Friday, May 1, 2009

New Safety Rules For Fitness Freaks

“Dear Charlotte.” I’ve always liked the sound of that. Moreover, I always like being asked for advice by perfect strangers. But even better is giving advice to people who don’t even ask me for it! Which is why when Reader Chris Illuminati recently forwarded me this “Dear Abby” column, I had to write my own reply.

Cardio Carrie writes,

DEAR ABBY: I was the only person working out in the gym at my apartment complex the other evening when a man, presumably another resident, came to the front door. To enter, you must swipe your access card on the keypad.

He apparently did not have his access card with him and sat outside the door waiting for me to let him in. Because I was working on a cardio machine and trying to maintain my heart rate, I didn’t want to interrupt my workout to open the door. He eventually tired of waiting and left.

Should I have stopped and let the person in the door? Or should he have gone back to get his access card? — CARDIO CARRIE IN GEORGIA

Dear Cardio Crazy,

I have to say I like the way you think, girl! Your first thought was not fear for your personal safety (How many horror movies have started with the old “I forgot my gym card” excuse? None? I don’t know, I hate horror movies. Anyhow.) but fear that you’d fall out of your heart rate zone. Now that’s cardio dedication! Nothing ruins a good interval like having to hop off the ‘mill and hobble across the room whilst getting your sea legs back. Plus, if you’re anything like me, the second you stop running you’ll break out into a crazy flop sweat that will sting your eyes and possibly make you throw up. Okay, so most people are not like me. Still though, whatever your reasons, they led you to the correct conclusion: Don’t open that door.

In fact, I’d say that’s good fitness advice to anyone in today’s new-fangled technological workout world. New fitness paradigms require new safety rules.

Safety Rule #1: Don’t Open That Door. Which door? Any door! If it’s a door at a gym and it’s closed then it’s probably that way for a reason. Nothing sucks the fun out of a nice Vinyasa Yoga class when right in the middle of Final Resting Pose somebody opens the door “just to, you know, see what y’all are doing in here!” and lets in blasts of pounding rock music mixed with CNN from the cardio floor behind them. Your yoga-relaxed brain will explode. Other doors you probably don’t want to open: the restroom (closed means it’s in use), the manager’s office (closed means they’re softly banging their head on their desk in despair and you don’t need to see that), the personal trainer’s office (closed means they’re picking through the lost and found looking for “losts” they can “found”) and the supply closet (just… don’t go there.) If you exercise outdoors, stay away from any door that doesn’t belong to you. If perchance you do open someone else’s door, just be sure to have practiced your Alzheimer’s head shake and mumble. And - Cardio Girl? - there are scary people out there. If you are alone in a gym at night and someone you don’t know pounds on the door, don’t let them in. Same goes for when you’re at home.

Safety Rule #2: Don’t Push That Button. With all the new cardio and weight equipment out there, chances are pushing a button will either activate the rocket booster under your seat or drop an oxygen mask from the ceiling. You don’t want to mess with that. Just press “quick start” on any machine you land on and then fiddle with the arrow keys until the resistance is where you want it. And those “program” buttons? Do you really want a fitness machine to have the power to program you? I thought not.

Safety Rule #3: Don’t Open That Box. The box on the wall is either a fire extinguisher or an AED device (automatic electronic defibrillator). If it’s the former, and there’s a raging treadmill fire then you’re a hero but if you caused that tready fire by dropping your cigarette butt while running then other gym patrons will use the extinguisher to club you to death first. If it’s the latter, I know they say that the new AEDs are so easy a child could use them but that doesn’t mean you get to rip off random people’s shirts and yell “CLEAR!!!” before shocking them. Yes, I know it’s fun and makes you feel close to George Clooney but you only get to do it if they’re having a heart attack. People do not like it when you break this protocol. Trust me.

Safety Rule #4: Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously! Like MizFit always says, it shouldn’t be a “workout” but a “playout.” Look for the funny when you are working out - I’ll guarantee you’ll find something to make you giggle - and at the very least you’ll work those deep abdominal muscles a little more.

What are some things about your workout or workout environment that make you grin? Got some funny Gym Buddies? The guy on the next treadmill over chanting “I think I can, I think I can”? A song stuck in your head that you KNOW you have the lyrics wrong but you can’t figure out the right ones and besides yours are funnier anyhow?