The Two Styles of Working Out

This weekend, I was lucky enough to be visited by some close friends from New York and we did all sorts of things that should be reserved for another type of forum, to say the least. But one thing we did that I can talk about was work out together. I haven’t worked out with a group of friends in a while, and the experience reminded me that working out alone is very different from working with people.

Mental and physical health are important things to maintain, and a true bro ensures that his bro is doing alright in both of those aspects. He tries to guide him on a good path. As a result, it is common practice for bros (in this context, this term includes the female equivalent of a very good group of friends as well) to work out together. Another result of this is that above the species of stereotypes regarding the kind of people that go to the gym, there are two basic genera* (categories) of people at the gym: those who work out alone and those who work out in a squad. There are pros and cons to both of these styles and everybody has their preference. Through my experiences at the Tufts gym and elsewhere, I can provide accurate analyses of both styles.

The individual approach to working out is a pursuit requiring great strength and motivation. It takes strength to fight against impulses to stop doing something tiring and exhausting. It’s also tough to directly face the crowd of the gym. It’s hard to know what these other people are thinking when they see me. It’s very possible to face judgement from other gym-goers for doing a certain exercise wrong, looking at your phone for whatever reason, or googling how to do certain exercises correctly. It’s tough to face the world alone. However, the individual can pursue a state of zen and delve into a realm of thoughts and good vibes. The individual also knows more than anyone about him/herself. The body is less likely to be injured since there’s no incentive to push anyone but yourself. There’s no peer pressure or competitions to slightly boost your ego. The only pressure is from the little voice inside our heads that sounds nothing like our actual voice. That swole guy benching a gazillion pounds makes you feel bad, but there’s no direct competition with him in the realm. A workout is the individual’s own world in this state.

When working out with a group of friends, the tables turn. The workout shifts from an individual realm to reality, with the squad against the world. Friends will also remind another friend that looking at yourself in a mirror and admiring your muscles is vain. Second, friends make sure their friends are doing an exercise correctly. Plus, it’s good to bounce ideas off of friends for different exercises. On the other hand, the concept of peer pressure is a major issue when interacting with your peers. Peers tend to push their friends to their max capacity, but at times, friends may be using too much weight to work out in order to fulfill a sense of ego that’s natural in the competitive world of reality. Lifting weights that are too heavy can hurt muscles and detract from the benefits of a workout. It’s better to lift five less pounds than to break a bone. Speaking of breaking bones, friends tend to make sure that their friends are safe when working out. Once when I was working out alone, I quickly snagged a 45 pound plate off a bar and dropped it on my left big toe. Turns out 45 pounds and the force of gravity have enough force to fracture a big toe. That wouldn’t have happened if a friend was supervising me. Probably. Even though supervision is such a big benefit to working out in groups, another drawback from squad workouts is a possible sense of awkwardness. For example, last Friday, my friends and I went to work out and we discovered that we had worked out different muscle groups over the past few days. The muscles worked out were sore, so we couldn’t work those out. We had to work out an odd combination of muscles in order to do consistent sets with each other. Honestly, this wasn’t that big of a problem. But it is true that awkwardness is inevitable in social situations, even amongst close friends, and that awkwardness can transcend into the realm of the gym. The realm of the gym is really another part of reality, even though I think my muscles look a lot better in there.

There are pros and cons to both styles of working out, and there are valid reasons for preferring either. I know this isn’t an important debate. But I do think it’s important to acknowledge these differences to incorporate some balance into life. It’s optimal to work out often, and in both of these genera.  The journey to get big or fit should be a diverse one. It turns the journey into a better story, and stories are a big part of what life’s all about.

*Genera is the plural form of the word “genus.” It’s ok. I had to look it up too.

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