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Going to the gym is ridiculous

Going to the gym is ridiculous. I think this every time I am at the gym. I think this when I get in my car and drive two miles to go run two miles. There is something fundamentally flawed about that scenario. There is something deeply ridiculous about watching the men and women around me operating machines solely to exhaust themselves. They’re not sweating to manufacture shoes. They’re not hunched over setting type to print newspapers. They’re not even running the machine that punches holes in donuts. We’re just running and rowing and lifting heavy objects so we’ll be able to run and row and lift heavy objects. It’s weird.

I think it odd that our culture has developed to a point where we now have to set aside a block of time every day to do something our bodies were meant to do everyday anyway. It’s as though our bodies are not able to evolve as quickly as our society is changing. So we’re left behind, running in place. If you’re clever, you can make exercise fun by playing sports with friends. You can give it a sense of meaning and accomplishment by training for a race, trying to top your best effort. Still, if you are not a heavy laborer or a bike messenger, if you work in an office like me, you have to work to make exercise part of your life.

So, I go to the gym. Except for November when I decided exercise was stupid and watched a lot of movies in bed. But then I walked up three flights of stairs at work and was breathing heavier than I should have been. So I realized, running in place, climbing an endless stairway, is not completely pointless. It has its place and it’s a necessity in a life like mine where I don’t have to fight to feed myself.

But I still think it’s ridiculous.

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57 Comments

Just_Kelly • December 29, 2008 at 8:44 am

If only our society set up and encouraged more incidental exercise!

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Helen • December 29, 2008 at 9:02 am

Unfortunately we are not forging new territory and farming the land like our ancestors. Thus most of us have become blobs of cells sitting all day long, necessitating the ridiculous act of going to the gym. Even our kids don’t go outside to the playground for recess anymore. Just the fact that there’s a Wii Fit also seems ridiculous to me…

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@lindajones • December 29, 2008 at 9:17 am

question–am having my surgery tomorrow and for the past 2 or 3 months I have had a lot of back pain, lately it is worse, will the weightloss start helping? Back pain is fairly new for me. Give me a thought tomorrow at St. V’s

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Faye • December 29, 2008 at 9:33 am

Hi there, I too decided that November would be a good time to take off from the gym! I’ve been craving more outdoor exercise but I’m a horrible runner with no stamina, but I like to go fast (ellipticals are perfect!) I did read somewhere that a reporter went to some far away country and told one woman that there existed a place with machines where people went to exercise, and she laughed! She thought that it was the most preposterous idea. Sometimes I think that too…

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Alexia • December 29, 2008 at 9:45 am

It is kinda bizarre (and boring). I use my gym mostly for the pool, and running if it’s too rainy outside, but other than that I try to walk to the grocery store, go on nature walks with the family, run on new trails, etc. How many sci fi movies have there been where the superior alien race had evolved to a blob or even just a brain? Yikes!

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Oliveira • December 29, 2008 at 9:50 am

I think exactly the same! It is the weirdest thing, gym. You go on a bike that doesn’t drive you anywhere. You run on a treadmill and end up where you started. You lift heavy things, then put them back in place. What is the POINT?

;)

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Lilbet • December 29, 2008 at 10:17 am

You are so right!

My 85 year old grandmother doesn’t just understand why we don’t just start working like they did. “We could eat anything…and we did.”

Great post. So, well written!

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Karen • December 29, 2008 at 10:31 am

Haha — I’ve often thought the same thing about the gym, wishing I lived in a place where walking and moving were just a part of my daily routine, rather than having to schedule in a time to move myself each day.

.. which is not to say that I wish I had to dig up a sidewalk all day or something, but my desk job *is* extremely borning and there are some days I stand up after 8 hrs and I realize that… I haven’t stood up all day. It’s pathetic and part of the reason I want to be a teacher, so I can be up and moving all day. It’s not exactly exercise, but I will at least be moving around.

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debby • December 29, 2008 at 10:32 am

I have thought the same thing. I think this is weird too– We live in a beautiful area of the country, a rural area, where there are unlimited areas to walk, just by going out your front door. But a lot of people I know have treadmills in their home???? What’s that about? But I am too chicken to ask them.

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Karen • December 29, 2008 at 10:34 am

@Karen – I just wanted to add that sometimes, even on nice nights, the idea of running outside, TO someplace and back, seems more tiring and awful than being in a building, running on a machine. Meaning, although the treadmill might seem pointless, I often can’t motivate myself after a long day at work to actually run around outside. And I have like zero time to go for longs walks and nature hikes, so the gym can be, or at least seem, more convenient at times.

