Joining a gym

It’s been a while since I was a gym member.  I gave it up around the beginning of 2016.  I got fed up with the (what I felt to be) insanely loud music in the body pump classes.  I wrote an email to the gym manager about this in July 2015.  It said, “The body pump classes I go to play very loud music. Can you tell me a) what decibel level you tell instructors not to exceed in music volume b) how you measure the volume of the music + instructor shouting over it c) what are the Health & Safety regulations around music volume in body pump classes? Here is a link to an article on relationship of loud music to hearing loss. ”  

The gym manager replied, “Thank you very much for your feedback regarding our classes. I do apologise for the discomfort we might have caused you during the class.  We all have different sensitivities when it comes to the volume of the music. … We never had in the past any feedback regarding the volume of the music. …”

He continued, “The sound system has been set up to a certain volume limit by the company who install the system and no one can alter these settings other than them.  … There are no specific [gym] guidelines regarding the volume of the music, however we apply common sense to make sure that the class is not becoming uncomfortable.  I think on that occasion you felt that the volume was too high and you acted upon it by asking the instructor to turn the volume down, and she did so.”   (You’ll see this is slightly odd as earlier his response he says the volume can only be adjusted by the installation company).

I bought earplugs, loaded a decibel counter onto my phone and persisted for the next couple of months.  But the noise got too much for me.  At points it rated at over 85 decibels, which over prolonged durations leads to hearing damage and possibly loss.  (Gym instructors take note).

The gym I joined last week holds classes in the open area alongside the weightlifters, steppers, rowers and treadmillers.  The music is not deafening, and so far, a week in, I haven’t resorted to earplugs. 

I joined a gym again because I was failing to do resistance and strength exercises on my own. Even though I had my TRX system set up in an obvious place, and dabbled in various videos of TRX workouts, I wasn’t consistently exercising. The system became a decorative feature. I tried an app called Darebee with five-minute workouts.  I did them for couple of weeks, and that was it.  I’ve finally learned that I like the motivation and structure that a class gives.

My drive to do strength training is related to my insistence that I maintain my ‘good for age’ running status.  So far, I’m up there, but as I age I think it will be easy to slip.    There’s a lot of evidence that strength training is essential for good running performance, and during the years I was doing strength training, I think it helped my running performance. 

I chose this particular gym because I can run there, do the class, and run back.  I get my daily run in and I’m back in time to do my other run – the morning school run.  As well as the location convenience, it’s also a nice gym.  It’s clean and bright, it has good equipment that seems well-maintained, there are clear instructions on machine/equipment use and gym culture protocols.  The bios of the instructors are up and the place hums with activity – predominantly men in their twenties and thirties, doing the weights and machines.  I feel a little out of place but I don’t think they notice me as they are busy building and toning themselves.

Across the weights and machines area, and at the class area, I feel less noticeable.  The gender ratio is reversed and the class participants are mainly women of all shapes and ages.  Why is it that women do classes and men do weights and machines?

Years ago, when I was made redundant from my office job, I trained as a personal fitness trainer, on the grounds that it was a wonderfully portable skill to have.  For six months or so. I worked in a gym as a personal trainer whilst looking for another office job. 

That training means that when I join a class.  I am observing the instructor as much as I am doing the exercises. When the class begins, I expect him/her to say hello, introduce themselves by name, and ask if anyone has any injuries or issues that he/she needs to be aware of (in order to offer alternatives to a specific exercise).    One of the trainers this week, irritated me from the word go, by not doing any of those things. He started the class late, in silence, chewing gum, and indicating the start by doing two steps of running on the spot and then pointing to us, in the class, by this stating, wordlessly, that we should follow suit. 

Instructors who don’t offer any tips on form, or who don’t demonstrate the exercise themselves, I am also not in favour of.  I was taught that good form is really important in doing an exercise, and it’s essential for instructors to keep a close eye on participants and guide them as necessary.  Take a squat, for example, not having the correct form can result in injury and make the move ineffective. 

This week, I’ve tried out 6 classes and had 5 different instructors.  Of the five, two gave some tips on correct form, or guided people who were making mistakes or doing things incorrectly.  The other three did not, although two of those three demonstrated the exercise.  One, the gum chewer, did not do that, instead pointing to a class member to show us. 

I got the gym membership, which gives unlimited classes + gym use, on a great deal: the joining fee was waived and the monthly fee had a 50% discount.   That gave me the incentive to enrol. I’m giving myself the first month to see if I maintain the motivation and discipline to get myself there – all good so far.  I’ve booked classes for my second week.  I’m aiming to avoid the chewing gum teacher, but they don’t let us know when we book who is going to be the instructor, so I guess that bit is pot luck.  

It seems that it takes about six weeks of strength training to improve running performance.  So if, by mid-November, I can crack my goal of running the ParkRun in less than 26 minutes, the time and effort invested in going to gym classes will be worth it.

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