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Our guest today has been in the fitness industry for over 19 years as a personal trainer and gym manager. She is the author of the book Are You a Gym Mouse? With no further ado, here’s Agi Kadar.
Allan (0:58): Agi, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Agi Kadar (1:02): Thank you, Allan. It’s great to be here.
Allan (1:05): Your book is Are You a Gym Mouse? The title itself is cute and imaginative, and I really liked the messaging, taking it from being the gym rat to being the gym mouse. You covered a lot of things in the book that I see year in and year out in the gym. Someone comes in intimidated, they shun the free weights section. Often they won’t even go to the workout machines. They’re on the treadmills, on the ellipticals. I thought it was really good to put this kind of book out there for someone that knows they need to do the training, they just aren’t motivated to do it because of the intimidation factor, because of the lack of knowledge factor, all the different reasons that someone doesn’t want to go to a gym.
Agi Kadar (1:56): Yes, that was exactly the reason I wrote the book. I have been working in a gym for 19 years and have seen a lot of gym mice come and go. They are just too intimidated to do more than get on the treadmill or on a bike. And I want to show them that it is okay to be a gym mouse. You can still get all the benefits of moving, and get better, get healthier, get stronger, and not feel intimidated by others that might be fitter than them. They probably were a gym mouse at one point or another.
Allan(2:31): How would you go about defining a “gym mouse”? When you see someone, how do you say, “That’s a gym mouse.” What does that look like?
Agi Kadar (2:40): Someone who might actually take a while to even come into the gym and join. You can usually tell right away. Some people even told me that they sat in the car for 30 minutes before walking in. They’re usually scared of the machines, the free weights, especially
Allan (3:28): I was an athlete in high school, so I was familiar with weight equipment and whatnot. But my first foray walking into a gym was, it was very broken up. You’ve got your treadmills, and nine times out of 10 those are going to be close to the door. And then you start working into the machines, and then in the back corner space – in this gym it happened to be a bigger part of the whole overall gym because it was more geared towards weightlifters and professional bodybuilders and that kind of thing – were the guys and the women in the back lifting the weights. I was 14 years old. I was in no way capable of doing what a lot of the other bigger guys were doing, and I can get that. You see this guy go over there, he’s got 500 pounds on the bar doing deadlifts or squats. And I’m thinking to myself, “I’m going to go
Agi Kadar (4:44): Exactly. I hear that from people: “I’m afraid to go back there with the weights because I just don’t belong there. People are going to look at me.” And it’s not true. If you look around in most gyms, you do find the regular people; a lot of gym mice out there. Even in the classes, not everybody is in perfect shape. They’re all there just to move, have fun and get healthier, and they really could not care less what you are doing.
Allan (5:14): We all started somewhere. I’m a trainer, and I’m into my workout, but if I see anybody, I’m only going to recognize one, people that are in the gym the same time every day and I see them every time, so I’m going to know who they are. And then I’m going to see the newbies, and the only reason I’m paying any attention at all is if I notice them doing something that I see the potential for them to really hurt themselves.
Agi Kadar (5:45): Yes. That’s one of the reasons I do recommend beginners to go to the gym instead of starting a workout by themselves at home – to get the guidance and get help and make sure that they do it right, so they can get the results so they don’t give up.
Allan (6:04): I have a book that just came out. In the book I talk about you can get strong doing body weight work. You can build a home gym, you can put things in your home and then add on equipment as you go. But there is the danger factor there because now you’re by yourself and if you drop weights on yourself, there might not be anybody else there to deal with that. The core advantages of the gym for me were the variety of equipment that you could never get in a home gym, the fact that you don’t have to pay to upkeep it, and you don’t have to pay to store it and keep it. I’m giving up half of one of my garages just to have my home gym, which works for me because my truck doesn’t even fit in my garage. So this is my gym. But what are some reasons why you think someone should venture? Why should the mouse venture into the gym?
