A model shows how to use a fitness machine at an international bodybuilding fair held in Beijing last Friday.Insert: Members of a gym follow their trainer in a workout session on May 3, 2006. The gym was packed during the week-long May Day holiday. (Xinhua Photo)
"I have never felt that exercise can be so painful," says the 29-year-old.
"I was physically strong 10 years ago. I ran 3 kilometers every day and did 60 sit-ups in a row." As a member of the Mountain Climbing Team of Peking University, she once easily went through the intensified training.
Like many other white-collars, Lu sits for most of the time at work, and gave up physical exercise years ago. About a month ago she became obsessed with the extra fat on her waist and thighs, so she purchased an one-year membership at a gym near her apartment. But she can't guarantee a regular workout even on weekends.
"Sometimes I work overtime on Saturday. So on Sunday, I would rather sleep, go shopping and meet friends than workout," she says.
"It takes you hours to prepare, to exercise and to take a shower. When I'm back home, I'm too exhausted to go out and have fun. That is also why many people like me avoid the gym."
She wonders whether she can regain good curves before her enthusiasm for fitness burns out.
Her concerns are echoed by a large female population in the fitness centers, who, as the summer rolls on, plunge whole-heartedly into body building.
"During this time of the year, we usually see an increase of women members," says Chen Baobing, who works at a fitness center in Beijing. "Through training programs, they hope to fit perfectly into their short, tight clothes."
However, many female gym-goers agree that a workout is one of the hardest things they can do and many have unrealistic goals.
"About 95 percent of women come to lose weight, even though many of them actually don't need to," says Gao Xue, a personal trainer at a health club.
Gao says that many women are not plump, considering the percentage of their weight against height. But doing appropriate workouts can help reduce the amount of fat and build up muscles, which enables them to look slimmer even though their weight changes little.
But most women come into the gym in the hope of losing 10 kilograms or more quickly. They might weigh much less after the first few workouts. But a few weeks later, they will be disappointed that they achieve no further progress.
"They feel discouraged and thus cut down gym frequency till they finally quit," Gao says.
The expert suggests that keeping fit should be the first goal on people's workout agenda. And it is necessary to take a thorough physical assessment before people throw themselves on a treadmill.
"I keep all my assessment records," says Lu. "They help me get a better idea of my body and choose a proper training program.
"They also protect me from possibly getting hurt during exercise," she says, adding that many people do not realize the importance of a regular assessment. She says many people think it is some promotion trick.
Unlike the crowded treadmill area and spinning room, the weights room usually displays a noticeable gender imbalance as males overwhelmingly outnumber females. Women gym-goers passing by the weights room sometimes throw a careless but admiring look at the muscular guys working out there. But if they see girls lifting barbells under the instruction of personal trainers, they change into disapproving expressions.
Yan Yu used to share the same critical attitude. "Every time I walked across the area, I saw all men there, struggling with scary equipment," she says. "I said to myself: 'It is men's stuff, unsuitable for us'."
She lists another three reasons why girls avoid the strength training: It makes them look muscular, it is boring, and it brings wear and tear.
Yan started a personal strength-training program in March, and has almost completed the fourth session (12 classes per session).
The positive changes in her body have proved how absolutely wrong she used to be. "I became tired easily, and I felt terribly sore after the first few classes," she says.
"Now I can bear the intensity and my endurance has obviously improved. The class is not at all tedious, because my trainer teaches me a lot about workout in the right way.
"The most cheering thing is that I've lost nearly 10 kilograms. I am slim and my arms and legs do not look fat any more."
"Everyone needs strength training," says trainer Gao Xue. "It develops our muscles, shapes our bodies, protects our bones and stimulates our basic metabolism. It helps with the fat removal in aerobic activities." Gao emphasizes that women should add weights into their gym program.
Yu says that almost all her roommates engage in the strength training. "We see benefits and feel happy during the training. All the unreasonable worries and suspicion have faded away," she says.
Meanwhile, not all gym-goers gain improvement even after a period of regular trainings.
"If that happens, the problem is highly likely to be outside the gym, which means improper diet and irregular life," says Chen Baobing.
He explains that some members put on weight because they eat much more after workout than they previously did.
And it is not uncommon among girls to abandon rice and wheaten food or become vegetarian, mistakenly thinking that helps lose weight.
Yan Yu quit eating rice after she began working out at the gym four years ago. She saw instant results but her weight bounced back when she consumed too much meat. She tries to have more rice, bread, vegetables and fruits as her trainer suggests.
"I know I should readjust my eating habit. But it is just too difficult to control your mouth," she says.
Her trainer also asks her not to stay up late and to get up early to have breakfast. "I always have a feast-like dinner, and don't feel hungry at all in the morning," she adds.
Gao Xue asks his members who have the same problem to write down what they eat. "The way they live outside the gym is out of our trainers' control. We can tell them what to do, but it depends on themselves."
Both he and Chen believe that cultivating a regular workout habit is most important, whether people exercise in the gym or not.
"Chinese should incorporate the exercise into their lives, in which they really enjoy themselves," Gao says.
(Source: China Daily)