This is for squatting. If you're moving your arms and not your legs, you're not squatting.

First, for all the gym novices out there: the photo to the right is a squat rack. If you do biceps curls there, everyone’s going to think you’re a moron. If you’re not sure where the E-Z-curl bars are, please ask the facility personnel.

About 16 years ago I bought my first pair of weights: they were 3-lb dumbbells coated in green plastic. One of my best friends had been certified as a personal trainer and was trying to get me away from the obsessive lap swimming that was my life. She took me to her gym, ran me through some exercises. But you know what? I didn’t get it. I couldn’t understand the concept of training with weights because it seemed to burn too few calories. I was into distance swimming, several miles a day (and yes, I counted in miles). I wouldn’t even bother getting into the water if I only had time for a mile. In that case, I’d run about five miles and call it a “workout”.

The name of the game was burning calories. So lifting weights seemed pointless. Muscle-building? Why? I was almost 6-ft tall! The last thing I wanted was to be even bigger.

I didn’t GET IT.

It wasn’t until a few years later, after recurrent ear infections from constantly being wet, that the entire concept hit me, but it took several stages to get there. I started out with machines, then free weights, and soon I wasn’t happy unless I was intimidating the poor guy trying to work in with me.

My point is, we have to start somewhere. Most gym novices have little to no idea of what to do, particularly those of us who grew up in the aerobics era when arm-flapping was all the rage. Training wisdom is not encoded on our genes. While I feel that guidance from a knowledgeable trainer is more cost-effective than wandering through the twists and turns of the fitness information wilderness, most people won’t hire one (and, frankly, some trainers don’t deserve to be hired). They’ll search for info on the Internet, and maybe 50% of what they learn will be WRONG, depending on where they go.

Then they’ll go to the gym and end up as the ridiculed subject of blog posts.

Many people who are giving up on their resolutions right now will soon revert to their old habits, convinced that “weight loss” or “getting in shape” is too complicated, and will search for an easier way to go about it. And believe me, they’ll find it in the form of detox fasts, “shake weights” and magical fitness breakthrough pills that promise results without the effort. In a sense, when someone tries and fails going about it the ‘right way’ (um, what exactly is that?), they provide fodder for the scammers. These outrageous products wouldn’t exist if there weren’t a market for them. If you’re a trainer and not frustrated by the amount of misinformation on the ‘net, wake up. That’s your competition out there.

Next time I’m at a training facility and see someone curling in the squat rack, I won’t chuckle to myself. I’m going to gently and quietly tell them they look like an idiot and point them in the right direction. I urge you to do the same. The truth may hurt, but if you go about it the right way, someday they’ll thank you for it.

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