Wanted: The Diogenes (Fitness) Club
May 26, 2015 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Please help me select a new fitness activity that will push me to greatness without pushing me over the edge. Difficulty level: awkward solitude-loving INTJ.

In a nutshell: I'm a healthy mid-thirties lady. I've been working out on my own for a decade. However, two things occurred recently which made me want to step up my game: 1. Mr. Thumbscrew started looking ripped within 0.0001 seconds of beginning Crossfit, and, 2. My therapist and I set a goal for me to pick - and STICK WITH! - a challenging fitness activity for at least a year (two of the things I'm addressing in therapy are body-image issues and inability-to-stick-with-stuff issues).

My dilemma: I feel like a group environment would make me work WAY harder than I do during my own solitary workouts. However, aggressively social and/or cultish environments make me queasy. I'm also kinda allergic to pseudoscience and hype.

My Actual Question(s): 1. What fitness activities exist that will push me hard, motivate me, let me do things that I couldn't do on my own in my wee basement gym... WITHOUT aggravating my inner reclusive nerd? 2. If any of these magical activities are located in either Philadelphia and/or the Bucks County, PA area, that would be awesome. 3. Activities which are easily QUANTIFIABLE (e.g. weightlifting) are ideal - the more numbers and feedback and data I have, the happier I am.
posted by julthumbscrew to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Not quantifiable, but I recently started taking a boxing class. The instructor is a trainer at my gym, but he'd been boxing since he was like 6, and while in the military, and lives and breaths boxing - and knows his stuff very well.

I LOVE IT SO HARD. Unfortunately it's offered only once a week, but I love it so much. Things I love (and I knew absolutely nothing about boxing before, so pardon my still newb-ness):
- hitting stuff in a controlled environment is a great release!
- the focus required. I quickly learned that boxing isn't just hitting stuff, but requires an immense amount of intent focus and listening. I'm hoping this will help in other, non-exercise life-stuff areas.
- conditioning (or cross-training) throughout the class. So I get a mix of cardio (jumping jacks, jogging) and some strength stuff (push-ups, squats), plus sit-ups, and a mixed, ever-changing bag of activities. I feel like I get a pretty well-rounded workout.
- It makes me feel a little tough-ass and strong, especially as I'm now trying to work on some upper body strength stuff.
- I am pretty introverted, though I can fake extroversion when necessary. But the class is mostly listening, and following instructions, so they suit my independent, introverted side pretty well. It's a typical class at a gym with other people, but you can probably find an independent trainer or class (or experiment with both) to see what fits you best.
posted by raztaj at 10:47 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm also an INTJ. I do many CrossFit WODs on my own at home for the cardio portion of my workouts. It's totally not necessary to go to a box.

What equipment do you have in your basement gym? You can get a lot of mileage out of a barbell, bumper plates, and a basic squat rack.
posted by culfinglin at 11:05 AM on May 26, 2015

Martial arts?
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:11 AM on May 26, 2015

I'm a bit like you, not super into anything that seems to lean up against "groupthink". My solution? Biking, specifically road biking. It's great for a few reasons:

You can start off in a regular spin class (NOT soulcycle or whatever that biking cult is called) and then you can start going on group rides.

If/when you find the group is too much, you can totally ride on your own and it is glorious.

Spin classes are great because most instructors are very good at motivating you to push yourself. Outdoor biking is great because going fast is really fun so you WANT to push yourself.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:14 AM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Rock climbing, and specifically bouldering so you don't need a spotter. Being able to climb harder routes as you learn is such a thrill. Indoor gym or outside. You may want to get some lessons as you go, but you can do a ton of practice, work, and learning on your own.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:58 AM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

I can't really tell if you're specifically looking for group stuff or specifically not looking for group stuff. That said, I've been working out at Cool Hearts Boxing/MMA Gym in The Piazza. I go there to train alone, but most people go there for the classes. The owner, Rigel, seems like a really nice guy. The rates are much more reasonable than CrossFit.

