I suppose I shouldn't admit this, but one of my favorite things about exercising (and there aren't that many) is the "coolness" factor.
Sure, we're supposed to just do it for our health and our sense of accomplishment or whatever. Because we're all far too secure and self-confident and evolved to care what other people think of us.
But for me, feeling cool and smug is one of the best parts of getting exercise! I know there must be others like me too, aren't there? We imagine that our sedentary friends who find out we go to the gym at 6am, or even complete strangers in cars who see us running uphill in pouring rain are thinking: wow, I could never make myself do that! (Instead they are more likely thinking "what a crazy freak," but that's irrelevant. We know we're cool).
(How Crabby Imagines Herself When She Exercises)
Imagined Coolness is part of what makes those intervals and sore muscles and early wake-up times worth it. Look at me! I'm exercising! Isn't that awesome! Don't I rock?
When Even Imagined Coolness is Impossible
Unfortunately, some exercise situations are NOT conducive to even an imagined sense of coolness. I'm sure everyone has their own list. Are there ever times when you feel particularly self-conscious about your workout?
I'd love to hear what your own personal Un-favorites are. In the meantime, here are mine:
Top Six Ways to Feel Uncool Exercising
1. Do Stupid-Looking Stretches Outside of a Class.
If you're in an actual yoga or other fitness class, with an instructor and a bunch of other
However, what happens when you are not in class but instead are out on your own in the tiny stretching area in the corner of the gym? And all around you are burly weight lifters and snotty type-A executives on treadmills who have not themselves ever been to stick-your-head-up-your-ass class? Do you still go right ahead and do it?
One of my least least favorite stretches for public consumption is, I think, called the Cat Stretch. You get on all fours and curl your back up towards the ceiling (not too bad), but then you do the opposite and drop your stomach towards the floor and stick your rear end way up in the air like an animal in heat. Unfortunately, it is the second part of this stretch, the butt-in-the-breeze part, that I most need to do to loosen up my tight lower back muscles.
My other least favorite is the iliotibial band stretch, in which you cross your legs and do a side stretch. I look like a six year old child who desperately needs to pee. But if I don't cross my legs, I don't get much of a hip stretch.
See, Even Cute People Look a Bit Silly Doing This
(Photo: Dr. Pribut, provider of handy Sports Medicine tips).
(Photo: Dr. Pribut, provider of handy Sports Medicine tips).
Sometimes I close my eyes when I do these stretches so no one can see me.
2. Go Race Walking
I've written about race walking before, (twice) so I won't belabor it.
Let's just say I saw finally saw someone else besides me race-walking a few weeks ago. And my immediate gut-level uncensored reaction was: "what an asshole!" The guy was doing it much more gracefully than I ever do, too. But there seems to be no way to race-walk without looking simultaneously prissy and deranged, unless maybe you're doing it in an official race with a number on your chest.
3. Try New Things at the Gym
It's supposed to be good to try new things, right? And it's no problem if you have a personal trainer to introduce appropriate new exercises and show you how to do them.
But what if you're too cheap to hire one and prefer to read about new exercises on the internet that sound cool but you have no clue how to do them in real life?
I have too many examples of this to list them all... but here's one: not long ago I read a very persuasive article about the amazing benefits of running backwards on the treadmill.
It's, um... somewhat harder than it sounds.
4. Exercise Out of Context
You're standing on a platform waiting for a train or whatever. There are lots of people around, but plenty of space still available. You realize you could be making efficient use of this wasted time by doing the stretching you forgot to do for the last three days, or, if you're particularly willing to look like a jerk, knocking out some jumping jacks or push-ups.
There are stealth moves, like pretending to tie your shoes to stretch out your hamstrings, but if you do it without bending your knees you still look kinda funny.
If you have a co-conspirator, I've discovered, you feel less doofy exercising out of context, but it's surprisingly hard to do alone, even if it's a perfectly logical thing to do.
5. Make Peculiar Clothing Choices
(Photo by Marganz)
Sometimes these fashion violations are not intentional. Ever realize that all your running clothes are in the laundry and too toxic for the "shake-it-out and pretend it's clean enough" recovery method?
Do you skip your workout? Or do you do it anyway, wearing something tattered and sweat-stained, or originally intended as a gag gift, or belonging to another person who may be a child or your 83 year old mother-in-law or someone 10 inches taller than you?
Note: it does not help you look like less of a weirdo to announce loudly to no one in particular that you don't normally dress like this.
6. Karaoke Syndrome
The only way to truly make aerobic exercise enjoyable, in my opinion, is to do it to the pounding beat of music on an mp3 player. I do NOT sing along when people are around (though I may sometimes be forced to mouth the lyrics silently to myself if the beat is too good).
But sometimes I find myself alone first thing in the morning, and the street or the trail or the track or whatever is deserted, and I think... what the hell.
How liberating to sing along with the rockin' beat! It makes aerobic exercise almost fun! Wheeee!
And so what if you're middle-aged, can't carry a tune, and will sing along to just about anything on your playlist? It's fun!
"You and me baby we ain't nothing but mammals, so let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel..."
"Can't you hear the music pumpin' hard like I wish you would?
Now push it, push it reeeeeal good..."
Why is it that the more inappropriate the lyrics are, the more likely someone is to come bounding around a blind curve or pass you sneakily from behind?
Nothing like discovering your off-color warbling has been audible.
Does anyone else ever feel hopelessly Uncool during your workout?