Agi Kadar (6:56): My one reason – what you just said – not to get hurt. But a great, big reason is other people there that are just like them, so they won’t feel alone. They feel more confident, more motivated to actually do
Allan (7:50): Yes, absolutely. Now, what I think a lot of folks don’t recognize is that not all gyms are created equal. There are some gyms that are dedicated to women alone, there are some that are dedicated to meatheads, and there are some that are all across the spectrum. Some of them are organized with all kinds of classes, some are not. Can you talk about how someone can go about it? With
Agi Kadar (8:28):That’s a great question. I do believe you have to find the right gym for you,otherwise you’re probably not going to go. I would definitely recommend that you look around
Allan (10:08): I think that first point you had – convenience is probably one of the keys. I had a membership with Anytime Fitness. And one of the reasons I kept that, even though I had other gyms… I had my own home gym, I had a gym membership near my work, and then I had an Anytime Fitness. The advantage of the Anytime Fitness was that they had gyms all around the world. So when I was in Calgary, I could go to the gym for free. When I was in Mississippi for a football game, I could go to a gym for free. So, look for some of those chains that will actually let you go in. And like you said, it needs to be close to your home. It needs to be something that you would almost have to drive by it on your way home.
Agi Kadar (10:55): That’s a good point. Or even close to your work, or whatever is more convenient for you. But definitely convenience will make it a lot easier to get there and stick to your routine.
Allan (11:09): Another thing to look at is some of the services they offer that might be those add-ons that are going to make this gym really special for you. Some of them have the special classes, so they’ll be doing some strength classes, some aerobic classes, spinning classes as a part of the whole service. Some of them have infrared saunas, swimming pools, those types of things. If those are services that you and your family would enjoy, those are really nice to have. And then the other is personal trainers. If they have a cadre of personal trainers available, particularly at the beginning when you’re trying to learn what these crazy-looking machines do and how you’re going to get over to those iron plates and the bars and how you’re going to do all that, it’s really good that they have trainers. In many cases the trainers will give you an orientation. They actually should demonstrate how to do the work. And if at any point in time you’re concerned about your form, typically you can go over and ask the trainer on duty, “Do you mind spotting me? Do you mind watching me and telling me if I’m doing this right? I don’t want to hurt myself.” And 99% of the time they’re going to be able to go over there and give you a hand and help you lift safer and lift better. So, don’t discount those add-ons, because even though you say, “I might not need to go to a gym in another town”, suddenly you’re going to visit your grandmother or your aunt and you’re like, “Do they have this gym there?” And when they do, it’s pretty cool that you don’t have to pay a walk-in fee for one of those other gyms.
Agi Kadar (12:43): Yes, definitely. That’s why I said just go to visit a couple of gyms and find out their policies. Like you mentioned, the chains – some of them you can just go anywhere. I work for a gym that’s a franchise, but you can still get a travel pass and go to other gyms and use them on vacation or anywhere in the world. And the other thing, like you mentioned, the trainers. When you go to a gym, find out if they offer a couple of free sessions to get you oriented with all the equipment and free weights or whatever else you want to use in the classes. We give two orientation sessions and we actually write up a workout routine for people to get started with.
Allan (13:29): That’s really
Agi Kadar (14:18): Probably the biggest thing is, just like in life, be courteous and keep everything the way you would like to find it. Cleanliness; just clean up after yourself – that’s one big thing. And respect other people’s time and space. Some people are just there to work out and get to work, or they really don’t have a lot of time, so they don’t want to chat. They don’t want you to interrupt their workout, so you need to respect that. If you’re retired and you have the time and there are a lot of other people that stay for a while, that’s great. Go and talk to them at the juice bar or sit down and have a cup of coffee. But don’t interrupt others’ workout. I think that’s one of the biggest rules that people need to know. But at the same time, also share. Sometimes the gym mouse might feel like, “I can’t go over there, they’re using that machine.” But they’re just sitting on it and talking, or texting, or resting for a while. It’s okay to approach them then and ask them, “Can I share that machine with you?” Or that area. You can work in with others nicely. Sometimes it is also for the gym mouse to know their rights, not just the rules. That’s why I dedicated a whole chapter in my book to gym etiquette.
Allan (15:40): I think you could have written the whole book on it.
Agi Kadar (15:42): Probably. And I got a lot of feedback that I should print it out and post it inthe gym everywhere.
Allan (15:51): A few that I’ll mention that I think a lot of people miss, and it goes back to being courteous. If you pull a set of dumbbells or some equipment from a rack, return them to the rack. For the convenience of everybody, the dumbbells are typically laid out from smallest to biggest and lightest to heaviest. And that’s important because it keeps the big guys from having to stand over in your area if you’re using lighter weights, and vice versa – you’re not having to cross over. Typically if someone’s working in the heavier weights, they’re not going to be on the other end, where now you have the opportunity to work. So make sure you’re putting your weights away. Notice that a lot of people actually use the mirror to monitor their form, so try not to get between someone that’s working out and the mirror until they’re done with their
Agi Kadar (17:00): Yes, definitely.
