple here, there should be uncomfortably too much of it, or barely enough to see your hands waved in front of your face.  All gyms are either too bright or too dark - adjust the lighting in your house to one or the other.  If you're opting for super dark, just make sure you've removed your animals to another room before you begin doing jumping jacks.  Pets seem to be attracted to the home-gym exerciser like .... moths to a mostly benign but occasionally dangerous flame. Try not to let your pets get underfoot (literally) when you're exercising.  When you've found a good way to do that, call me, because I haven't figured that out yet. My cats open closed doors.

My final tip is about money - namely that you should charge yourself money to go to the gym.  This may seem an odd suggestion, given that this post began with complaints about how expensive gyms are, but paying money for an activity is a really good way to make sure you actually do it.  Make a gym jar, and put in a few coins - or even if you're feeling really penitent about not having exercised in a while - a whole dollar before you start your work-out. You can earmark that money for whatever you want, you can even just periodically empty it and put it right back in your pocket, or you can decide you want to mail your bag of nickels to me - I'd take 'em, but just make sure you actually use that jar when you use your home gym.  Try it.  I think you'll find that, dumb psychological trickery that it is, you'll like it and it'll help.

If you liked this extremely helpful advice, stay tuned for Part Two - in which I might actually get to talking about the exercise part of home gyms.

Peace Out,
The Goblin

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