Fitness Culture in the US -- American Gym Rats and Health Nuts

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Listen to this Advanced English conversation where we talk about fitness culture in the US. How do Americans exercise? What are gym rats? Are you a health nut? We explore these exercise concepts and more in this native English speaker conversation about fitness and movement.

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF THE NATIVE SPEAKER CONVERSATION LESSON:

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Mary Daphne
Hi, everyone. Welcome back to this Advanced English conversation with Greg and Mary. Daphne, it's wonderful that you're joining us today. The idea behind these lessons and these conversations is to give you an opportunity to practice listening to native English speakers and to test your listening comprehension and also to learn a little bit about American culture and just have a good time along with us. These conversations are not scripted. They are live real conversations. And Greg doesn't know what I'm going to say. And I don't know what Greg's going to say. So that's the fun of it is the beauty of conversation. So with that, we're going to get right into this conversation.

Mary Daphne
All right. So today's topic is gym culture in the US. And then alongside that, because I think it's quite relevant, the changing landscape of fitness and.

Greg Charles
How intriguing.

Mary Daphne
Yes.

Greg Charles
Where to start.

Mary Daphne
I know. So just a full disclosure here, Greg and I just we're kind of health nuts and fitness obsessed people.

Greg Charles
So certainly our family think so.

Mary Daphne
Yeah. And if you've ever heard the term gym rat or health nut, it's funny because these tend to be a little bit derogatory. However, they're very important to the person who's interested in fitness, but also for one's health, wouldn't you say?

Greg Charles
Totally totally. And these days, you can also have I've heard terms like fitness nerd, right? And they're sort of a combination of a compliment and an insult right? Like no one really wants to be a nerd. At the same time. We're almost proud to be nerds because it means we take this thing very seriously. It means a lot to us and we're happy for people to think we're weird because we know that the benefits outweigh the, you know, the negative impression of being weird.

Mary Daphne
That's right. But I would say in general, people in the US do tend to be aware of the benefits of health and fitness. And, you know, with the emerging research on the importance of building muscle and things like that, you sort of see how there are more and more people now going to gyms, lifting weights, doing this kind of thing.

Mary Daphne
And so we say going to the gym, but that also could mean working out at home.

Greg Charles
Totally. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And you're right over the years, it's become more and more socially acceptable to place a very high priority on your physical fitness. Yeah. You know, back in the fifties, sixties, it was considered very much like a hobby that something, something that would enthusiasts, people who were, you know, particularly focused and excited about something they would do, but the normal person wouldn't really do.

Greg Charles
You know, you might sample it once or twice but not do it regularly. And then, you know, as the years passed and as the decades passed, it became more and more a centerpiece of, you know, the foundation of good health.

Mary Daphne
Right.

Greg Charles
And alongside that, the idea of fitness became not just sort of a hobby and something that would be nice. It became something that's integral to, you know, longevity and just feeling good right. And so these days, you know, when you say you go to the gym every day, people don't think you're crazy, right?

Mary Daphne
They don't bat an eye. They don't think that's weird.

Greg Charles
Like, Oh, that's great. Yeah. So do I.

Mary Daphne
Assume do you go, too? Yeah. So for someone who is in the fitness space and is a gym rat or a fitness nerd or a fitness enthusiast, you know, I think if you were to just stop them on the street or at the gym and ask them, why are you working out what are your goals? I think people's goals are twofold.

Mary Daphne
I think for the most part, I think a lot of people are driven by this idea of improving their physical appearance and ultimately driven by esthetic goals where, you know, building muscles will have will change your physique, will give you more energy, it will make you feel good about yourself or even better about yourself. Build that confidence. But then on the other side, there's that second goal, I think, or maybe that's the first goal for you, certainly is for me, the longevity purpose, the the aspect of doing as much as you can to feel good every day, every day when you wake up and throughout the years, not just at 20 years, old, not just

Mary Daphne
at 30 years old, but you know, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, maybe 100 years old. Right. Who knows? So the two types of goals there, when you say.