Allan (17:02): You’re going to wipe down your machines and your equipment when you’re done with it. Almost every gym’s going to have a bottle or something that you can wipe that off. And by all means, you can wipe off before you use it and after. They don’t mind you using their paper towels. We really don’t, because we want to keep the equipment clean and nice. But at the same time, if you come into the gym sick, we’re in a small enclosed space, typically with a lot of people. We’re just going to get more people sick, and they’re going to get more people sick. So, if you have a cold or flu, stay home. If it’s a flu and fever, probably not even a good idea to work out. If it’s a head cold, you could probably still do some exercise, but try to do that where you’re not compromising the health of other people.
Agi Kadar (17:50): Yeah, definitely. I always tell people, if you’re in doubt, just think about what you would want somebody else to do. Do you want to go in there and have someone sneeze on you? Definitely, that was
Allan (18:20): One of the cool things about the gym, and you mentioned this a little bit –there’s this effect that happens when you’re around other people, that it makes you work a little harder and it makes the workout actually a little bit more enjoyable. So, group classes are a great way to get started if you’re really uncomfortable and you want to build some fitness before you really dive deep. But when you’re in the gym, realize that we’re all trying to do the same thing. You’re surrounding yourself with other people that are interested in their health and fitness. So, sometimes we help each other. And what I mean by that is, I might be doing a lift and I might be concerned that I’m not going to be able to complete the last rep. If it’s a bench press or squat or something like that, it might be difficult for me to do that last one, and I might ask you for a spot. If someone asks you for a spot and you know how to give the spot, then by all means. If you’re uncomfortable that you’re not going to be able to properly spot somebody, then don’t be afraid to tell them that you don’t feel like you’re strong enough or you don’t have the spotting technique. But as you get into this, realize that we’re all there to kind of help each other out. So, don’t be afraid to ask for a spot if you think you need one, because it’s better for you to have that spot – someone there to catch the bar so you don’t drop it on yourself than it is for you to try the lift and hurt yourself.
Agi Kadar (19:40): Yes. People will be surprised how helpful others can be. Even some of the meatheads or gym rat-looking people are usually very welcoming to new people and they encourage them. That’s a great
Allan (20:04): We like
Agi Kadar (21:40): Yes, totally agree. Or just walk up to the front desk and ask them, “Is there a trainer available that can help me?” Chances are, they are just walking around and they’d be happy to help you. They want to keep busy. They want to show what they know and they all want to help you.
Allan (21:55): And that’s a part of their marketing shtick. If I have an opportunity to show you something, then you’re going to understand what kind of trainer I am, how skilled I am, and other people are going to see me helping you. I can tell you managers want their trainers on
Agi Kadar (22:25): Yes. I always tell people to just ask instead of hurting themselves or doing it wrong. It’s much harder to unlearn a wrong move than do it right in the first place.
Allan (22:34): And we’re over 40, so more likely than not, doing it wrong is going to lead to some form of injury. You really don’t want that. That’s going to keep you out of the gym, and now you’re going to be an injured mouse at home.
Agi Kadar (22:51): We don’t want that.
Allan (22:53): So any other gym etiquette tips or things that someone should know? We talked about how there are certain gyms that will fit them better, there are certain etiquette tips that once you get comfortable with how that gym works are going to work for you. Anything else?
Agi Kadar (23:09): Definitely if you’re not sure, just ask around what’s expected of you. Just little things sometimes people don’t think about, like bringing your gym bag to the floor. If only one person does it, it’s not a big deal, but can you imagine 10, 15, 20 gym bags all over the place and people tripping over them? It’s really dangerous. Another thing is bringing a cell phone into a class, for instance, and texting or making phone calls, disturbing other people. That’s really one of my biggest pet peeves that I try to encourage people, not just for the benefit of others that you don’t disturb the class or the instructor, but also for your own enjoyment of your time. You are here to work out. If there is an emergency, I can understand some people want to keep their phone on them. That’s great, but if you don’t need to, don’t do it. Relax, recharge.
Allan (24:09): A lot of times the gyms will be playing music, and it might not be the music that you want to listen to. So, have some Bluetooth headphones, listen to your music. There are also applications that you might want to use to log your weight because they’ll give you all kinds of cool graphs and information that kind of
Agi Kadar (25:21): Yeah, definitely sharing is a very good rule.
