2.07.2019

Gym Nasties

January and February are trying months for going to the gym. It's not because of sh!tty Wisconsin weather, although that has been trying too. In fact, the hot tubs at the gym are an attractive respite from this sorry excuse for a winter.

No, the gym is trying because of the massive influx of New Year's Resolutionaries. Health clubs know that the new year is a great time to recruit customers and they market accordingly, offering membership specials and discounts. I can't fault the clubs for exploiting a resource that becomes highly abundant after the holidays - couch potatoes. And the harvest was bountiful this year.

There are pros for me as a year-round fitness consumer. The influx of cash for my health club means new and upgraded equipment. It also helps keep my annual membership fee lower. This almost outweighs the cons, but not quite. The biggest con is the overcrowding in the locker rooms, on the gym floor, and in the hot tubs. It's not even worth going to the gym before 8 PM during the first quarter of the year. New member resolve declines from about mid-January to mid-March as they begin to realize their goal was too ambitious relative to the time and effort they have for trying to achieve it. It really plummets in March and by April, gym attendance is close to being back to the pre-new year baseline. As I have documented elsewhere, a good deal of the variance in this drop off is explained by the biological fact that exercise doesn't have a lot of immediate benefits. In the long term, exercise is great for longevity and chronic disease prevention. But most people joining a gym are looking for instant gratification, usually in the form of weight loss. The current research posits that exercise is not a very good strategy for weight loss, for two reasons: 1. People tend to compensate for burned calories by eating more. 2. The body tries to maintain energy homeostasis, such that the increased metabolism of muscle tissue is balanced by decreased metabolism in other parts of the body. These two factors make it quite hard to lose any meaningful weight through exercise alone, and most people don't consider the much more important role of a healthy, reduced-calorie diet in weight loss. So, they don't see a lot of measurable benefit from going to the gym and after a couple weeks or months, they quit coming.

In addition to the overcrowding, new gym members are often oblivious to important health club etiquette. First, never talk politics on the gym floor. You don't know how others identify politically, and everyone hates you for this, even if they share your sentiments. Second, never talk at all in the locker rooms, especially if you are completely naked and swinging your ding-dong all over the place. The only exception to this is literal 911 emergencies. I had to talk a guy through a burst varicose vein once, both of us butt naked. Those veins can really firehose out a significant amount of blood. I had him put pressure on the bleed with a towel while I literally called 911 and let the experts take it from there. Third, respect the personal spaces of others and don't be a dick. The other day, a Trump-supporting* old white guy tried to get on the exercise bike I was using before I had even finished cleaning it off. He tried to shoo me away, saying, "That's good enough." I was not to be shoo-ed though; I finished wiping off the machine, giving him a sour look. I pity whoever rode that bike after that guy, based on his low standards for hygiene.


*Note: Only a Trump supporter would be such a douchenozzle as this guy was. QED.

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