Strength vs. shape

Chicago suburbanite Jim Janik exercises every day. He has a treadmill, a stair stepper, a rowing machine and free weights in his exercise room. “I hate missing a workout,” he says. But Janik isn’t dissatisfied with the way his body looks. “I’ll be 47, and I play a hundred baseball games a year. I have to stay strong to compete with the 30-year-olds.”

But strength had nothing to do with why Vivian Lynn of Georgia “nearly killed” herself at the gym. “I had always dieted,” she says. “When I saw what exercise did for my body…I went a little crazy.”

During this period, Lynn worked full time and attended school full time. She began taking exercise classes with a group of women from work and liked the results so much that if she had to miss a session, she turned on music and worked out for a full hour at home. “No matter how much class work I had or how tired I was, I had to do it,” she says.

Though aiming for different goals, both Janik and Lynn were driven by competition. Janik wants to stay strong to compete with the younger men in his baseball league; Lynn wanted to keep up with her friends and look good.

Lynn says of her coworkers, “We bought fitness magazines, new exercise clothes…. You know, the things that girlfriends do.” Lynn lived in pain during that time. “I was competing,” she says. “I’m the kind of person who would rather dance my own dance, preferably at home. But for some reason, when I got into that room full of women, I decided I was going to keep up.”

Janik doesn’t feel obsessive about his workouts. “But I am committed,” he says. “I exercise every day. I work out hard, no matter if it hurts—which it usually does—no matter how I feel.”

Eventually, Lynn turned in her exercise-class membership card for a less competitive environment. The comfort of her own pace, in her own home, on her own time became her respite.