Greg Charles
Yeah, definitely. And going back to the sort of progression of fitness culture. Yeah, it used to be that the primary focus really was the esthetics, right, the looks right, the big muscles, the toned abs. Right. That was what I meant.

Mary Daphne
Machine.

Greg Charles
Yeah, yeah. That was the idea behind going to the gym. It was all about, you know, for lack of a better word, it's a little harsh, but it really was about vanity. How do I look in the mirror? How do I look on the beach? Yeah, and that's fine. There's nothing wrong with pursuing that. But over the years, we learned not only does it make you look good, it also makes you feel good.

Greg Charles
Yeah. And it also, more importantly for me, as you said, for you, it helps you live long, right? And I don't necessarily mean a longer lifespan. It could also be that as you get older, even if you don't live into your, you know, 100 years old.

Mary Daphne
The quality, quality.

Greg Charles
If your life remains high until, you know, your end. And so that is very important to me. Right. What motivates me, what gets me going to the gym? I mean, I'm not a huge muscled guy, right? Most people probably don't even think I am a gym rat.

Mary Daphne
But he's very strong. You're very, very strong.

Greg Charles
Thank you. But it doesn't look that way. And that's fine to me that the esthetic part of it doesn't really matter to me.

Mary Daphne
It's a byproduct. It's a plus

Greg Charles
Plus an added benefit of doing it, but maybe ancillary. It's ancillary.

Mary Daphne
Right?

Greg Charles
What I really care about is the health aspects and the longevity component of it. Yeah. So that's what motivates me ultimately.

Mary Daphne
Yeah. I think that's definitely how I feel as well. I mean, since I started lifting weights, I mean, it's just changed my life for the better. I grew up dancing, so I wasn't really in a gym that much. And then when I got to college, I started, you know, playing around with lifting weights and doing exercise classes, which I also really loved.

Mary Daphne
And then, you know, going to a gym. So let's quickly touch upon gym etiquette because we talked about opening this lesson in conversation with this idea of gym culture. So I think the main difference between working out at home and working out in a gym is that you have other people there and they're strangers, mostly predominantly strangers.

Mary Daphne
So what would you say because you're an experienced gym goer, what would you say, Greg?

Mary Daphne
As far as the etiquette goes for being in a gym, being a respectful gym goer, what are the rules?

Greg Charles
Well, that's a great question. And it is important right at home. You don't have to worry about where you put the weights and cleaning things off and so forth. When you get to a gym, there are rules that you want to follow. Yes. The number one thing is to be considerate, right? You want to comport yourself. You want to behave the same way that you would want others to behave.

Greg Charles
Right. So if you're using weights and you leave them on the ground, that could be frustrating for the next person who wants to use those weights but can't find them because they're lying on the ground somewhere. Right. So being organized with your weights is good. Cleaning off the equipment after you use it so that it's not covered in your sweat.

Greg Charles
I mean, you wouldn't want to get onto a piece of equipment like a bench that's, you know, has big sweat marks on it. No thanks. And neither does anyone else. So once you use the equipment, you clean it off. Another one is to not hog the equipment, right?

Mary Daphne
Oh, my gosh.

Greg Charles
Nothing's more annoying than, you know, let's say you want to do some squats and there's this one person who's just stuck there doing squats for the last hour and she was moved. Squat rack. Yeah. Yeah, right. Or the guy who's hogging the barbell. And so, you know, you don't get to do your bench press because this guy just won't move.

Greg Charles
Yeah. And related to that, which drives me crazy.

Mary Daphne
I think I know you're going to say.

Greg Charles
When people are on their phone.

Mary Daphne
Exactly. The texters or the social media scroller, you know, who at the gym like, it's one thing to do that. That's fine. That's your own time. But when you're in a public space and people are waiting for the equipment and they're about to rotate through that machine and you see somebody not working out, they're not even it doesn't even look like they've broken up.

Mary Daphne
Yeah, yeah, yeah. They're just in there, you know, athleisure wear there. And they're like looking at their phone, scrolling, texting, whatever, they're doing. Yeah.

