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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2001-03-30

Healthy Work Habits For Sports Photographers
Out Of The Winter Slump - How To Pick A Gym And Get Yer Ass In Gear!

By Sam Mircovich, Reuters

Photo by John G. Mabanglo/AFP

Photo by John G. Mabanglo/AFP
I have mentioned before that I go through a yearly winter slump when I let it all go and don't care. I think its good to take a break from workouts, especially if you feel you aren't making any gains. Sometimes it's easier to walk away from the gym than have a bad workout day in and out.

This year I had several personal crises to deal with and so my winter slump started early (November 1, 2000) and ended late (like two weeks ago). That's FOUR MONTHS out of the gym. Christ sakes! They really got my money this year. I got to thinking it might be a good idea to know what to look for when you join a gym. Because gyms make a large part of their money selling memberships to people they know will never use them. To be a wise consumer here you have to look realistically at your goals in a workout routine and then determine what option presents the best value for your money.

There is a wide array of workout options for the Schwarzeneggar or Chyna wannabe. Home devices hawked on infomercials, cardio videotapes that only meth freaks can keep up with, or memberships in sexy, flirty gyms where the potential for meeting Mr./Ms right is highly exaggerated, but marketed just the same.

PICKING A GYM

It helps to have a budget in mind, and a timeframe for your commitment to exercise. If you only want to spend 100 bucks and maybe three days a week lifting weights, there is a way. If you want to be pampered with amenities such as spa, steam, pools, massage etc, and plan on going twice a year, then just put the money in my pocket and I'll fill the bathtub ah er. "Spa" for you in my spare bedroom. If you want to be able to get a workout when on the road at whatever hour you have to spare, day or night, then there are options.

Photo by
Figure out in your mind the frequency of use within a three-month period. It takes approximately that time span for noticeable change in muscle tone. You have to commit at least three months of regular workouts before you will notice the biceps getting bigger or the stomach getting tighter. You may be sore in the interim, but muscle growth and strengthening is a long process that involves flexibility, diet, muscle teardown, rebuilding and rest.

Determine how much money you can afford to lose if you stop going to the gym for whatever excuse you may concoct. To some people, spending 500 bucks on a membership that isn't used is no big deal (I guess they get $5000 day rates). To a struggling newspaper photographer, 500 is a lot of change that might be put to better use - like diapers, divorce proceedings or a new lens.

Try to find a gym that is open 24 hours a day. You may find that training after work at midnight works best for you. If the boss pisses you off at work better to take it out on the weights after work than on your family, or you liver.

I'm not going to recommend specific health clubs because prices, operating times and amenities vary. You may find a small local gym suits best suits your needs. Or one of the national chains might work best for you. Decide if you want things like pools, Jacuzzi's steam, sauna, day care, etc and if you really need them.

If you are on a budget, do what we did in the boy scouts. Get some empty coffee cans, some thick dowels, and some cement and make you own weights. Of course, a five-pound coffee can filled with cement can weigh close to 40 pounds. Might want to start with coffee CUPS.

SAM'S TOP 10 DO'S AND DON'T'S IN THE GYM

DONT WEAR SPANDEX - Save that for the pro bodybuilders and the old guys who don't know better. At this point, no one wants to see your Lycra shorts crawling up your flabby cheeks. And stay away from runner shorts or any clothing that primarily displays your shortcomings or endowments. That means no shorts above the knee. Better to wear baggy shorts, or sweats (made of cotton) a T-shirt, and a light sweatshirt. If you get too warm take off the sweatshirt, but put it back on when you leave so you can cool down properly. Guys may want to wear a jock, if they are comfy, and a sports bra for the ladies. Please wear a strong supportive cross training shoe. Sandals are not gym wear. They only let others see your swelling broken toes after dropping a 45-pound weight on them.

DON'T HOG THE EQUIPMENT - That means don't sit at a machine or weight rack reading (this ain't Barnes and Noble) while others want to lift. Do your sets, and move on. Nothing is worse than waiting for a machine occupied by someone balancing his or her checkbook.

DON'T WEAR COLOGNE/PERFUME - We all sweat. Sweat is good. Some people sweat more than others, but that's what a shower is for. Heavy perfumes and colognes smell worse when you sweat. YOU REEK! I'd prefer the smell of sweat to the olfactory assault of CK1. THIS GOES FOR THE LADIES TOO! I don't care what you look like; dousing yourself won't make you prettier.