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TimBuck2 • December 29, 2008 at 10:45 am

Hey PQ,

Yes, in the perspective you’ve painted, I can see your point. It is a bit odd. After all, no one said we are normal to begin with.

This leads me to fathom a few other points.

How about buying a gym membership and not using it?, or several memberships (such as people I know of)

Or buying high end cardio equipment only to serve as an expensive towel dryer?

Or workout DVD’s collecting dust?

Whats not ridiculous is; feeling better, sleeping better, thinking clearer, having more confidence and a feeling of empowerment because we did something good for ourselves.

In all fairness, it didn’t always feel that way, but my gym time is my ME time (that’s right, its all about me baby!)

Keep up the great posts, always a pleasure reading!

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Bob • December 29, 2008 at 11:12 am

I’ve concluded exercise is like flossing. If you don’t do it, things grow- tartar on your teeth, fat on your body. It’s like not cleaning barnicles off the hull of a ship.

I once read an article about a project where they tested how people would handle having a treadmill under a surface with a computer, etc., so that you could be walking nearly all day while you clicked away at a keyboard. Not surprisingly, the person doing the walking/typing was more alert all day. I’d definitely be down for some of that. I still have fond memories of spending college summers working for my city’s public works department. We spent all day pushing lawn mowers around the cities large cemetaries. That job didn’t pay much at all, but I got more exercise out of it then nearly anything (well, except for the season where I worked at a christmas tree farm. We were loading flatbeds to deliver the trees around a few states. You were either dragging trees to a central area (fighting the resistance of other trees you were pulling past, plus walking in a few inches of snow) or passing trees up to the guys on the truck (or being on the truck itself taking the trees and stacking them). THAT was quite a workout!)

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Lyn • December 29, 2008 at 11:15 am

I’ve thought this way too. All that exertion just for the sake of exertion! And frankly I hate the gym so much it just isn’t going to happen for me. However your thoughts also apply to lifting weights and riding stationary bikes at home…. Which is, frankly, a substitute for washing all my laundry by hand, scrubbing my floors on my knees, and taking my wall-to-wall carpet outside and beating it with a stick to get the dust out. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be fat if someone took my washer, dryer, swiffer mop, vacuum, dishwasher, and car away.

I like to think of it this way: we are *blessed* enough to have so many labor-saving devices that we *need* labor-INDUCING devices like exercise equiptment!

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Barb • December 29, 2008 at 12:33 pm

I at least always walk/bike to the gym, it’s my warm-up/cool-down

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Candice • December 29, 2008 at 12:46 pm

I’ve had these same thoughts MANY times. I feel like a few hundred years from now, sociologists will laugh at us for constructing these buildings where we ran in place and lifted things created to be heavy so we build muscle instead of going out and doing this in the natural world.

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Madison • December 29, 2008 at 12:49 pm

I’ve thought this exact same thing too!! Especially while actually at the gym, on an elliptical, and just looking around at everyone around me and thinking how ridiculous we must look. But, I guess it is there for a reason~

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Kimberly • December 29, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Amen sister! There are so many other uses for the time spent at the gym that I can come up with that would be so much more enjoyable – watching the remaining season of Battlestar Galactica before the final 10 episodes start next month, getting grief counseling because the Dallas Cowboys suck so mightily (when they shouldn’t) they can’t even make the playoffs, having a root canal without novocaine…

And here I am about to join a gym next month because I have reached the point where walking doesn’t challenge me enough anymore. Am I crazy, or what?

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Megan • December 29, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Yes it is ridiculous but it would be even more ridiculous (and wasteful and ungrateful) not to take care of these wonderful bodies that we have been given!

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deanna • December 29, 2008 at 4:53 pm

I never thought of it that way at all, I always thought of it as a mean to an end – to get healthy you had to exercise, now after reading this, and putting more thought into it – it is kinda of silly. On vacation in early December I was at the hotel gym on the treadmill and I started talking to a cute elderly man and he told me that never worked out a day in his life because his job was working out – but now he had to walk everyday to stay in shape… hmmm…..interesting that you posted this!

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kazari • December 29, 2008 at 5:24 pm

I completely agree.

So not too long ago, I switched my gym membership for a membership at the local rock-climbing gym. It’s social, involves exercise, and makes me feel strong.