Allan (25:26): It’s a skill. Working
Agi Kadar (25:59): Yes, exactly. I like that.
Allan (26:05): You don’t have to ever become a gym rat. You could stay a good gym mouse and still enjoy the health and fitness benefits of being in a gym or a fitness club. So, a question I’m asking all of my guests now and I want to ask you, Agi – I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Agi Kadar (26:33): I’m really happy that you mentioned happiness because I think it’s a very big part of it, and very important. One of my strategies that I would recommend is,find something you like to do. Do not make exercise a chore. Especially for a gym mouse or someone who feels like that’s not their biggest talent or skill – to move, but they know they need to do it and they want to do it. Don’t try todo something you hate or you really dislike. Find something you really enjoy. Take a class. They all the classes, see which one you like. Or try out training with a trainer. Try out working out with a buddy. Just really find something you like. You like dancing? Put on music and dance around the house, or take a Zumba class or some other type of dancing class. But really, really important that you enjoy what you do. You will stick to it more, you’re going to look forward to it, and you’re still going to get all the benefits of the gym or just the movement. That’s one of my tips. The second one is, create a habit and stick to it. We are creatures of habit, so it is a lot easier to stick to a habit than keep stopping and creating a new one. Find a time that works the best for you and stick to it. Make it as an appointment. Just really think about it as a very important thing, part of your life, something that you do every day or every other day or so many times a week, just like brushing your teeth or washing your face.
Allan (28:16): Or picking up your spouse from the airport.
Agi Kadar (28:18): Exactly. Don’t leave them stranded there. Of course, if something comes up, where you get sick, you might miss your workout. But if it’s maybe a matter of time, that you usually work out 30 minutes and you only have 15 minutes – go for 15 minutes. You’re still going to keep that habit, so you’re going to feel that accomplishment: “I did it. It was a harder day today, but I still did my workout, even if it’s 15 minutes.” Or if you have to, just do a little bit or move at home: “Okay, I missed the gym today. I’m going to go home and dance around while I’m making the bed and washing dishes.” Just anything, so you keep that habit of moving every day or at least sticking to your workout routine. I really think it’s very important. Even if you get maybe injured a little bit. I had a client who sprained her ankle, and my advice to her was, “It’s only your ankle. You have a lot more body parts and muscle groups there that you can work.” And she said she kept hearing my voice every day: “It’s only an ankle”, and that got her over that initial shock of, “Oh my God, I can’t do anything.” She came to the gym with a cane for a while, but she sat on some of the machines or sat on the bench and did upper body exercises. She did core exercises, and she was so happy that she didn’t have to stop her routine. So, keeping that habit I think is very, very important.
And the third one, I think probably the most important, is to supercharge your motivation. Most of us know that we need to move, we need to exercise, and we probably know all the benefits of exercise – our health, appearance, weight loss, a lot of other benefits. But sometimes it’s not enough to get us out on a cold, dark morning to get up earlier and go to the gym, or after work when you just want to go home and curl up in front of the TV. So you have to find a personal, maybe a more emotional reason to do it. What I mean with that is something that you really want, and you need to be in better shape for
Allan (32:56): Yes, absolutely. Those are wonderful. Thank you for sharing that. Now, you said you have a special gift for anyone that wants to come and check you out. Tell us about the gift and tell us where we can learn more about you and the book, Are You a Gym Mouse?
Agi Kadar (33:16): Yes. I created a “Have Fun Exercising” 30-day challenge that I recommend to every gym mouse to maybe commit to it. It’s just helping you get started and sticking to an exercise routine, just to commit to moving every day. And it doesn’t have to be in the gym every day, but just commit to even 15 minutes of movement every day. I included some tips, some fun and more unique ideas – how you can move even without going to the gym or doing a formal exercise, and little tips to motivate yourself and sticking to it, and then reward yourself for sticking to a 30-day plan. Once you stick to it, you will keep that habit going. And I’m betting on it that you will feel better and you’ll keep wanting those benefits. You can find my gift at GetFitGift.com. We’ll send you the free PDF and a surprise also with that, that I don’t want to tell you. You have togive that gift. And you can also find out more about my book and about me on my website at AreYouAGymMouse.com.
Allan (34:38): Awesome. This is episode 360, so in case you’re running or you’re out and about and you couldn’t write that down, just remember this is 360. So, go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/360, and I’ll be sure to have the links there. Agi, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Agi Kadar (34:58): Thank you, Allan, for having me. It was great.
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