THE BLOG

5 Reasons Why I'm a Fitness Boot Camp Dropout

05/27/2013 10:05 am ET | Updated Jul 27, 2013
Getty Images

I like to lift things up and put them down but it's best if I do it on my own. (Photo by John Adkins II)

Sweating along in the company of others may be just the motivation plenty of fitness buffs need, but after signing up for my first fitness bootcamp recently, I've realized it's best for everyone if I stay out of public gyms and group workouts and hole up in my garage gym instead. Here's why.

It's generally frowned upon to have a conniption in class.

Here's the deal. I've had spine surgery after a powerlifting injury. I've been hospitalized for rhabdomyolysis after doing about 50 too many pull-ups. And I have turf toe, which I swear is more painful than either of those. But I will bust my arse in any workout scenario (actually, that's pretty much why I end up with injuries). So when I roll said arse out of bed at 5 a.m. to go for a workout and the perky instructor rounds me up with three other people who need to adapt the workout around injuries, and calls us the janky club, my head pretty much explodes. I'm not there to be patted on the head and told I rock. But I'm not there to be called out for not being invincible, either. Anyone who was ever the last to be picked for a sport in school knows the feeling. Getting all riled up takes my energy away from the reason I'm there and makes me more likely to hurt myself again by trying (foolishly) to prove that I'm not janky. It's best for all parties if I stay home.

People out there, they're cheatin'.

You're only cheating yourself when you halfway do your workout. And it should make no difference to me whatsoever whether someone squats ass-to-grass or does little quarter knee bends. But I'm very bad at minding my own business in a class (okay, anywhere), and spend too much mental energy marveling at the myriad ways people can find to exert less energy. I can stay on track a lot better working out solo (or with my husband, who doesn't mind if I yell at him for cheating: "Get your chest down on that floor, that's not a push-up!").

It's like a train wreck -- I can't look away.

I was sentenced to a period of doing almost nothing but light cardio while I recovered from rhabdo, so I slogged away on an elliptical thing at a local public gym. I spent a lot of time with nothing in my line of sight but guys lifting weights. And cringing at every turn when dudes did some crazy stuff. They're barreling towards a serious hurting and I can't look away. Yeah, yeah, I know I'm the person who just said I've been injured repeatedly -- that makes it all the more painful to watch. I was dying to offer to help, but you can imagine the reception that would've gotten. It's not like I'm wearing a powerlifting medal to the gym -- they don't know I can squat more than they can, plus I'm a girl(!) Weights in public gyms -- this one anyway -- seemed to be strictly for the guys, while the womenfolk run on the treadmill, or maybe do inscrutable things with the two-pound dumbbells. Speaking of which:

Women won't pick up some weight!

I bought the hype in the women's magazines too, believing I should only ever use up to a five-pound weight. Then I found out how amazingly fun it was to move some serious weight. I lived for heavy squats and deadlifts, forgot all about that girl that was picked last in gym class, and found out I could eat as much as I wanted as long as I lifted heavy. For some reason the myth persists that heavy weights make women bulky, though, so I seethed as a trudged along on the elliptical in that public gym, wishing I could be under some heavy weight, instead stuck watching the other women in there do knee bends holding tiny dumbbells in front of the mirror. I just can't stand to watch it.

I'm too freaking competitive.

My competitive nature helped me do some pretty cool things that I was really proud of. But it has also kept me from being smart enough to avoid injury. To wit: One day at the public gym, I asked a guy if I could work in on the leg press machine (my sad substitute for squats after hurting my back) with him. He looked at me, looked at his stack of plates on the machine, and told me to wait until he was done. His point was abundantly clear. So, though it would never have occurred to me to try to move so much weight, I couldn't let him think this girl wasn't strong enough, so when I took my turn, I used the same weight. Ridiculous, I know. But there you have it.

So when you roll my plethora of issues together and put me in a group workout environment, there's just not possibly a good ending. I paid for a month of bootcamp classes that promised to be good stuff -- kettlebells, bodyweight, etc., but after just a handful of sessions I threw in the towel and ran back to be a hermit in my shanty little garage gym. There, I can crank up the music I like (we didn't even talk about the class soundtrack!) and do my own workout with no comments from the peanut gallery -- others or mine.

For more by Dana McMahan click here.

For more on fitness and exercise, click here.