No Excuses social Chinese
Photo Credit: Xi Dahe (喜大河)
SOCIAL CHINESE

No Excuses: New Workout Phrases for a New Year

Kickstart your new year fitness routine with this language guide to working out

Afresh start to the calendar is a symbolic moment to make changes in one’s life. New Year’s Resolutions (新年计划 xīnnián jìhuà), usually to do with accomplishing a personal goal or breaking a bad habit, are becoming more and more popular with young Chinese today.

According to data research software developer Statistica, around 50 percent of Americans made New Year’s Resolutions to exercise more last year, and 48 percent planned to lose weight. In 2016, newspaper China Youth Daily published a similar survey, with 60 percent of Chinese respondents vowing to “keep fit and take care of themselves” after the Lunar New Year.

New year, new atmosphere. I will start exercising.

Xīnnián xīn qìxiàng, wǒ yào kāishǐ jiànshēn.

新年新气象,我要开始健身

I want to transform myself by spring.

Wǒ yào zài chūntiān wánchéng yì chǎng tuìbiàn.

我要在春天完成一场蜕变。

It doesn’t help that most things people eat during the holidays tend to expand their figure:

Every holiday I gain 5 kilograms. How can I burn these calories?

Měi féng jiājié pàng shí jīn, rúhé ránshāo kǎlùlǐ?

每逢佳节胖十斤,如何燃烧卡路里?

But according to e-commerce platform Tmall, there are over 100 million people “pretending to work out” in China every day. That is to say, of the 400 million users on the website who have expressed an interest in fitness, less than 300 million actually exercise regularly, while the rest simply buy gym memberships and exercise equipment they never use—or better yet, simply watch and forward exercise videos, without following the steps.

Fitness is about more than announcing your intention to exercise. Before embarking on your new year exercise routine, check out this language guide to not only refine your workout plan, but learn some essential fitness vocabulary:

Exercise Goals

Rather than just having a simple goal like “I’m going to work out,” most trainers recommend that you set a specific training objective to make you both physically and mentally ready to begin a new fitness program:

I want to lose fat.

Wǒ yào jiǎnzhī.

我要减脂。

I want to sculpt my body.

Wǒ yào sùxíng.

我要塑形。

I want to build muscles.

Wǒ yào zēngjī.

我要增肌。

It can also help to create a timeline for your exercises, spreading out your goals throughout the year:

Every Wednesday, I will work on my abs.

Wǒ měi Zhōusān yào liàn mǎjiǎxiàn.

我每周三要练马甲线。

I will lose 5 kilograms by February.

Wǒ de mùbiāo shì Èryuè qián jiǎnzhòng shí jīn.

我的目标是二月前减重十斤。

Exercising at Home

Want to start your fitness routine without committing to expensive gym memberships and equipment? With social media, it is now easier than ever to exercise at home. On video-sharing platforms like Bilibili, exercise vloggers can become influencers in their own right, winning millions of views with their accessible content and fun delivery:

Everyone who has tried this exercise video swears by it. Millions of netizens agree that this works.

Shìguo de dōu shuō jué, bǎiwàn wǎngyǒu qīncè yǒuxiào.

试过的都说绝,百万网友亲测有效。

Vloggers who are knowledgeable in their subject, effective with their recommendations, or simply entertaining to watch, are referred to as “hidden treasure vloggers” or “宝藏博主 (bǎozàng bózhǔ),” even though they may have millions of followers and brand endorsements already:

Pamela Reif is the devil. You can always trust her intensive full-body weight-loss training.

Móguǐ Pàméilā, quánshēn jiǎnzhī, nǐ kěyǐ yǒngyuǎn xiāngxìn Pàjiě.

魔鬼帕梅拉,全身减脂,你可以永远相信帕姐。

On the other hand, exercising alone without anyone to push you makes it easier to skip a move or take a day off due to “exhaustion.” Home-exercisers who make a habit of “点赞收藏一键退出 (diǎnzàn shōucáng yíjiàn tuìchū, click ‘save’ a video, then quit)” might console themselves with:

Sharing the video is equal to doing the workout, which rounds up to weight loss.

Zhuǎnle děngyú zuòle, sìshě wǔrù děngyú shòule.

转了等于做了,四舍五入等于瘦了。

Those wishing to avoid this fate might try to rally fellow netizens in the comments section under the workout video:

For every like under my comment, I will stick to the workout for another day.

Zhège liúyán xià diǎnzàn yí gè jiānchí dǎkǎ yì tiān.