There is a woman at my gym I call the lotus blossom. She has a nice body and works hard; she's in her 40's I guess. But she reeks of perfume every night and her choices don't complement nature's perfume. Her scent drifts over an entire section of the gym and you could actually see its haze in the light. OK, so my sweat fetish is obvious. BIG DEAL.

DO WIPE THE EQUIPMENT OFF IF YOU LEAVE A BIG STAIN - Most gyms have spray bottles of cleaner and plenty of paper towels just for that purpose. No you don't have to carry a towel, unless you have a fear of fungal infections. (Just where did that flesh eating bacteria COME FROM anyway ) besides we know the sweat will be pouring off your face as if you were trying to explain your expense report to your editors. You can keep a paper towel in your pocket to mop thy brow.

Photo by
DO BRING YOUR OWN MUSIC - Chances are, unless you are 20, you wont like the dance tunes coming out of the gym's speakers. Besides, everyone has their "song", one that motivates them. Bring it on. Walkmans and mp3 players help you get it done. I have a diamond Rio 500 with 64 Meg onboard and several 64 Meg cards. If you haven't started ripping your CD collection into mp3's yet, get to it. I use Musicmatch, a great program, and worth the 40 bucks to make high quality rips. But you can make decent quality rips with the free download. Go into the trance, be the energy, feel the energy driving the weight with every crunchy chord.

I am a metal head, so I listen to TOOL, Deftones, Nine Inch Nails, Staind, Ministry. I prefer dark aggressive music and the energy it creates. But I'M weird. Find music that motivates you and helps you concentrate on pushing yourself

Some gyms have decent music. The worst are the ones that play dance tunes. - This ain't Studio 54.

DON'T FART - OK, we all have to blow sometimes, but man if you're in a sweaty gym, the second worse thing to breathe is the gas of the lactose intolerant. (See above for the first worst thing) stay away from whey-based protein drinks. Remember some of us are lying on weight benches as you walk by. I'd rather someone shot me. If you got to do it, it would be courteous of you to walk into the locker room and do it there.

DO HIRE A TRAINER (if you like) BUT... DONT SPEND YOU SESSIONS JABBERING AWAY WITH HIM/HER - be warned a trainer is someone who will gladly take your money, whether you get a good workout or not. He is not you mother, or your psychiatrist. Any interest he takes in your personal problems is purely superficial and driven by the check you write each week; regardless of the puppy eyes he/she sends you. THEY DONT CARE.

Nothing pisses me off more than a trainer and client hogging equipment and talking the whole time. I have gotten very confrontational with these people, walk right up to them and asking how many sets they have left. Usually they have just started and I glare and walk away. The trainer knows what's up, and it's his scam. Talk to your trainer about your technique, diet, or workout schedule. Leave your problems to Dear Abbey.

There are good trainers and bad trainers. I don't use em. I look within myself for motivation and act on it. DON'T BE A DUPE!

DON'T WASTE TIME SCAMMING FOR A DATE - looks there are lots of good-looking men and women at the gym. Some are straight. Some are gay. Some want to train hard. Some want to find a soul mate. I say take it outside. It bothers me to have to listen on some beach types trying to hook up while they hog a machine (see above). Get in, get out, and get down later.

DON'T TRY TO LIFT MORE THAN YOU ARE SAFELY CAPABLE. - When you first start lifting weight, technique is far more impressive that poundage. Lifting too much too soon will leave your flabby muscles quivering, straining under the inevitable, the bar crashing down on your sunken chest. WHO'S GONNA PICK IT UP OFF YOU? THE GIRL/GUY YOU WERE TRYING TO IMPRESS? Shoot me first. If you keep it up, one day that 35-pound bar with four plates (180+35=215 pounds) will be a breeze. But not today.

DO LEARN GOOD TECHNIQUE - it can be the difference between getting stronger and hurting you REALLY, REALLY BAD. Weight should be pushed with the heel of the hand, fingers wrapped lightly around the bar. Backs should be straight, and you should not have to jerk your body to lift it. If you are jerking your body to gain momentum then the weight is too heavy. Concentrate on feeling the specific muscles you are exercising. They are you. At first it may be hard to feel these muscle groups. You have to envision them as you lift, pinpoint what muscles are burning. When you find it mentally, direct your energy to it.

That's it for now. Hopefully my winter slump has ended and I can continue on the road to strength and total dominance of my wire service competitors. I'll check back in a month to let you know how it's going.

(Sam Mircovich is Southern California-based photographer. When he's not in the gym pumping iron he shoots sports for Reuters News Pictures.)


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