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'Working Out' on Words to the Wise


Jen Rhines, a three-time Olympic athlete, runs on a Boston Marathon treadmill that simulates the running course at RunBase, Thursday, April 16, 2015, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Editor's Note: April 7 is World Health Day! To celebrate, we are talking about exercise on this week's Words to the Wise.

Today’s ‘Words to the Wise’ may leave us a little tired, because our topic is exercise. I’m Ashley Thompson. And here with me in studio Learning English reporter John Russell.

Hi Ashley. You're right. We're going to get a workout today thanks to Learning English fan Raphael Duarte. He posted a suggestion for us our website. He wrote: I would like you guys to talk about working out at the gym, terms, routines or stuff related to it.”

John, I have heard that you work out a lot. Do you belong to a gym?

First, let’s explain that word -- gym. Gym is the short form of the word gymnasium, a room or building with space and equipment for indoor sports activities. Most American schools have gymnasiums where students can exercise.

Right, and there are also private gyms. People pay money to belong to them. Private gyms might include trainers who can help you learn how to best use the gym’s equipment – like weights, treadmills and rowing machines. So, do you belong to one of those gyms?

I belong to a rock climbing gym. It has wide, tall walls. You literally climb the walls – in a safe way, of course. It is a fun way to get some exercise. And it is a good way to get in shape.

Mariam Shareefy, climbing on the left, practices in a rock-climbing gym in Boulder, Colorado, Aug. 8, 2016.
Mariam Shareefy, climbing on the left, practices in a rock-climbing gym in Boulder, Colorado, Aug. 8, 2016.

So, when Americans use “shape” this way, it is related to fitness, or just overall health. If someone has not exercised much in a long time, they might describe themselves as “out of shape.” Then when they start working out again, they might say they are “getting back in shape.”

Right. So, before I start rock climbing, I make sure to “warm up.” That means to prepare yourself for a difficult or intense activity by stretching.

"Work out” and “warm up” are phrasal verbs, everyone’s favorite!

That’s true. A phrasal verb is a group of words that act as a verb. It is made up of a verb as well as a preposition, adverb or both.

Hmm, there are a lot of phrasal verbs in the world of exercise, actually. Here is another one: some people exercise because they want to “bulk up.” This is another way of saying you want to grow your muscles, or become more muscular and strong.

It takes willpower to get into shape or lose weight. This personal trianer is helping a woman get more fit.
It takes willpower to get into shape or lose weight. This personal trianer is helping a woman get more fit.

People who are trying to bulk up might do a lot of reps on the weights machines.

Reps…that sounds like it might be short for something!

Right! “Reps” is short for “repetition.” As you might be able to guess, this means the act of repeating the same exercise a number of times.

Not everyone works out just to bulk up, of course. Some people might have a goal of “slimming down,” yet another phrasal verb. “Slim” means to make smaller, or thinner.

So to “slim down” means to lose weight. People who hope to “slim down” might run or swim as part of their workout routine.

Rob Muffels of Germany competes in the men's 5km open water race at the Aquatics World Championships in Kazan, Russia, July 25, 2015.
Rob Muffels of Germany competes in the men's 5km open water race at the Aquatics World Championships in Kazan, Russia, July 25, 2015.

“Routine” is actually one of the words that our friend Raphael asked us about. “Routine” in this case just means a usual way of doing things, in a set order. You might have a morning routine, a study routine, or, of course, a workout routine.

So, if you work out regularly, describe your workout routine to us in the comments section!

I can think of another phrasal verb that relates to what you should do after you work out.

I think I know it – “cool down!”

Exactly. To "cool down" means to do easy exercises after doing an intense exercise. This lets your heart rate drop slowly. It is always smart to cool down.

Well, I think this episode of Words to the Wise is cooling down, too.

Thanks everyone for listening, and as always, let us know if you have ideas for us for our next episode of Words to the Wise. Leave us a comment, and let us know where you are from.

I’m Ashley Thompson.

And I’m John Russell.

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Words in This Story

workout - n. a period of physical exercise that you do in order to improve your fitness, ability, or performance

fitness - n. the condition of being physically fit and healthy. (fit - adj. physically healthy and strong​)

bulk - v. to make (something) bigger or thicker​

weights - n. heavy objects that are lifted during exercising

treadmill - n. an exercise machine which has a large belt that moves around while a person walks or runs on it

rowing machine - n. an exercise machine that you use by moving your body as if you are rowing a boat

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