After a long day at work, you finally make it to the gym. You breeze past the check-in desk, feeling great—despite the roughly 85 different responsibilities you’ve been juggling, you’re here! Nothing can stop you now!
Until you open your bag and realize that your trusty headphones are nowhere to be found. You’re at a crossroads now: Do you go it alone, and take on the workout without the personal soundtrack of your choice? Or do you just give up your plan to exercise entirely and just turn around to go home?
You wouldn’t be alone if the lack of headphones was enough cause for you to pack it in. And that’s just one of many arguably non-essential items that we use to spur us along on our workouts, or to make us feel like we’ve actually accomplished anything at all with our exercise. These things might be material and functional, like headphones or another piece of gear, or they can be less tangible, like the thrill that comes when you fill your step count or post a #fitspo on social media. Just about everyone has their own rituals, but none of them will actually do the work0ut. That’s all up to you.
We asked around the Men’s Health and Women’s Health office and came up with a few examples of these workout requirements that resonated with our staffers. Some of them are practical—like a person with long hair needing a tie to hold their mane out of their face. Others, mostly those associated with technology, are a bit more ridiculous, updating the age-old philosophical tree in the woods question—if you can’t post about your workout, did it even happen?
What Throws Off Your Workout?
Forgetting my headphones isn’t a deal breaker for me, but the potential that a gym’s Top 40-heavy playlist will spit out a “song” by Pitbull does make me shudder. Other people just can’t bear to go without their own audio at all.
“If I get to the gym and I realize that I don’t have my headphones, there’s a real negotiation that takes place in my mind about whether to suck it up or to bail,” says Spencer Dukoff, MH deputy editor. “It’s less that music pumps me up—it does—and more that I am SO DISTRACTED by my own heavy breathing that I can’t get in the zone. My workouts suck when I don’t have headphones as opposed to when I do.”
Your Tracker Isn’t Working
Fitness trackers are now so commonly used that people feel as unprepared to take on a workout without one as if they had left the house without their shoes. Features like Apple’s Activity rings or Fitbit’s step goals are strong incentives to get moving—but wasting your energy on a run or lift session that won’t be logged turns into a deterrent when you’re too wrapped up in the data and the ego boost that comes with achieving the fitness goals.
“If I forget to turn on my Apple Watch activity monitor, did the workout really happen?” wonders WH Editor-in-Chief Liz Plosser. “I have been tempted to bail on a workout when my watch is dead or not on wrist for some reason.”
You Forgot Your… Support
Just about all of my contemporaries at WH agreed that a workout without a sports bra is a non-starter, there is a male equivalent: compression shorts.
This one hits home with me. There’s no way that I’ll even consider going on a run without the tight-fitting undergarments, for the same reason women won’t take to the treadmill without the proper gear. I know that I need support down there to feel right, and my normal underwear just won’t cut it. I could gut it out through the discomfort, but I’d probably rather call it a day instead.
You Didn’t Do Enough
Are you only satisfied that you’ve done a hard days work when you can really feel it? Despite our modern obsession with time optimization and squeezing as much productivity out of every activity, some people feel the opposite about their exercise. If they didn’t spend more than some arbitrary amount of time moving—several people said 30 minutes—they just can’t feel like they accomplished anything.
“I always feel like I have to work out for 30 minutes or it doesn’t ‘count’.” says Amanda Woerner, WH executive digital editor. “Right or wrong, it’s just a mental thing I can’t let go of!”
Time wasn’t the only factor here; others mentioned that their sweat level or, more technically, heart rate also had to pass a certain level to feel accomplished. Either way, our 10-minute burner workouts aren’t for them.
No Selfie? No Progress.
You know the type: Everything needs to be documented. If they can’t do it for the ‘Gram, they don’t do anything at all.
If you’re one of these people, please reconsider your training outlook. There’s nothing wrong with showing off your #gains, but your hard work is worth more than the likes. Or at least don’t be worried if you can’t take your phone on the gym floor—after all, there’s always the locker room mirror waiting and ready once you’re done with the actual work.
By Brett Williams