And I’ve bought a bicycle to get me to work, but haven’t actually ridden it yet.

Between climbing and cycling, I think I get the exercise I need without feeling like I’m on a hamster wheel.

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Allison • December 29, 2008 at 5:34 pm

I agree in essence with what you’re saying, but I find when you break a lot of things we do down they’re kind of ridiculous. Speaking of movies, why do you watch people you don’t know, act out scenarios that never happened on a totally faked set?

If you take any line of thought far enough it’s silly. Your answer to the movie thing is probably “because it’s fun” and the answer to the gym is probably equally prosaic. “Because it’s fun, because it’s a means to an end, etc etc.”

Looking at the gym in the silly way just makes it harder to get there. :)

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Narya • December 29, 2008 at 5:44 pm

Well, yes, you’re right.

However, I spent the last two years working at physical labor (10-12 hrs/day), and, in addition to paying shit, it was brutal on my body, and I was in pretty good shape to start. Lugging 50-pound sacks of flour up a flight of stairs loses its appeal as an exercise regimen pretty quickly.

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s • December 29, 2008 at 6:32 pm

i find that going to the gym to do pointless stuff is useful in helping me walk to the neighborhood store, carry heavy things, and be more energetic and happy.

i find other things to be equally ridiculous however. like studying. :) but i do it anyway!

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Laska • December 29, 2008 at 8:15 pm

You’ve got that right!

The other day I was contemplating how different my world is now than when I was growing up… in the country (rural Oregon).

I walked to school (about 1/2 mile), I stacked wood, fed chickens, worked in the garden, swam in the river, helped the neighbors with their cows. We ate food we shot, grew, picked and canned.

Now I drive to work, turn the dial for heat, buy food at the store and sit on my *** and watch tv for “fun”… or at least until I read Half-Assed and started eating right and working out!

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Megan • December 29, 2008 at 8:17 pm

I agree, and it gets even more ridiculous every January when the gym is so crowded that I find myself waiting 15-20 minutes in a line just to get to one of those machines after work or battling it out to get one of the bikes in my spinning class before they’re all snatched up. Good times. I really am going to try and start exercising in the morning before work more often.

But I am glad that if I am sick/injured/run down, I can skip a day at the gym and will still be able to get food and survive, etc.

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Sarah • December 29, 2008 at 8:41 pm

I agree. I think I once read an article about this – how, no matter how much we go to the gym, our society is never going to achieve the same level of fitness it would have had in, say, the pioneer days. Most of us are sitting down for eight hours a day. It’s madness.

May I add a bulletpoint to the “ridiculous” argument? In my experience, going to the gym inevitably turns into a two-hour long endeavor, from the time spent going to and coming from to warming up to actually working out to cooling down/stretching to taking a shower. I get so annoyed when people say that “You just have to make time for it.” Please. Not everyone has a two-hour chunk of time each day.

Okay, I’m finished complaining on your blog. Good luck with the working out!

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KrisLZ • December 29, 2008 at 8:46 pm

When you look at it this way, the gym really is a silly place!

I wanted to say that I read Half-Assed and was both very inspired and entertained.

Thank you very much!!

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Bethama • December 29, 2008 at 9:24 pm

This is so true, and it’s exactly what keeps me from going to the gym. Unfortunately, waking up early to lift weights at home just isn’t working anymore… but it feels absolutely ridiculous to, as you said, DRIVE a few miles with the intent of running in place!

On the other hand, at least our generation can hook up to our iPods and TV screens and zone out. I highly doubt that the back-breaking labor of yesteryear provided any such reprieve…

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s • December 29, 2008 at 9:48 pm

@s – oh yeah, i also listen to NPR podcasts while exercising so it feels a little less frivolous :)

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DonnaLynn • December 29, 2008 at 11:01 pm

I have thought this same thing so many times, as it seems many of us have. I’ve even considered getting a job where I have to put in more physical exertion, but na, I like what I do.

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Jawan • December 29, 2008 at 11:04 pm

I agree…canceling my gym membership this week.

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Laura • December 30, 2008 at 12:14 am

Funny, I had this exact conversation with my husband yesterday. All of these exercises we manufacture, when folks used to do it by harvesting, walking water up the hill, or kneading out bread. We’re a mess. But yeah, I’ll keep buying my bread in a plastic bag and driving to the gym to exhaust myself. ;)

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Amanda Daybyday • December 30, 2008 at 2:19 am

Couldn’t agree more.

