Want to Burn More Calories at the Gym?



I go to an intense workout. There is a reason why it is hellishly hard, thank you Barry Jay. The instructors push you to your absolute limit (see that beautiful woman on the left? Natalie Raitano is no nonsense), and then further still. I’m crazy competitive. In the beginning, I would spend exorbitant amounts of time tying my shoes when I was on the treadmill or using my sweat towel to cover up my speed button. Why? I couldn’t quite hang, and I have this ridiculous fear of failure. But I wasn’t losing weight running by myself, and I was told that this was the place to reach my goals. How was I going to burn more calories?

I looked around me and saw all of these crazy fit people just killing it. Then something crazy happened. I started increasing my speed too. The towel was pushed to the side because I was hella proud of my accomplishments. I resorted to double knotting my shoes BEFORE class. I always thought that it was just my silly competitiveness steering the way. Why is it that when I’m running on a track, I absolutely hate getting passed? When my kids were little and I was pushing a double jogger, I wouldn’t dare run slow enough to be passed. Why do I care so much?

Brandon Irwin, an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at Kansas State University, finally has some answers for me. It seems that I am motivated by the rock awesome athletes that I surround myself with. Rather than get discouraged, or try and cheat my way through a class (I tried that, I was only fooling myself), I push myself even more.

Irwin did a really cool study in which he set up a situation where people believed that they were training and being compared to partners’ speeds. This completely controlled environment allowed Kansas State University researchers to watch what happens. Irwin says: “If they’re constantly working out with someone who’s beating them, we wondered how motivated people would be to keep coming back and getting beat again,” Irwin said. “It turned out to be exactly the opposite. Over time, it can be very motivating, as long as the conditions are right.”

For more proof, I went onto the Barry’s Bootcamp yelp site. One reviewer, Lauren Y. wrote this:  “It’s a really intense class and everyone there is in good-really good shape so you feel obligated not to be the one lagging.” That’s a really cool way of thinking about it. Why in the world do you feel obligated to keep up? “People like to exercise with others and make it a social activity,” Irwin says. “We found that when you’re performing with someone who you perceive as a little better than you, you tend to give more effort than you normally would alone.”


You want the right conditions? Run next to me the next time you’re at Barry’s Bootcamp. Just be careful of a girl named Lauren W., she will increase YOUR speed when you’re not looking. That, my friends, is just whack.

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