Warhorse Barbell Club is set to open within the next couple of weeks a few blocks away in Northern Liberties and looks very promising. I don't know them personally but they're friends of friends and I'm planning on going there when they open up. I know they're going to offer training as well.

There's also Meat Sweatz, an Olympic weightlifting club that operates out of CrossFit Love in NoLibs. They're very welcoming and will teach you to Olympic lift.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:02 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

What about buying a bunch of sessions with a personal trainer? In my experience with a trainer, I've gotten a lot more comfortable with working really hard and I've learned some new things. That can hopefully help you translate those skills back into working out alone.
posted by mchorn at 12:04 PM on May 26, 2015

Echoing the boxing/muay thai recommendation, for the same reasons as raztaj. I'm pretty introverted and by and large, the only person who talks is the instructor (who is woo-free as far as I'm aware.) You can always quantify by, say, how many pushups/chin-ups you can do, or how many rounds of bagwork/rope you can make it through, or how you do while sparring, depending on what kind of quantification makes you happy.

A chunk of whether or not you like any group activity is definitely going to be down to the trainer/group you're with, though, so I'd try a few different places and activities before committing for a year. It took me about three rounds of testing the waters before I found a gym I liked enough to stick with, and I still occasionally check on what else is out there.
posted by tautological at 12:15 PM on May 26, 2015

Not sure if it fits your qualifications of challenging, but swimming laps at the public pool is a good compromise for me. I don't have to talk to anyone, but keeping up with other swimmers in the fast lane prevents me from taking it too easy.
posted by noxperpetua at 5:30 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is running an option? I think it's one of the less bro-sciencey of the popular fitness activities. And running clubs--despite the word "club" in the title--IME tend to be populated with other reclusive nerds. Of course, most people pursue running on their own anyhow and that's entirely an option, but since you mention that you think some sort of group setting might help push you to stretch your goals, you might look into a club to keep you motivated. Sign up for a challenging but not impossible distance in the fall and set your sights on doubling that distance in a spring race (something like a fall 10k and spring half-marathon would be reasonable targets for someone who is not currently a runner but also not a couch potato).
posted by drlith at 5:32 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Martial arts is great but it's very hard for the first few months while your body is adjusting to the movements. I'm also an introvert and I picked Muay Thai as my activity for similar reasons. It works for me, but man, there are a million reasons to quit. Not only is it hard on your body, you also tend to break things like fingers and toes doing any kind of martial arts.

Weightlifting sounds great for you. Lots of numbers to show you're getting better. If you're not comfortable lifting yet you could hire a personal trainer at the gym to show you the basics.
posted by deathpanels at 6:11 PM on May 26, 2015

I second cycling. As an INTJ I found both road cycling and mountain biking easy to get into, although I lived in a very nice area for it (California central coast).

Road cycling in particular is very quantifiable; just off the top of my head I can think of several ways that roadies commonly measure progress: mileage, speed, elevation covered, heart rate, sustained or peak watt output. With all of these, there exists ways of creating long-term records on your computer or in the cloud. Some of these are more expensive to measure than others.

Group rides are a nice way to learn the popular routes in an area, and in larger groups or faster rides there's not much pressure to converse. Popular routes tend to go out into rural areas, so there is that sense of solitude. I also found that a helmet and cycling sunglasses lends me a sense of anonymity and helped me get over some of my weird anxiety about cycling in busy areas with more traffic and more onlookers.
posted by cobro at 6:42 PM on May 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

My first few months in karate were hard, but fun. I started out knowing nothing; in a year, I learned 5 katas, 5 ippon kumite katas (performed on the right and left sides), stances, blocks, and a variety of self-defense techniques. For a long time, I was the lowest belt in the class, but it was okay; everyone starts out at the bottom and works their way up.
posted by mogget at 9:35 PM on May 26, 2015

Weightlifting is a great solitary pursuit, and the data you can play with is endless.
One of my gyms tracks every single movement in a database. Then tells you how much total weight you moved, and how fast you moved it. They track your records, both for an individual single lift and series of lifts.
If you don't have a database, paper works too. And figuring out how to get to lifting 300 pounds once by lifting 200 pounds 30 times for 10 weeks is a lot of fun.
No one at the gym will have the same goals and challenges as you so you're on your own anyhow.
You can do a lot of science-y things with bodybuilder style diets, too. Cut fat or gain muscle by eating according to plan. More data!
Start with a trainer.
The research and data is deep too, here's a blogger that does lots of research and evaluation:
posted by littlewater at 9:55 PM on May 26, 2015

Seconding or thirding a personal trainer for strength and mobility training.

