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5 Reasons Why I Quit the Gym [My Great Fitness Depression Experiment]

Posted Oct 14 2013 2:27am

Remember when Chandler tried to quit the gym? “I want a flabby stomach and man breasts!” His first mistake was taking Ross. Monica would have kicked leotard-girl’s butt. I miss this show so hard.

I quit my gym this weekend. Despite pretty much hating it – they didn’t have classes that I liked, they kept cancelling stuff and I just wasn’t gaining any traction with the people – every time I went to the front desk and had to face the wall of intimidating personal trainers, I chickened out. Life imitates art: It actually took me 3 tries to finally quit, thanks to a scenario much like the Friends one above! I stopped just short though of yelling “I want man breasts!” (Although on second thought that may have worked better?) It’s so hard for us people pleasers to, you know, displease people…

Plus after the incident where I overheard some of the other ladies talking about how weird I am – and hey, I am weird, so whatevs – it became more of an “I’ll show you!” challenge than actual enjoyment to go. And it wasn’t just those few women in that one class. The gym in general is one of those no-talky-all-business places – no one says hi (other than the obligatory hi-thanks-for-your-money at the front desk), people don’t seem very consistent and there’s not much fun or laughter. The only person who even remembers my name is the girl who signed me up and I just found out she quit too. Over the past month or so I’ve found myself looking for reasons to avoid going – I don’t mind the physical exhaustion part but the emotional exhaustion I couldn’t take.

Not only am I not excited to go, for the first time in over a decade I’ve found myself dreading the gym.

This is so weird for me – heck, I wrote an entire book about how I couldn’t stay out of the gym to the point where I made myself sick! – that I didn’t even want to admit it was happening. But now I finally understand how people feel when they look around and realize that basically anything sounds like more fun than heading off to the gym. I’d rather fold laundry than go. I’d rather be stymied by 6th grade math homework than go. I’d rather read Miley Cyrus’ inane tweets to Sinead O’Connor than go. I KNOW.

It’s gotten to the point where even thinking about going to the gym brings on this crushing feeling of depression. I feel like I have to really steel myself just to walk in the front doors.

And it isn’t just about what the gym is. If I’m being totally honest, it’s still mostly about what it isn’t. It isn’t my old gym (either the Y or LifeTime!) with my old friends and my old equipment and… my old life. I know I’ve talked about this to death but I miss them so so much. I keep waiting for the ache to lessen and it just doesn’t. I’m so blessed to be here – Denver is amazing and beautiful and fun. And I’ve met a lot of amazing and beautiful and fun people here too, who I am so grateful to have in my life. I don’t want anyone to think I’m still living in the past and wishing for what isn’t. I love my life here. I just miss my friends, that’s all. And the only remedy for that is time. (Or tesseracting – get on that, science. Seriously though, if 4Chan could channel all their obsessions in the same direction we’d be time-space jumping in weeks.)

A couple of months ago Reader Kim e-mailed me asking how to help support her friend who just joined a gym so that her friend wouldn’t fall of the fit-wagon. In the past I would have been all over this with suggestions but I haven’t been able to write a word to Kim about it. Mostly because I think that if her friend feels like me then maybe  she should just skip it. Life’s too short to waste on something you dread, right? Of course Kim’s friend is blessed in one major way I’m not - Kim. Having a gym buddy can make all the difference, at least for people who are really social.

Yet. There’s a silver lining to everything (except the 50 Shades of Gray movie and Spaghetti-O’s) and there have been several major blessings to come out of my Gym Depression:


1. Way more time with my family. And other stuff. Back when my first two were toddlers, I spent my days going to playgroups and library readings and museums and parks – anything to teach them about the wonderful world they just umbilical-parachuted into. But as I got more into fitness, my mornings became taken up with gym workouts to the point where my second two knew nothing different than heading off to the Y every day. I don’t regret that – it’s what I needed at the time and got me some much-needed adult time and them some great socialization – but by the same token what I need at this time in my life is to be able to spend some extra time with my kids. Plus, I have several more daylight hours now that I can use to do stuff I normally would have stuffed into my evenings.

2. Proof I’ve really kicked this exercise addiction thing! I’ve been under a lot of stress and sadness and anxiety and all the feelings with the craziness of the move and in the past my primary coping mechanism would have been to run it off. Literally. And even if I wasn’t, I’d have to put a lot of effort into reining it in. Except that now it’s not even a temptation. It’s strange how what once felt like such a pressing need is now pretty much gone.

3. The freedom to decide how *I* really feel like moving my body. This one has been totally unexpected but is an amazing gift. It’s like I hit the “reset” button after alllll those years of compulsive workouts, body fat testing tyranny, the ever-changing gym schedules and even Great Fitness Experiments. For the first time in recent memory, when I wake up in the morning and ask myself “How do I want to exercise today?” I’m free of any social, professional and mental obligations that might change my answer. For the first time in maybe ever, the only thing that matters is what I want. And I don’t do anything that I don’t enjoy – no more “pushing through pain” or competing with the person next to me. WEIRD.

4. I can still get a kick-butt workout. And for way cheaper. The first thing I discovered is that while I have Gym Depression I don’t actually have Fitness Depression. The sadness does not extend to working out in general. When I ask myself each day what I feel like doing, the answer is almost always something. I enjoy Zumba but I’ve also been digging just trying to copy the choreography in random videos on YouTube (for which my cat judges me harshly, in between licking her butt and chasing dust particles). For awhile I was training for the race I ran last weekend and really enjoyed my morning runs with my friends in the beautiful early morning of the Colorado summer. I also had fun doing T25 with my girls here and laughing every time Shaun T reminded us that the “T” is for “focus”. And then there are my park workouts, hikes with my kids, walks with friends, pajama yoga and a lot of kettlebells/TRX in my garage.

The best part was when I realized that by doing what I want to do – as opposed to what I think I should be doing or what experts tell me to do – not only do I enjoy it more but I end up still getting a pretty well rounded workout. And, in one final blow to the crazy voices that live in my head, I’ve maintained my current weight and body fat % (with a few points). It’s a good place to be.

5. More flexibility to try new things. Quitting the gym even gave me some courage to try some new stuff again – the type of “experimenting” that got me into fitness in the first place! If you’re at a gym you’re locked into what they offer – great if you like what they have but swimming in peanut butter if you end up at a gym like my ex. Thanks to my new-found freedom, I signed up to try a new “fitwall” gym on Monday (something I’ve long wanted to try!) and check out a new yoga studio with a friend later on in the week.

So, what would I tell Reader Kim about how to keep her friend at the gym? I get what she’s asking – her friend, whom she loves dearly, has made a fledgling commitment to better health and she wants to help her stick to that – and while I admire her care and love for her friend, I suppose I would tell her not to worry about the gym and to focus more on helping her friend recognize what it is – both fitness and otherwise – that makes her feel happy. And I suppose I would tell myself that it’s okay that I still miss my old life and my old gym – it was a beautiful one and worth all the feelings – but it’s also okay to keep looking for joy in my new life. Even if that means quitting the gym life.  There isn’t one right answer for everyone. Nor is there one right answer for each person over their whole life. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find a new gym to fall in love with. But at this point in time, this is what works for me:


 Picking pumpkins with my punkins…

Do you all think I’m a wuss now? Have you ever gone through a great fitness depression? Have you ever had a gym you hated? Did you have a hard time quitting? Anyone ever tried Fitwall?

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