The Dad Workout
After two years working from home I’m 25% more agoraphobic, and 25% in better shape. WFH giveth and WFH taketh away.
And like anyone who has been doing anything for 2 years on the internet, I have approximately 10 years worth of opinions.
These are my recommendations for the optimal dad workout if you are a 40-year-old dude getting back in shape. Or just for the “dad-at-heart.”
What to wear
The basic outfit requirements are pretty simple.
Shoes: First you need like 5-year-old running sneakers. Reeboks or Asics. Something nondescript and ideally grey.
Socks: Then you need some short ass socks. Like they barely peek over the sides of the sneakers. You need all the ankle surface area exposure possible. Cool ankles and calves equal a great workout.
Shorts: But then you need to warm them knees up, so find some basketball shorts that reach at least mid-knee cap. Lots of pockets too. We’re talking a lot of material here. Cool ankles. Warm knees. Can’t lose.
Shirt: Surely you have a 5K or walkathon shirt you can wear. Some kind of a thon. It’s a free shirt, so you’re going to wear the hell out of that. And it’s from an active/exercise event of some kind. I’m sure the event organizers selected only the highest quality of weirdly stiff cotton shirt specifically for optimal performance reasons.
Hat: You need to wear a baseball cap. Not a snapback hat if you’re over 35. Those are those flat-brimmed hats. I promise you, if you’re over 35 wearing a snapback there is someone under 35 telling their friends about how they saw an old dude (you) at the gym ridiculously wearing a snapback hat today. You want that curved bill to be so curved it dangerously impedes your peripheral vision.
We’re also looking for a hat with a non-athletic brand on the front, like Circuit City or some douchey consulting company. Or the name of a vacation town or golf course. Nothing “showy” like Nike or something.
Ideally it’s adjustable too. Your head isn’t going to wildly fluctuate in size, so the adjustability may not seem like a real “feature” at first. But some day you’ll be at a baseball game or fishing with your kids, and they’ll have forgotten to wear a hat, and they’ll be desperate to share your sweaty hat with the adjustable strap pulled so tight it looks like a goddamn ripcord in the back.
Earphones: Borrow your kids’ earphones. They are almost certainly better than any earphones you own. You need something really powerful to turn up the Offspring or Queens of the Stone Age* you’re cranking.
You want to listen to music so loudly that the apps on your phone should be communicating with one another that they’re worried you’re overdoing it. Spotify should be checking with your Health app to let it know you’re listening to Nine Inch Nails for the first time in 15 years, and Spotify wants to check your age and blood pressure. Google Maps will have alarmingly let the other apps know it appears you’re at a gym, and your phone app should have 9–1–1 pre-dialed and be ready to pounce and press call on your behalf if you stop moving.
*Personally I listen to mainly bagpipe music, early 00’s post grunge, and Run The Jewels. My playlist is called “White Cop.”
You don’t need any other equipment. You don’t need gloves, or compression sleeves, or tights or whatever else you’re thinking about wearing. Stop. It’s a slippery slope. Once you break out some gloves you’re like 4 weeks away from wearing one of those velcro girdle things and a full-on midlife crisis.
Clean equipment after use
You gotta wipe these things down like you’re cleaning prints at a crime scene. No one wants to sit in your sweat and filth when they’re getting their workout on. You’re a middle aged dude, the gym probably makes you sweat like you stole something. And I’m pretty sure you smell 10% more like Burger King than you realize. You’re gross. Accept it.
Leave your stuff (hat, phone, etc.) on the equipment you were just using, saving your spot. We don’t want anyone unsuspectingly using that bench until we’ve properly scrubbed it down. Walk over to the wall-mounted soap dispenser, pump like 4 or 5 squirts into a paper towel and then wipe the remaining soap drips from the dispenser nozzle. See that stain on the floor underneath? That’s from ding dongs leaving the extra soap to drip after they use it. Tend the undercarriage.
Wipe down every surface you touched on the weight bench. The top, the sides, under those knee roller things you wedge your legs under. And then wipe until the excess soap is dried up. No one wants to sit in your filth, and no one wants to lay in the puddle of antibacterial soap you left behind.
Get the hell out of the locker room
Shower at home. Seriously, take your sweaty ass, get in your car, drive home and shower. Spend as little time in the locker room as possible. Are you trying to get a staff infection? Looking for a little MRSA action? On the way into the gym put your crap in a locker, then get out of there. On the way out swing through to pick up your stuff, then get out of there.
You will see things in the locker room you can never unsee. When 75 year old men get into a locker room they go nuts. It’s like the whole locker room is the pool in the movie Cocoon. They become the spryest, bendiest, most horrifyingly flexible old men on the planet.
They also become allergic to their clothing. It’s like the dangliest tour of Circ de Soleil.
And Jesus Christ have they never seen a hair dryer before? Imagine if you gave a hair dryer to a chimp. Imagine all the insane places those goofy bastards would aim the torrents of hot air the first time they picked up a blow dryer. It’s the same thing, but these maniacs are all headed to IHOP afterwards. Get the fuck out of there.
Don’t. Don’t make eye contact. No one wants to talk to you. You’re a middle aged “old.” Especially in gym-years, which are like dog years. 40 is the new 60 at the gym. Ain’t no one at this gym who wants to get chatted up by your Ben Folds/Tribe Called Quest listening ass.
