A Letter to “That Guy”

I’m in the gym a lot… six days a week, usually. I’m the type who keeps to myself, so I don’t know the names of any of the folks I see at the gym, other than those who wear name tags. There’s one guy who shows up a couple of times a week, and I’ve been thinking about talking to him. He’s in his late 30’s, weighs somewhere in the high 300’s or low 400’s, and uses the elliptical machine exclusively. I don’t know how to start a conversation with him, and I know that if I did, there are some things that I’d end up saying that I need to keep to myself. If I wrote him an anonymous letter, it would go something like this:

Sealed Envelope

Photo by Justin Henry


I don’t know your name, but that hasn’t kept me from noticing how dedicated you’ve been in coming to the gym regularly. You might not know from looking at me, but I used to be 50-100 pounds heavier than you, and I know how hard it can be some days. Seeing you here so often inspires me to continue on my own journey. I remember when I first started coming to the gym. It was intimidating. How are you making it? Having lost weight, people tell me that I inspire them. You should know that you inspire me.

You’re doing it right

You’re coming often, you’re working within your abilities, and you’re using resources to pass the time in a way that’s pleasant to you. I’ve noticed that you use the elliptical trainer, which is very easy on the joints. Good choice! You bring books and magazines to read while up there. I like listening to music and podcasts, but whatever floats your boat. You’re sticking with it longer than I expected, both in the duration of your individual workouts and in your dedication in coming back regularly. You’re doing it right, and I applaud you! Some days, when I’m feeling like quitting early, I look over and see you and decide to stay the course. That happened yesterday, in fact.

You’re doing it wrong

I’m not you, and I don’t know what your physical limitations are, but it seems to me that you’re not using the elliptical trainer effectively. You pedal the thing very slowly — so slowly that the screen flickers and goes off a lot. Also, you don’t use any resistance. In fact, you don’t push any buttons at all. You just get on and pedal. Has anyone shown you how to program in your weight and age? Did you know that you can have it measure your heart rate and encourage you to work at an appropriate level? I’ll be happy to show you, but I’m not an expert. The folks who work here showed me.

You’re very consistent in your routine, which can be comforting, but your body adapts to routine and stops making progress as a result. Have you considered other exercises like Zumba? They do that here, and it’s tons of fun. If you like the machines, you might find the rowing machine of interest. They got it a couple of weeks ago, and it has this game you play in which you catch little fish and avoid being eaten by big fish. I like to change it up from time to time.

You’re doing it

Regardless of what other people think, say, or do, you’re here almost as often as I am, and you’re sticking with it. Whether you’re doing it right or wrong, it means so much that you’re doing it. What’s the old quote about interrupting someone who’s busy doing something to tell them it can’t be done? I don’t know who you are, why you’re here, or what motivates you. I just know that you’re here and you’re motivated, and that’s inspiring to me. I bet it’s inspiring to others, too.

Why would I write you this letter? I think it’s important for you to know that your effort is observed and appreciated, and that I find you inspiring. It would be a little awkward for me to walk up to you and say that, so I wrote it down. Also, I’m afraid if I did start the conversation, I’d quickly get bossy and say, “you’re doing it wrong.” That’s not what I want to say, and it’s not what you need to hear.

Keep on doing it

I’m going to head out, but you know I’ll be back tomorrow. I hope to see you here again, and I really hope to see you making progress toward your goals. Sometimes, progress can come slowly. Sometimes it’s interrupted. The important part is to keep on keeping on. I’ve seen you do that, and I look forward to seeing more of it.

Keep on doing it.

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4 thoughts on “A Letter to “That Guy”

  1. I don’t know how to properly use the machines either. Also, believe it or not, I am just too shy to even ask someone that works there. A shy karaoke host.. ha ha, I must be a one of a kind.

  2. When I started going to the gym last year I would go late at night and creepily observe people using the machines and take mental notes so I could them too.

  3. I think I would have loved to have received such a letter when I was just starting out. It really is important to keep going – it’s amazing how the cycle continues. I’m now the person who newbies on yoga mats follow in class. Who’d have thought?

  4. That was a wonderful and thoughtful letter!

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