这个留言下点赞一个坚持打卡一天。

Hitting the Gym

However, you might find that no amount of “likes” and comments online is as motivating as in-person instructions and the presence of other exercisers pushing themselves. Thankfully, in most Chinese cities, gyms are easy to find—it’s usually just a matter of standing on the sidewalk until a salesperson approaches you, waving a brochure:

Wanna learn about swimming and workouts?

Yóuyǒng jiànshēn, liǎojiè yíxià.

游泳健身,了解一下。

Once you’ve taken the brochure, agreed to add the persistent salesperson on WeChat, and toured the premises, the salesperson will swoop in to offer you a gym membership with attractive benefits and discounts:

Members can enjoy free beverages and snacks, and free 24/7 hot showers year-round.

Huìyuán kěyǐ xiǎngshòu miǎnfèi de cháshuǐ hé diǎnxin, háiyǒu quánnián èrshísì xiǎoshí gōngyìng de miǎnfèi rèshuǐzǎo.

会员可以享受免费的茶水和点心,还有全年24小时供应的免费热水澡。

If you buy a two-year membership now, we will give you four additional months for free, plus a free trial session with a personal trainer.

Xiànzài bànlǐ liǎngniánkǎ, kěyǐ miǎnfèi zèngsòng sì ge yuè hé sījiào tǐyàn xiàngmù.

现在办理两年卡,可以免费赠送四个月和私教体验项目。

Personal training is where gyms earn most of their revenue, so the salesperson will push hard to sign you up:

Our trainers are all top-notch personal fitness coaches accredited by international associations.

Wǒmen sījiào dōushì yǒu guójì rènzhèng de jīnpái sīrén jiàoliàn.

我们私教都是有国际认证的金牌私人教练。

Staying Motivated

But figuring out the membership system is only half the battle. After hitting the gym for just a few days, you may get stuck in a trap of self-satisfaction and mock yourself as part of the 健身气氛组 (jiànshēn qìfēnzǔ, workout atmosphere group):

I’ve spent five minutes working out, and two hours taking selfies.

Jiànshēn wǔ fēnzhōng, pāizhào liǎng xiǎoshí.

健身五分钟,拍照两小时。

My gym card has turned into a shower card, and I’ve blocked my personal trainer’s texts.

Jiànshēnkǎ biàn xǐzǎokǎ, hái bǎ sījiào kāi miǎndǎrǎo.

健身卡变洗澡卡,还把私教开免打扰。

You might find that the real benefit to a personal trainer is not your coach’s accreditations, but simply having someone to nag you to hit the gym:

Can you make some time to come over and exercise in the next few days?

Zhè liǎng tiān kěyǐ ānpái shíjiān guòlái ma?

这两天可以安排时间过来吗?

It’s not enough to just get a gym membership. You need to get moving!

Bú shì bànle kǎ jiù kěyǐ le, yào dòng qǐlái a.

不是办了卡就可以了,要动起来啊。

Some might also find it helpful to join a group on WeChat or other social media platforms with friends or fellow exercisers, who can share progress, participate in fitness “challenges” together, and motivate one another:

Day 25: I jogged for 5 kilometers and my intake was only 1,500 calories. See you tomorrow!

Dǎkǎ dì èrshíwǔ tiān: wǔ gōnglǐ mànpǎo, shèrù yìqiān wǔbǎi dàkǎ, míngtiān jìxù!

打卡第25天:5km慢跑,摄入1500大卡,明天继续!

Claiming Your Reward

To further motivate yourself, consider giving yourself rewards for achieving your fitness goals, like a fabulous dinner at your favorite restaurant:

I bribed myself into exercising with a cheat meal.

Wǒ de mìng shì qīpiàncān gěi de.

我的命是欺骗餐给的。

But be careful not to let your rewards defeat the purpose of exercising:

I found myself gaining another kilogram after my cheat day. I’m crushed.

Qīpiàncān dì èr tiān bù xiǎoxīn zhòngle liǎng jīn, xīntài bēng le.

欺骗餐第二天不小心重了两斤,心态崩了。

If you resist all the temptations and stick to your plan, reaching your goals can also be its own reward:

I’m so excited to have learned to use three pieces of gym equipment today.

Jīntiān jiěsuǒle jiànshēnfáng de sān ge qìxiè, kāixīn!

今天解锁了健身房的三个器械,开心!

It feels like I’m freeing up my body every day.

Měi tiān dōu xiàng shì zài jiěkāi shēntǐ de fēngyìn.

每天都像是在解开身体的封印。


No Excuses: New Workout Phrases for a New Year is a story from our issue, “Sports for All.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine.

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author Yang Tingting (杨婷婷)

Yang Tingting is a Chinese editor at The World of Chinese. Interested in telling Chinese stories, she writes mainly about culture, language, and society.