In order to better address the needs of our fitness-obsessed readers, we are introducing this semi-regular column, "I of the Tiger," to address vital hardcore fitness issues of our time. Today: the journey to hardcoreness is a solitary one. Dig it.

People like to work out in groups. They like to go to classes. They like to do Zumba and Pilates and Yoga and Aerobics with a bunch of like-minded peers. They like to go to Saturday night dance party workouts for singles who like to sweat and mingle.

These people are wrong. Wrong how? I'll do the talking here, thank you very much. Just wrong. Hardcoreness is not achieved in groups. Hardcoreness is achieved via a journey into the sweating painful depths of yourself. Hardcoreness is achieved alone. Therefore you should work out alone. Do you know who works out in groups? Jerks, mostly.

"But," you object in a pitiful manner, "I have a 'workout buddy.' It gives me 'motivation.'" Sure, sure you do. You have a workout buddy, alright. Maybe it is your friend. Maybe it is even your girlfriend. But that workout buddy is only motivating you to do one thing: to talk to them. To discuss things. To chatter.

Chatter about this: shut up.

The gym is not a place for talk. The gym is a place for action. Action consists of doing things. Hardcore things. It could be pulling things, or pushing things, or pulling and then pushing things, or moving things around in a circle. It could be lots of things. One thing it cannot be: talking, to another person. Every word you say in the gym reduces the ambient levels of hardcoreness. Being with somebody therefore places you in imminent danger of subjecting yourself to a workout that is just some bullshit. Here is a scientific statistical breakdown of the time the average person spends at the gym with a "workout buddy:"

21%: Getting changed.
13%: Discussing the plan for today's workout.
18%: Spotting your workout buddy, unnecessarily.
18%: Working out.
30%: Talking to each other, while sitting on a bench that someone else who wants to actually lift something is waiting for.

You and your workout buddy are not creating fitness synergy. You two are carrying on like the cast of Perfect Strangers while monopolizing valuable workout real estate. You two insist on alternating your workouts and spotting each other despite the fact that neither of you are lifting enough weight to imperil yourself. You are, in effect, giving yourself a plausible excuse to rest for the majority of time in the gym. I'm onto you. The only plausible reasons to have a partner with you as you work out are 1) Because you are actually hardcore enough to require a spotter. (You're not.) Or, 2) Because that partner is a specialized trainer who is screaming at you a lot and forcing you to work out harder and faster.

We're not even going to talk about "classes" here. Get real. The ideal workout is you, alone, in a locked room, a lone dirty bulb flickering overhead, the faint scurrying of rat paws the only sound, squatting a heavy barbell, or perhaps just a big rock, over, and over, and over, unto death.

Failing that, you may go to a gym. Do not bring a buddy to your workout. Do not go to the trouble of checking the "schedule" to go to a "class." Do not tell anyone you are going to the gym. Just go to the gym, in secret. Do not say hello to the person at the desk. Do not smile and chit chat with your fellow gymgoers. Get ready quickly and in private. Dedicate every thought in your head to hardcoreness. Speech is just HARDCORENESS LEAVING THE BODY. Don't let it happen to you.

[Image by Jim Cooke]