Greg Charles
That's fine. If you're in a seat, if you're, if you're, if you're using the equipment, you know, you don't want to be doing other things as well. It's just frustrating for the people who are there to do only one thing, which is to work out.

Mary Daphne
Yeah. But I think for the most part, people are pretty respectful.

Greg Charles
Yes.

Mary Daphne
And, you know, if there is a situation where you notice there's that one person that always is hogging that one machine and you really, you know, you're pressed for time. You need to get to work. You need to get your day started or you need to get home and get dinner, you know, gently saying, are you done with this machine?

Mary Daphne
Can I do my reps?

Greg Charles
That's what I like to do. Yeah. Often if I find someone's using a lot, what I'll just say is, hey, can I sub in? Can I swap in? Right. Basically just saying I'm going to do my part quickly and then you can, you know, resume whatever it is you're doing. Right.

Mary Daphne
So always over there.

Greg Charles
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. So there are ways to negotiate those tricky social situations. Yes. Politely but firmly. Yeah. So that's that's yeah, that's another big part of Connecticut.

Mary Daphne
That's right. And now you know that people are also working out at home since we've had good practice doing that for the last two and a half years. I think most of us people have found that, you know, oh, instead of having this gym membership where I'm spending a lot of money every month, I can just, you know, get very similar benefits and results from working out at home, maybe purchase a couple of dumbbells or a barbell rack and then you know, the Internet is your friend.

Mary Daphne
There's a lot of wonderful trainers out there. So many recommendations on that front. But that's yeah, another time yeah.

Greg Charles
No, it's true. I mean, there's so many online resources now, and so it's so easy to get equipment online that I highly encourage anyone who's maybe a little nervous to get into the gym. Maybe they don't, they don't like the crowds. They don't want the pressure of other people watching them just get a few pieces of equipment, a home, a couple dumbbells and you'll find some amazing coaches.

Greg Charles
Caroline Girvin
Mary Daphne
That’s one of my favorites.

Greg Charles
Sydney Cummings.

Mary Daphne
Love Sydney as well, wow you know, all  of them.

Greg Charles
I know.

Mary Daphne
I talk about them all day, right?

Greg Charles
And then she tells me and then I actually do them, too. Yeah.

Mary Daphne
And then the one that you really like is the Nike Training Club.

Greg Charles
Nike Training Club is a great app. It's got a lot of great, great workouts on there. Yeah. And then the other thing I would say is if you're used to just doing a jog or something very repetitive. Yeah, don't be afraid to try the weights out too. You know, if you're a woman and you're worried about building too much muscle, that's not going to happen.

Mary Daphne
It's not going to happen. It's very hard to have accidental muscle.

Greg Charles
And the benefit, the health benefits of resistance training using weights is very, very significant. Right and so it's not really just about building muscle. It's about being strong.

Mary Daphne
And strengthening your bones, too.

Greg Charles
Exactly.

Mary Daphne
So, yeah, there are so many great things we can do. A follow up video, a follow up conversation and lesson about this if you're interested in learning more about it. It's definitely something we're passionate about. So what about you? Let us know. How do you work out? Do you like going to the gym? Do you like doing it at home?

Mary Daphne
Have you tried different types of workouts like strength training, resistance training, cardio, what? What's your jam? And I think we will continue this conversation at a later date because like I said, we enjoy it and hopefully you do too.

Greg Charles
Yeah. The other thing I'll just say is, you know, if we're using specialized terms, work out terms that, you know, even people speaking native English aren't familiar with through just Google them online. Right? There's so much information on there about all of these different things and the terminology is very widespread. So don't be intimidated by that either.

Mary Daphne
Awesome. So thank you so much for joining me, Greg. Thanks for joining us everyone out there. And be sure you're subscribed if you love the podcast leave us a nice review. You can leave up to five stars. Be sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel. Check out our blog and subscribe to our newsletter. It's 100 percent free. And keep doing what you're doing.

Mary Daphne
These kinds of conversations are going to help you with your English pronunciation, your fluency, your conversation skills, as well as your listening comprehension. So we've got a lot going here and you're doing a great job and we will see you in the next one. All right. Terrific. All right, bye.