But first, think about what you want. To be stronger? To be better at certain physical activities? Learn compound exercises? Or just establish a routine of your own?

A good trainer can help with all of these. The trick is figuring out if their style matches with yours.
posted by canine epigram at 10:58 PM on May 26, 2015

What about a barre class? They're a bit of a fad at the moment but they're also a fantastic whole body work out. It's a ballet style class with the exercises done while on the balls of your feet. Some classes use hand weights, leg weights, or a ball for different exercises and others incorporate yoga style exercises. I've even come across one that does a circuit. My thighs are so much stronger now!

There's a bit of camaraderie in the classes - everybody pulls faces when it's tough and there are sympathetic smiles when you drop the ball (literally, drop the ball - four times in my first class!). You can chat with people before or after if that's your thing or just go quietly to the bar and start your warm up.

In terms of quantifying it, you can track how heavy the hand/leg weights are in each session, or how much of the session you can wear the leg weights for. You can probably find some way of measuring your flexibility to see how that changes (I have a friend who can only touch her toes immediately after class). Its a bit harder to track how high you can lift your leg (above the barre vs below the barre?). Personally, I'm working to develop enough flexibility to do the splits, purely because I've never been able to.

Quite a few studios offer a free first class, so you can give it a try. It's definitely worth looking around to find an instructor that you click with though - I'm not big on the drill sergeant style which some people go for. I have found a gorgeous instructor who terrorises us all in the nicest way possible; she demands we work hard because she knows we want to be pushed but she does it without raising her voice at all.
posted by eloeth-starr at 2:32 AM on May 27, 2015

What about a couch to 5k program? It has the advantage (if you are someone that is good at finding excuses not to do things) that there aren't many excuses. All you need is a good pair of running shoes, decent enough running gear and out the door!

The couch to 5k will give the improvement of pushing yourself so each week, you can run a little further than you did. Once you've finished couch 2 5k, you can sign up to something like Endomondo running programs which'll set up a running program for you to push you towards running faster or running for longer.
posted by Wysawyg at 5:21 AM on May 27, 2015

Nthing rock climbing. My husband and I are both INTJs and love love love rock climbing and bouldering (he's been climbing for years and years, I've been climbing for about a year and a half). It's accessible to beginners, but gives you a full body workout, especially as you progress up in difficulty (which is nice and quantifiable by grades of 5.8, 5.9, 5.10a, etc. for roped climbs and v0, v1, v2, etc. for non-roped climbs). It has a very mental/technical aspect to it, which grows as you progress as well - in bouldering the climbs are called "problems" for a very good reason. If I'm going to successfully climb something that's near my current limit, I need to look at the route carefully to figure out what each move looks like, where I'm going to rest, how I'm going to shift my weight, etc. Figuring out how to make it work, and building up the mental confidence to do it is my favorite part of the sport.

If you go on your own, you can boulder (low climbs) without a partner. I see people at my gym all the time with their headphones in, or otherwise not engaging with folks (if you do want to engage, climbers are a friendly bunch, and there's a culture of problem-solving a route together or cheering each other on if you sort of signal that you want to interact with others at the gym).

If you want to do roped climbing, you'll need a partner to belay you (unless the local gym has autobelays), but there are a lot of introverts who climb, who you can meet and chill with without a lot of small talk. It's also a great thing to do with your partner, if he's interested, since you don't have to have the same climbing ability to belay each other.
posted by Jaclyn at 1:23 PM on May 27, 2015

Put heavy things in a backpack. Put in your headphones. Walk briskly, for a long time, preferably up hills.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:02 PM on May 28, 2015

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