Thursday, January 12, 2012

So you're middle aged and hitting the gym......

It's probably a New Year's resolution, a recent divorce, hair loss, a cute new secretary or a full blown mid life crisis, whatever it is I'm seeing a lot of middle aged men finding their way off of the sofa and into the gym. That's great. I applaud them but they have no idea what they're doing and they're either going to hurt themselves or someone else is going to hurt them. You can't just walk into a gym after forty sedentary years and decide to "pump some iron". You just can't. I'd like to offer some advice on getting started and some etiquette so everyone doesn't hate you.


The first thing you should do is shell out for a personal trainer for a week and get on a program. If you're too cheap to do that go online and find a good beginner weight training guide or even better pick up one of Joe Weider's books. Learn the proper form for the exercises you want to do because at our age you can GET HURT VERY EASILY. Nothing derails a new workout routine faster than an injury. Also learn the actual muscle groups you're going to be working, it's important.

A good way to start is by doing a chest/triceps/shoulder day, take a day off and then do a back and biceps day. Stretch and warm up a little before you start lifting, never start cold. I work my abs and do some squats every time I go to the gym, but I'm pretty lazy when it comes to my legs and a little obsessed with my abs.

Don't lift too much. Remember that you are old and can GET HURT VERY EASILY (this will be a recurring theme...) No one cares if you can only bench 100 pounds so don't worry about looking wimpy, it's better than a trip to the ER. You should lift about as much as you can for nine reps per set and do three sets of each exercise. Once you get comfortable and start to know your way around the gym you'll find that other lifters are pretty helpful and will "spot" you if you ask and give you guidance if you need it. That is, if you know some basic gym etiquette.


• It's not YOUR gym, it's everyones.
• Rack your weights. Don't be an ass and leave plates on all of the barbells and machines you use. Everyone will hate you.
• Don't drop your weights. If you're as strong as the massive slam your weights make says, you can take the extra step and lower the weights quietly.
• Wipe down the station you just used. No one wants to sit in a puddle of your sweat and they shouldn't have to clean up after you.
• No loud grunting. If you're really grunting like that you're lifting too much and can GET HURT VERY EASILY (there it is again!).
• Don't tie up a station doing something you're not supposed to. (Yes you, the dude who does his crunches on the weight bench, there are mats in the corner).
• Let people "work in". You can even spot each other and offer encouragement. Maybe you'll make a friend.
• Don't talk on your Bluetooth while you're lifting, and take those fucking sunglasses off. Are you kidding me?
• Don't stare at the young girls in tight spandex or tiny shorts, it makes you look like a pervert.
• Don't leave your crap sitting on benches or stations, no one wants to move your towel, keys, cell phone or water bottle. Most of this can go in a locker.

The most important thing to consider is that if it feels like a chore you should buy a bike or some running shoes because you're not going to keep doing something that you don't like.

When I first started lifting it was in my basement with a bargain weight set and bench from a discount store. I was sore all the time but I liked the way I started to look. I had a poster on the wall showing the proper form for each exercise. It was a great start but I soon outgrew it and started hitting the gym. Now I've been lifting on and off for about twenty years, I have a shoulder that hurts when I do presses and a knee that screams when I do squats but I'm in the gym three days a week for about an hour because I feel great.

And I'm a little vain....