Why I don’t work out, and why I won’t start.

Reader, the gym is not my happy place. “Work out more!” is never a New Year’s Resolution, and just the thought of running more than half a mile makes me cringe (though you’ve read about my recent foray into the jogging world). Working out at the gym simply does not work out for me.

I’ve tried in the past- I used the circuit machines with my best friend in high school, rocked the elliptical a couple times a week in college, and once I moved down to VA I would go down to the tiny apartment gym with my roommate.

Photo evidence that I even worked out on senior year Spring Break with my gorgeous roommate. Who works out on vacation?!
Photo evidence that I even exercised on senior year Spring Break with my gorgeous roommate. Who works out on vacation?!

But that’s all come to an end and I don’t plan on going back. No matter how I approach the whole venture, I feel like a hamster on a wheel when I go to the gym. Like I’m stuck in this cycle of “I need to put the resistance up so that I can put the resistance even higher.” I’m not knocking people that love the gym- my dad, my brother, manfriend, and most of my friends really enjoy it. They find it energizing, relaxing, and invigorating, and that’s fantastic. But when I go, I get none of those things.

So my “gym” resolution this year is to stop trying to force it, and to stop beating myself up when I inevitably don’t go. There’s nothing about it that feels enjoyable- why should I make it happen? I don’t like the gym and the gym seems to reciprocate the feeling.

Working on my fitness level is a whole different matter. There is nothing I want more than a toned body that will do what I tell it to do. If I need to chase the dog when we’re playing outside I want to be able to keep up; if I need to help someone move I want to be able to haul the big furniture; if my trainer tells me to drop my stirrups I want to last more than two laps around before collapsing into a heap of jelly-muscles; I want my back muscles strong and flexible enough to stave off the back pain I get from falling off my horse so many times when I was younger.

How can I do those things if I’m not at the gym? We’re talking cardiovascular endurance, weight training, and stretching, so how does that work without a designated time or place?

Easy: I’m constantly moving. I’m lucky enough to have a convertible desk, so I stand for most of the day at work. Fidgeting and bouncing and moving around the entire time, or stretching out my legs and arms. The time that I do sit is usually on a stability ball, and I’m moving around then too to engage my core or stretch out my back. This doesn’t work on days with lots of meetings when I have to pretend to be a grown-up that sits still, but on any given day I’m standing up and moving. Hooray for multitasking!

When I’m not at work, I’m still moving. That parking spot out in the boondocks is mine! I ignore elevators and take the stairs. I do all those “simple tips to lose 10 lbs in a month” that are always on the covers of tabloids, but I’m doing it to keep myself moving rather than lose weight. My FitBit inspires me to walk more and when the weather’s nice manfriend and I love to go hiking. He even gets me running sometimes.

Workout: unhappy (though Manfriend seems downright gleeful at my pain). Hiking: happy!
Workout: unhappy (though Manfriend seems downright gleeful at my pain). Hiking: happy!

I work my muscles too- taking two trips to bring in all the groceries is for lesser mortals. Moving workbooks and textbooks at work, carrying my giant bag of horse stuff around, and attempting to roll manfriend over when he falls asleep on the couch all help me build strength (seriously, manfriend is 6’3″ and impossible to move).

And of course- I ride. I won’t even get into the classic “riding is a sport too!!!!” thing, ’cause we all know it is. I couldn’t even roll over in bed after my first lesson this last fall (the sheets were too heavy and my muscles were too sore. True story). Getting in the saddle three or four times a week IS my gym time. It gives me that energy, that relaxation, and that invigoration my peers get from the gym, and I’d argue that it’s a better overall workout- it engages every major muscle group, works on balance, and anyone who’s huffed and puffed after a tough course knows it counts as cardio too.

Since I made a conscious decision to keep up my non-workout habits, I’ve gotten into the best shape I’ve been in since I was 15 and riding 3-5 horses a day. This approach might not work forever, but it works for now- everyone at work says to take advantage of the early-twenties metabolism and maybe that’s what I’m doing. I ain’t complaining.

After all the angst and guilt about not going to the gym, I’ve realized something about myself: I don’t work out, and that’s OK. I don’t plan on starting, and that’s OK. I’ve got my non-workout habits going strong, and I’ve got this covered.

Don’t even get me started on my non-diet.

What are some ways that you “non-workout”?  Are you a gym-lover or do you prefer to get your sweat on in other ways?