Except in about 32 degrees below zero right now where I am…so…

And I have about a pound of Christmas chocolates rolling around in my stomach…

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Wendy • December 30, 2008 at 3:51 am

I’m grappling with almost this exact dilemma myself. I walk my 2 dogs every day. I need to train for my next 5K race. The 2 should be able to tie in, no? No. I need to go and run on the treadmill in order to train to run a race across fields.

Hmmmm.

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Linda • December 30, 2008 at 6:15 am

For me, gyms are only ridiculous in the summer, when you can walk and garden. In cold weather, they keep me from going crazy with lack of exercise. I hate being cold.

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MizFit • December 30, 2008 at 6:44 am

so true.

I was a big ole gym rat before my daughter and am always amazed how Im the same fitness level (give or take :)) just by having her and LIVING with her.

runnning playing jumping.

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Doji Bo • December 30, 2008 at 8:12 am

I tripped on the uneven sidewalks in my neighborhood enough times that I stopped walking outdoors and did join a gym. Each treadmill has its OWN TV, so I can at least watch something I like. Also, the walls of the room are all plexiglass, so while I use the weight machines, I can watch guys playing racquetball below me — pretty kewl.

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christen • December 30, 2008 at 8:33 am

I think it’s odd, too. I love to run outdoors, but since developing renauld’s syndrome I have to exercise indoors during the cold months.

I think your idea– from a previous post- of hooking up the treadmill/eliptical/rower to some kind of green energy producer is genius!

we can at last give a purpose to all that running in place, even if it’s just to give ourselves warm water later in which to shower!

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Ruth • December 30, 2008 at 9:52 am

I have had the same feelings all my life, and I really can’t do the gym thing.

I walk/run 3.5 miles around 5 days a week (now, in the deep snow, mostly walking, when weather permits, running as much as possible). But, it is “sensible” because I’m hoofing it to work.

I make myself do strength training at home, with free-weights right now, usually 2 days a week (unless I really need a rest day). And, it does feel ridiculous, but I know since I’m not a physical laborer, it’s the right thing to do.

But I can’t stand the gym, and haven’t gone for many moons.

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Beth • December 30, 2008 at 10:45 am

I feel the same way about Wii Fit that you feel about the gym.

It’s like our world was about playing outside as kids, getting exercise naturally, and then there were computer and video games, and kids became sedentary. Now, there are video games that get kids to *play* sports.

Soon, it will be a full circle moment, and perhaps they will go outside and play the actual sport instead of paying a fortune to virtually play it. : )

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Dolores • December 30, 2008 at 11:34 am

Thank you for expressing so eloquently what I’ve been thinking for months. The only thing you missed is that I pay upwards of $50/month for the privilege of running in place. :)

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Jason • December 30, 2008 at 12:07 pm

It is pretty amazing how far we have come to not even get any activity during life except when we are at a gym. My dad is skinny but he is always working hard physically too. Good post.

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Danielle • December 30, 2008 at 3:43 pm

I agree, it seems silly. But right now it’s cold and the sidewalks are sometimes icy. And in the summer I melt in the heat… so the gym makes working out more comfortable, which means I do it more often.

I have considered buying my own gym equipment, but there’s something about working out with other people that works for me. I use my iPod, I don’t usually talk to anyone, but I guess it’s a ‘we’re all in this together’ feeling?

I worked out with my trainer last night, and now I can hardly move my arms. And I will *try* to not make any funny noises when I stand up from my desk. But that might be tough.

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Nomizana • December 30, 2008 at 4:47 pm

What makes exercise nice I find is doing it outside. BUT the dogs have taken that away from me. I just got so tired of being scared which dog can jump over the house’s fence, which house-owner forgot to lock the gate. Even hearing barks terrify me as I have come too close before. So lacking friends that can tolerate my low pace at sports, I go to. Just has to be done.

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Heather • December 30, 2008 at 5:22 pm

Uggh! The Gym. I hate the gym. When I quit running in place and started to run outside. I lost my weight. The gym sucks every ounce of joy out of the running/jogging process. I am not a gerbil. I sometimes feel bad for the gym rats. They always look so depressed and pained. Like passing a caloric kidney stone. I live two blocks from Central Park, why would anyone on the upper west or east sides go to the gym when we have the 900 ache park with running trails both dirt and pavement is beyond me.

