hot bod

You Don’t Have to Commit

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

“Hot Bod” is a weekly exploration of fitness culture and its adjacent oddities.

I’ve always thought it’s unfair to the concept of exercise — just moving your bod in sensational, endlessly peculiar ways! — that it’s always getting associated with things like improvement and commitment and discipline. Working out is so prone to seeming like a PRIMO SLOG. The typical fitness resolution suggests the only way to develop a routine is to pick one thing and go army crawl to the wall on it. According to this logic, fitness requires consistency, stick-to-itiveness, dedication, a good attitude — and you have to provide all that yourself, apparently.

But there are things like boredom and bad moods to consider. I don’t want to stick to a plank that feels like it’s draining my soul out through my forearms. I don’t want to bring my own good mood into a workout. I don’t just have extra “good mood” to spare! In every workout I’ve started recently, I’ve been impossible to please, mercurial, picky, beset with a roving eye. And I recommend this! It feels very fun and superior to be picky in a world of plenty. In a world of plenty, there’s no reason to move in a single way you hate.

And the digital fitness realm is boundless now. There have never been so many digital fitness platforms and they all want you. They are fighting each other for you. So taking on harsh, hard-to-please choosiness can be a very enlivening stance! Commitment is not necessary. We can be dilettantes and try 14 different things, until we’re bored and then we can scoot right along to the next thing. Consider a speed-dating kind of mood. We don’t have to supply any of the consistency ourselves, none of the self-discipline.

According to very simple math, trifling around six different workouts for ten minutes at a time lands you in the same place as grinding away at one workout for an hour. There’s no virtue to sticking with something you despise. I don’t even understand how I could have believed that.

While on your exercise walkabout, variety is crucial. You can pick a workout that’s extremely hype and distracting with a ton of lights flashing, and follow it with a studio that’s so minimalist it almost disappears off the screen. Consider something you’ve never done; consider something you used to do. You can attend a class that pretends it’s a party, you can attend a class that has convinced itself it’s a training camp for war. You can go retro, you can go futuristic, you can go tight and regimented, you can go loose and floppy. Work those free trials. Dine and dash, baby. Who knows, you could accidentally back into something you want to commit to (amazing, congrats on your engagement). Or you could just keep bouncing around, nimble and fancy-free.

You will probably hate half the things you try. And as soon as you do: evacuate! As soon as you lag in energy, as soon as you lose steam, as soon as you check the time like HOW MANY MINUTES DO I HAVE LEFT OF THIS HORRIBLE SQUAT-JUMP  PURGATORY close that tab. The second your patience is tried, ditch.

Do you remember the high of ditching? It really wakes you up! I remember being existentially sleepy in a geometry class, eyelids heavy enough to weigh down a bounce house, almost too tired to keep my commitment to ditch and meet in the parking lot, but then as soon as I did, I suddenly had enough energy to power the school generator.

Once there were consequences to ditching. When classes were live, there was certainly the spilt milk of having paid for a session, but more importantly, there were people to disappoint. It was rude to the instructor; and if the classes were full, it was inconsiderate to everyone on a waiting list. On the internet, we are no longer tethered by such earthly rules. No one can see you leave. You can have six tabs for various HIIT routines open at once, no one will know but you.

Now just because you’re high on consumer choice and the ecstatic independence of anonymity, I’ll warn you as I have warned myself: Do not get lost in freedom of choosing. Do not waste all your energy looking for variety, rather than actually experiencing it. I’ve started setting a timer for myself (TEN MINUTES) as if I were vegetables in the oven. If you spend too much time looking for classes to try, you will find yourself Googling “vaccine” and “definition of insurrection” again, and you are already lost to me, you’re lost in the slog life. Eventually, you’ll remember you can still blow that joint. The renewed energy of ditching is always there for you, and just a tab away, you can be doing something that feels super-free.

You Don’t Have to Commit