Gym Relapse


Devin Monaghan goes to the gym. It’s a man thing


Weightlifting is a lot like writing: babies suck at it.


Writers face a blank page, tasked with filling it with meaning. Many of us are the same way with our bodies. We can attach meaning to ourselves, either with fat, muscle or ink. Each has its own story.


Today’s story is chest day. The most pointless of all days, but the easiest. And always go with ‘easy’ when you’re relapsing. I’ve been clean from the exercise itch for two weeks, and that first day back after a hiatus can be tough.


Through my research for this article, I discovered that going to the gym is in many ways different from a heroin addiction. Some people go to the gym for a long time, and then stop for whatever reason, and just never start doing so again. That’s rather rare with opiates.


That’s why when I relapse back into exercise, I start with whatever is easiest, and what comes easy in life is often the most useless. Except for impressing girls and some guys, pecs have no functional value. Triceps, yes, those can come in handy for throwing stiff-arms in traffic, but not much else.


Important point: building your body does not make you a body builder. Keep that in mind with every word of mine you read.


Go Ginger Man, Go!


I go to a small gym in my apartment complex. It’s terrible value for money, but at least I can tell people that I jog to my gym.


“Is that for extra exercise?”




It costs VND70,000 per visit, which is borderline fraud for what they offer, but it’s close, convenient, and the cost makes me angry enough that I can skip my pre-workout supplement.


Gym experiences vary. Some of you still reading are noticing that there are some quirks in my workout philosophy. That’s because I don’t care, which gives me the freedom to skip leg day guilt-free. It also gives me the courage to not care that I have to halve the weights on the bench press after the last lady used it.


Not caring is the first step towards getting good at something. Not the only step, because then that’s how to suck at something forever. What are your goals for working out? Some of you may know people who just go to the gym to show off how fit they already are. To me, this is like getting a PhD in philosophy.


My goals are simple: build muscle so I look less s*****. A buff ginger is less unattractive than a feeble ginger (although thanks to that British singer songwriter, Ed Sheeran, us ginger boys are back on the map again). Hardly inspirational, but I’m not going to ruin my life by laying off butter. But I can feel better about using it in soup if I do leg day.


Also, curse leg day. I teach, and to teach, I must stand. Every school day is leg day, whereas my class really has to go awry for me to resort to my upper body strength for teaching.


Further, yoga is for women and old people, which is to say: it is for people who are generally much wiser than me. I’m simple: push this, pull that, don’t bite those. I’m not doing this for health. I’m don’t even do this to double my negligible chances of getting laid. I just want to enjoy my butter soup without guilt.


Remember, exercise is a verb, not a noun. Hmm, I should have that tatted somewhere on my increasingly swoll body. But I have to be careful, as I’m getting so strong that I might get a bruise from patting myself on the back so hard.


Not Good for Chickens (or Tuna Fish)


Working out is much like breathing, or not s******* your pants: trying matters more than technique. I know some of you just spit out your morning protein shake reading that last sentence, but it’s true. My slovenly roommate could have excellent posture for planks, but since he doesn’t try, it doesn’t matter.


Friends helped me get better technique, but when someone came up to me and said I wasn’t doing an esoteric exercise correctly, I gestured between him and I, and told him he wasn’t doing this correctly, then offered some pointers on proper human interaction.


“So you don’t get hurt,” I said, then blew him a kiss, and let him decide where he wanted to take our encounter from there. Later, I looked up proper technique on YouTube, and corrected the issue myself. People who come to me with unsolicited advice are usually right, but the number of times I’ve ignored advice out of spite is closer to infinity than it is to zero.


I know I’m not doing all the exercises right, but saying 2+2=5 is more accurate than responding to the question with a series of smells, or not responding at all. People say, “But improper technique is how you get injured.” No, it isn’t. Trying too hard is how you get injured. Seriously, look up the statistics.


Speaking of statistics, many chickens have died for my biceps. Think about that next time you’re on Saigon’s Bui Vien or in Hanoi’s Old Quarter and see a half-shirtless bro with bulging muscles: chances are, he got that way through hard work, dedication and 300 grams of animal cruelty a day.


Also, if I have time, an anecdote on how I only do this for vanity and butter related reasons: the last time I worked out, the employees were shifting the gear around, for better Feng Shui (my word processor marks this phrase as a typo, because even it recognises that Feng Shui is not real). I tried not to dwell on how here were these smaller Vietnamese dudes getting paid to lift stuff, while I was paying for the privilege to lift stuff. They were struggling with some of the larger machines, and I did nothing to help. I could’ve made their day way easier, and I was there to exercise anyway, but I just kept doing lat pull downs like an ass, thus proving, there is no functional use to my muscles. I drank a lot later that night.


Devin likes to do stand-up comedy. He’s also likes butter. If you’re lucky you may see him on stage doing his damnedst to make you laugh. You might even see him in a classroom


1 comment

  • Alex McCool
    Alex McCool Thursday, 13 August 2015 23:48 Comment Link

    I remember when I first got into lifting I completely neglected chore to work on chest and it made no sense, but somehow in my mind I was becoming a better person despite the fact I was doing my harm then good. Nice article man, keep spewing out this fecal matter from every orifice because it's gold.

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