“I just can’t motivate myself to go.”
Many of my lifting-beginner friends, when I ask them to come to Wilson with me, will say that they just can’t find the motivation. This is understandable.
It might seem that it takes superhuman strength to choose physical exertion in a musty room full of grunting, sweaty gym-goers over literally any other activity, but ANYONE can make this choice, and easily too, with just one ingredient.
A solid routine, a more experienced friend, or a cute activewear set can help you get started, but stepping foot in Wilson is different from making daily exercise a habit and a passion. But there exists a tried-and-true solution that will obliterate your gym commitment issues, elevate your exercise adherence astronomically, and transform any lifting hobbyist into a diehard gym rat.
What’s the secret sauce?
The gym crush.
For anyone who can’t drag themself to early-morning gym sessions (because of your 8:30 class), or afternoon gym session (because you had a big lunch and you need to digest your meal), or your evening gym session (because you have so much work to catch up on), a gym crush helps you start your commitment to fitness today instead of telling yourself you’ll start tomorrow. A gym crush can help you achieve feats of strength you never imagined possible. Like train legs, for instance, or actually finish your workout instead of skipping abs to buy an acai bowl from Red Mango.
But first, what is a gym crush?
A gym crush (or special somebody, or swole-mate-to-be, or whatever you choose to call them) is someone you see at the gym whose presence causes tingly butterflies in your stomach. You may see them regularly, or you might not. Either way, variable reinforcement and fixed reinforcement are both effective in getting you to hit Wilson on a regular basis.
The potency of a gym crush is unparalleled. They don’t even need to be *at* the gym! The thought that I might see a special somebody so long as I get up and get dressed, instead of sleeping in for the seventh day of the week, is enough to get me out of bed. If they’re there, wonderful! But usually, they’re not, and by that point it’s too late to skip leg day. It’s a win-win situation.
When they are at the gym, the presence of a gym crush is more powerful than the most caffeinated pre-workout and the hypest gym playlist. Suddenly, those last two reps feel like nothing and the heaviest barbell on your back barely registers. The prospect of three sets of planks is less repulsive when you spot a certain somebody nearby.
And the anonymity that gym and masks afford means that you have absolutely nothing to lose by really pushing yourself. After all, who’s going to know if your form gets a little questionable or if you have the ugliest lifting face when you grind out those last couple reps? The beauty of the gym crush is that their presence has zero downside. Instead, they always deliver self-improvement, excitement, and a killer pump that might otherwise be unobtainable.
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Thus, a gym crush’s distinguishing characteristic in the realm of crushes (school crush, work crush, etc) is that a gym crush is an absolute guarantee that you will come out of the experience stronger, swoler, better.
When I started going to my gym at home, I’d set up a yoga mat in the corner, do 30 minutes of Kayla Itsine’s BBG, then go home. Sometimes I’d walk by the free weight area, just to take a peek and see if I could use a bench, but the sights and sounds of a swarm of sweaty, strong, scary people (mostly men) were all it took for me to retreat back to my corner.
At Wilson, I continued feeling out of place. Not only was I often the weakest in the room, I also was hyper aware that I didn’t know what I was doing. Is my squat form decent? Is it bad gym etiquette to leave my water bottle at the rack to run to the restroom? Am I “allowed'' to take up an entire bench if I’m only benching the bar (since that’s all I could physically handle)? Intrinsic motivation can only push you so far in an environment when you feel very alone and overwhelmed and when strength gains and muscle growth are slow to materialize.
But throughout my year or so lifting, my various gym crushes are a healthy reminder we shouldn’t misconstrue fitness as an obligation we must fulfill to be “perfect” and “well-rounded,” or as a punishment for not looking a certain way. Being kind to yourself while you exercise doesn’t make you any less serious of a lifter; lifting less than others--or lifting less than you might have in your last session--does not mean that you don’t deserve to take up space. A gym crush helps remind us to have fun too while in the weightroom.
I’d like to thank my many gym crushes for helping me through my fitness journey. They helped me practice consistency and discipline. If I weren’t at the gym as often as I was, I would have missed out on pivotal moments (to be more accurate, extremely memorable pumps) that kept me coming back for more. Consistency created opportunities to experience the rewards of lifting: my first unassisted pushup, squatting my bodyweight for the first time, planking for longer than fifteen seconds (my previous record). Gym crush happily-ever-afters are far-fetched, but the rewards of a gym crush have been tangible and invaluable. Though their identities remain a mystery, what’s more important is that I have learned to fall in love with the process of building strength and pushing myself to get better every day.
Column inspired by https://www.thecut.com/2020/01/how-to-make-yourself-work-out-more.html
Jessica is a Trinity first-year. Her column runs on alternate Wednesdays.