Here’s an example of how to behave. Look around the gym, find an attractive 25-year-old woman. You’re looking too long! Furtively look around. Jesus, be cool. Out of the corner of your eye you dirtbag.
See? See how she avoids eye contact with literally every dude in the gym? It’s amazing. It’s a survival skill. She knows if she’s unlucky enough to make eye contact with a middle aged dumb dumb like you, you’ll think she’s into you, or flirting or some shit, instead of just she’s being pleasant or polite or a normal human being. She knows any eye contact, even inadvertent, is an invitation to weirdos.
Do what she does. Adopt the thousand-yard-stare. Look right through people, around them, over them. Look at your shoes a lot. Look at the floor and the ceiling. Pull your hat down. Navigate with your peripheral vision.
And watch out for mirrors! Eye contact through a mirror is even creepier than normal weirdo eye contact.
Keep to yourself
Come up with nicknames for the cast of characters you routinely see at the gym. By giving them fake names, you create a false sense of awareness with them that replaces any need to actually meet them and learn their real names.
Some of my best friends at the gym: “Semper Fly,” “Lil-Dancing T’Challa,” and “Old-Parker Posey” I’ve never actually met or spoken to. And because I have my own names for them, I feel like I already barely know them.
Hold the door for women
AND HOLD THE DOOR FOR MEN. Hold the door for everyone. What’s the matter with you? Why can’t you hold the door? Where do you have to be so urgently you can’t hold the door for someone?
Why would you linger and hold the door for a woman walking behind you, but blithely let the door slam in the face of some dude walking the same distance behind you? What are you expecting from the woman you held the door for? You didn’t save her life. There’s no relationship there.
Hold the door for everyone. They’re all either sore from their workout just like you. Or getting ready to get some work done in the gym. In both cases removing obstacles is welcome.
And don’t hang there, holding the door for them, making them pass through while you proudly stand there grinning like Mr. Belvedere. Hold the door open until they arrive at the door, then let it go and let them hold it for themselves as they pass through. You’re like an ice-breaker on an Antarctic voyage. You blow the door open, then let everyone pass through the wake you created.
Don’t sit down
Don’t you ever sit down on the equipment in between sets. Those aren’t park benches. Other people want to use them. Don’t over do it by not taking a break between sets, but don’t get comfortable either. Get your shit done and move on.
In between sets you should be pacing around like a rescue greyhound. It keeps your heartbeat up, it keeps your blood pumping. People who sit around start checking their phones. They start texting or reading an email. Time passes. What should be a short break in between sets becomes a goddamn sabbatical. Don’t sit. And by god don’t ever sit in the locker room. I’m shuddering thinking about what touches the benches in the locker room even as I write this.
One thing at a time
Don’t you dare use more than one piece of equipment at a time. Who are you, Herschel Walker? Billy Blanks? Is your workout so finely tuned and important that you need to rotate through three different exercises to shock your muscle groups for maximum efficiency? Trust me, they’re plenty fucking shocked already.
Use one piece of equipment at a time. You’re at a Planet Fitness, or LA Fitness, or some other kind of Discount-Fitness. You’re not paying enough to deserve more than one piece of equipment at at a time you monster.
Put your shit away
Put. Your. Goddamn. Weights. Away. When. You’re. Done.
That’s like half the workout. You’ve dragged a weight bench under the Smith machine so you can do declines without bothering someone to spot you (Semper Fly is too busy to spot you, keep to yourself remember?). Drag that bench back where you found it.
Put your weights back exactly where they belong when you’re done. If some other asshat has put one of the 35’s where one of the 40’s belongs, then re-rack that shit. That’s a great hobby for you in between sets. You’re not sitting there chilling right? So re-rack the weights during your break between sets.
That includes the plates too. Hang the 45’s on the bottom rack, then the 25’s on their own rack too. Then the 10’s. The 5’s and 2.5’s are like Lord of the Flies on the top rack. Don’t sweat them. But don’t lean 45 lb plates against the wall, and don’t leave them on the floor. Bend at the knees, pick those muthers up, and re-rack them. Then move all the other plates to their respective racks. That thing should look like the picture in the catalog when you’re done.
Imagine how much you could possibly, conceivably stretch. Now triple it. You are old and busted. You need to stretch like Richard Simmons hopped up on goofballs.
You know how your body regenerated your cells automatically? How you’re whole body has been replaced every like 7 years because of new cell growth? Your body stops doing that at around 40 years old. At 40 your body starts prioritizing, and only replaces the cells you actively use.
That’s right, your body biologically writes you off at around 40. Stretch you summbitch. Stretch if only to activate a handful of cells you’re not using now, but might want to use some time before you die.
You’ll never be as young again as you are right this second. You’re older right now. Older now. Older now…
I don’t know. Google some workouts and do them. I don’t care. In fact, no one cares. No one wants to hear about your workouts. No one wants to talk about it with you at a cook out.
If you’re describing your workout to some poor hump, and it appears they’re really into it, I mean they’re really concentrating, they’re not. Inwardly they are trying to will their heart to stop beating. That intensity, that focus, is your listener begging silently for the sweet release of death.
I don’t want to talk religion, I don’t want to know who you voted for, and I sure as hell don’t want to hear about your workout. I’m a dad.