But that’s just me. I have bitterness toward the gym. Those buff guys standing outside are selling one hefty bill of goods and most people join and never go. Then they just feel bad about themselves. Kudos to those who go and benefit from it.

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julie • December 30, 2008 at 5:55 pm

I often think how strange the gym is, and how really strange I would think it was if I still did the fun psychedelic drugs of my youth. But I live in a city, even if I bike and walk everywhere I go (and I do), I’m still not doing enough exercise or using enough muscles to keep myself in proper working condition.

If you want to feel less strange, bike the two miles to the gym.

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Bionic Librarian • December 31, 2008 at 8:30 am

I live in Canada in a region that gets tons of freezing rain…. it would actually be dangerous to run outside on some days and very cold on others. The pseudo peer pressure of the gym helps to push me to run longer, work out harder than I would if I was running/walking outdoors (plus the treadmill is easier on my knees until my weight is at a more manageable level). My partner and I also do ‘real activities’ like play basketball once a week and swim once a week. We also do yoga once a week and I do pilates 1-2 a week in addition to the 4-5 times a week of cardio machines and 2-3 times a week of weights. In summer we played softball and tennis and we love to hike. I like the variety.

Do I find it ridiculous? Sometimes but do ‘real’ activities and I don’t own a car so I walk/transit everywhere. I also have been way more consistent about my exercise now that I pay to do it – it’s brainwashing but it is what got me off the couch. My iPod Shuffle is my savior – I load it with only workout songs and it never fails.

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Bon Bon • December 31, 2008 at 11:43 am

Hey, gyms are not that bad…but really how do people zone out enough to stay on a treadmill for more than 45 minutes? I had the problem of continually speeding up, it’s boring! but the surfaces on treadmills can be wonderful. My brain will max out after 10 minutes (That’s all I can take of doing the same). How do hamsters run on a wheel all night? I’ll never know!

My suggestion to gymsters —> turn your gymtime into P.E. class like you had in school. This w.o. stuff really should be fun you know. Hmm…and by God try climbing walls!! Because once you start, it does lead outdoors to real rock walls to climb. :-)

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Dian a • January 1, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Oh my gosh! Me too! I think this same thing every time I go to the gym. It seems so useless and stupid. It’s just unbelievable to me what we’re all doing. Running in place, biking to no where, and yes, lifting weights so we can lift weights. I thought this same thing just about every time I hit the gym. I’m glad to hear someone else feels the same way. :)

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Melissa Fast • January 2, 2009 at 8:42 am

I totally agree! Losing a lot of weight gives us new priorities. I lost 100 lbs a couple years ago, and I recently bundled up in snow pants, parka and furry hat to walk a 1/2 mile to work out while on vacay in Vermont. I never thought I would see that day.

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jo • January 2, 2009 at 8:26 pm

I told my doctor the things i do at work and in my garden was exercize. He said no. cause it wasn’t twenty constant minutes of something that raises a sweat. I mean if there is a pause between a load of dirt from one spot to another, it is not the same.

Just wanted to suggest that’s why some go to the gyim when bodies made to do it everyday.

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Jen • January 2, 2009 at 11:20 pm

How funny, my brother and I were just talking about harnessing all that energy from the cardio machines! But we were thinking that it would be most productive to have our walking/running/pedaling energy actually power the television or iPod. You would have to keep up the pace to keep watching or listening, and wouldn’t be using up electricity or batteries. I would certainly be motivated to speed up if it would keep my trashy exercise-tv choices running!

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Carey • January 3, 2009 at 12:31 am

I ride my bike to the gym and complained that they didn’t have a bike rack outside…to which they replied that it’s never come up as a serious issue. Am I the ONLY person at my whole gym who bikes? Great post.

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Kelly • January 3, 2009 at 4:06 am

Well, I may be nuts but I absolutely love the gym because I love to use the weight machines and lift iron. LOOOOOVE it. I just don’t get the same high lifting dumbbells at home.

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Emily • January 3, 2009 at 5:07 am

You could always just get a speedfit. That way, you’re staying in place and moving at the same time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUuwEq98ByM

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PastaQueen • January 3, 2009 at 1:52 pm

@Emily – Dear God, that’s like Fred Flinstone’s car.

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S t a c i • January 21, 2009 at 8:29 am

Yes! I often think this. Wouldn’t it make sense for the machines at the gym to be connected to the power supply? So that all that effort is at least lighting and cooling the place?

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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