Exercise Prescriptions for the Romantically Challenged

Editor’s note: This op-ed mentions abuse and discussions of body image.

Before I begin, I want to emphasize that while exercise can be healthy and empowering, working out for other people or because you have bad thoughts about your body is not fun. Similarly, seeing people romantically is not necessary or always good. Love yourself and love your body.

Dating at Oberlin is a notoriously tricky enterprise. “Dating” is also hardly the right word for this shitfest of thousands of horny, awkward young adults trying to satisfy romantic and/or lustful urges. For you, maybe this materializes as a secret, simmering crush on the tenor in your a cappella group, or a White Claw-fueled makeout session with your friend’s roommate. Maybe it’s spending a disproportionate amount of your income on Slow Train, making Google Calendar invites for casual sex with your Economics teaching assistant, or sexually-charged eye contact with members of your Dungeons and Dragons campaign.

No matter the path you choose, some degree of heartbreak is inevitable. And if I’ve learned anything in my time at Oberlin, it’s that the tried and true way to heal from romantic injury is working out. Rigorous exercise that leaves your muscles screaming and your lungs heaving is a surefire solution for soothing sexual frustration. Who needs emotional validation when you can wake up early and squeeze in a 5K run before most students have squeezed out their morning wank? 

To help with your romantic struggles, we at the Review (it’s just me — no one else wants to take responsibility for this) [Editor’s note: Lustkow no longer works for the Review] have taken the initiative to prescribe exercises for those whose desires are unfulfilled elsewhere. Hopefully, these workouts can suppress the gnawing emptiness metastasizing within you.

So, your romantic life hasn’t been going great. How did you get here? Maybe you were dating a cute, laid-back Obie man until he admitted that he enjoys hurting you (after some confusion, he clarified that he meant “hurting” in the toxic verbal abuse way, not the kinky, light choke play that you were hoping for). Or maybe you fell in love with your best friend. It happens, especially at Oberlin. Except it turned out that drunkenly shared childhood trauma — and your mutual obsession with Mitski — is not a solid foundation for a relationship, and you found yourselves crying in a hallway in Burton Hall at 3 a.m. while innocent students scurrying by for a late-night piss whispered words of encouragement.

For recovery from these extremely generic scenarios, I’d personally recommend bear crawls. You begin bear crawls in a modified plank position, with your knees under your chest but hovering off of the ground, and then walk forward or backward on your hands and feet. Start the bear crawls with enthusiasm and keep moving until you collapse face down in a pool of your own tears, much like you did in your last relationship. Bear crawls are also a great way to build stability — a characteristic notably absent from all of your romantic endeavors.

The foundation of any exercise program for the recently single is the hammer curl, a variation of the dumbbell curl that has the dumbbells turned 90 degrees from their traditional starting position. With a focus on straining your forearms, these curls are gonna come in clutch when you’re 17 minutes into a solo session and feel yourself flagging. You should aim for as many reps as possible at a relatively low weight. The objective here is building up endurance so that your strength never gives out before your willpower. You might also practice varying your speed and grip strength. 

There are a number of other great workouts for heartbreak recovery. My personal favorite is the deadlift, a heavy lift for training your lower body. Although the deadlift is known to cause persistent lower back problems, this actually makes it perfect for anyone who misses having their back blown out. As the weather warms up, you could also go on a run through Oberlin. While running with a friend is a fantastic motivator to keep up the pace, if you’re in dire need of friends, an effective substitute is imagining that you’re being chased by an apparition of one of your recent exes. If running isn’t your thing, and you’d prefer remembering what it’s like to have something other than your own hand between your thighs, you could hop on a bike. Either way, a little endurance training is a guaranteed method to get your face flushed and your legs shaking again. 

But let’s not forget the best reason to hit the gym once you’re single: pursuing the aesthetic. Why long for someone to hold you at night when you can gaze longingly at your own body in the mirror? No relationship can be as well-sculpted as a perfect pair of calves; no hump with your partner can satisfy you as reliably as a good pump in the gym. If you’re truly looking to increase the size of your assets, hip thrusts are a must. Done with either a barbell or dumbbell, they are underrated lunar champions for those desiring a full-moon look rather than a waning gibbous.

These exercises do not comprise a comprehensive program, but they can definitely be a start to feeling something — anything — again. I’ll end with two final pieces of advice for the perennially lonely.

First, when everyone else has left you, the gym remains. After all, no matter how many times you let the weights down, you can always pick them back up. Second, get a cat. I have a beautiful baby girl named Balthazar, or “Baz,” and her love is independent of how my body looks, how much I lifted in the gym, or how I feel about myself on any given day.