A while back, I read a quote from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who was asked something about what one needs to live a satisfying life. His response: “Routine.” I was thinking about that last night as I was bouncing from one station to the next at the gym. I really need to settle on a specific routine rather than wandering around so aimlessly.
It’s not that I don’t have some idea of a regimen. I always do about 30 minutes of cardio on the Elliptical Death Machine (I’ve been avoiding the stationary bikes lately for some unknown reason — oh wait, I know why: They’re even more boring than the EDM) before descending into The Pit or wandering among the push-pull machinery. And I almost never stretch, if almost never doing something can be seen as part of your routine. And though I always leave the gym feeling more awesomely manly than when I entered (who doesn’t, right?), lately it feels like I’m not really moving in any particular direction.
Plus, I don’t like the feeling of standing in front of the dumbbell racks with no real clue of what I’m going to do next. All around me, gigantic guys in sleeveless shirts (if you’ve gone to all the trouble of getting a tattoo . . .) are muscling up impressive poundage as if each particular exercise actually fits into some sort of plan, and I’m standing there scratching my head, trying to remember the difference between a Bulgarian Split Squat and a compound row. The last thing I want to do is imitate what some freak of nature next to me is doing with those 60-pound dumbbells or impulsively slap a bunch of iron on a barbell and find myself hideously overmatched.
Several months ago, I had a pretty decent free-weights routine going: barbell squats, dead lifts, bench presses, tricep extensions, bicep curls, and overhead dumbbell presses. But the barbell squats killed my knees, the deadlifts hurt my back, and one gracious P.T. suggested maybe I should modify my approach for the good of my overall longevity. She was right, of course, because I’m still alive, but I’ve been kind of lost in the wilderness since then.
I could seek out one of the other kind P.T.s (she’s since moved on) for advice, but that’s not really the cut of my jib. I like to figure things out for myself, especially when it comes to endeavors such as gym wandering, during which I prefer to stay under the public radar (yes, I know, I’m writing a blog about it, but try to ignore the incongruity; if I can, so can you). Besides, I have hundreds of articles about workouts in the magazine’s archives I can draw upon, if I so choose. But then, of course, who wants to wander around the gym carrying some Xeroxed pages from the magazine? Where would I put them while I do my Bulgarian Split Squats? And who’s to say I could accomplish even a poor rendition of a Bulgarian Split Squat?
Anyway, you get my drift: In order to do something different at the gym, I need to arm myself with some new information — and then actually follow those directions. It’s a tall order for a guy who’s sort of come to the realization that the biggest draw at the gym is its flat-screen TVs — where else can I catch The Biggest Loser or Sports Center? The only TV at my place is controlled by my 22-year-old daughter, and I pity the fool who gets up in her grill while she’s watching Numbers.
But, maybe it’s time to push the envelope a little. I’ve got nothing to lose but my self-respect.