What I Learned by People Watching at the Gym

I kicked off training for a half marathon about a month ago, and it’s really been torture.

I was coming from the wonderful lifestyle of working out for 30 minutes every day, following workout videos, and getting some variety from the 21 Day Fix. It was really awesome. I could feel myself getting stronger, and even though I followed the same schedule every week, I liked what I was doing.

Then, I had to whip together a training schedule. Something I’ve done before, but it’s always a little stressful. Finding a balance between running, strength, cross training, and resting. I decided to incorporate the workouts I already knew from the 21 Day Fix, and run three times a week.

But, of course, this weather has been miserable. So miserable that I refused to go outside for any of my runs. For the short runs, one or two miles, I could get on a treadmill and squeeze it out, but really it was miserable. I’ve never been able to get myself to run well on a treadmill, because mentally I just check out.

As my short runs became longer, and my long runs became even longer, the weather refused to let up. This meant that I was stuck on the treadmill, in the gym after work. I’ve tried so many ways to make the time go faster or for it to be less painful, including listening to podcasts, doing mental math, or making lists. Nothing really ever works.

The past few long runs, I’ve decided to situate myself on a treadmill that is in direct sight of the group training room and open gym space. Yep. I’m a mega creep. Don’t pretend you’re not. But, it gave me things to look at.

I would watch the classes as I ran, which sounds weird but…oh ok yeah it’s weird. I watched the classes to get some new workout ideas, because a lot of them involve lifting, or long ab exercises. And, well, really, it was something to do and I like to people watch.

My gym also holds group/individual training sessions, which is also directly in front of my treadmill. I like to watch these sessions, too, because I’ve never worked with a personal trainer before and have always been interested.

So, over the past few weeks, I’ve watched a lot of people at the gym…a lot. And I learned a lot of things, as weird as that is. Minor, ridiculous things that I learned:

  1. Your pants CAN be too tight
  2. I’m not the only one who doesn’t know how to operate gym machines
  3. Only about 60% of people wipe down their machine after they’re done sweating on it

But the really, really important thing I learned was about making excuses during a workout. I watched people, especially during the personal training sessions, just stop trying. I wanted to scream out from the treadmill and motivate them to push themselves…to at least try. These people were challenged to run, even do a short jog, across the gym floor and just…didn’t.

If exercising was easy, everyone would do it. If dieting was simple, everyone would be thin. They’re not. You have to try, and push yourself to places you may not want to go to get results.

I can’t honestly sit here and say that I am always motivated, or willing to push myself to the unhappy place just to get the results I want. I cry over weight loss and gain, bad runs, and over eating. It’s all inside my head, and it’s the same place I need to go to find my own motivation.

Watching those people at the gym make excuses or stand around texting motivated a little bit more. It was a way to check in on myself, and confirm that I’m strong; I just need to remind myself that I am.

With a new month, and kicking off my first ever team fitness challenge with 20 participants, I’ve promised myself that I would stop with my excuses, and use the energy to motivate myself instead. I’m so close to my goals, and ready to finally achieve them.

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