TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Ways to Make Yourself Work Out When You Don’t Want To

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Schedule a weekly class, run, walk, hike, or tennis match with your friend, partner, or family member

As the days start to get shorter and the temperatures drop, you may be tempted to slack off on your workout routine. After all, it’s also no longer swimsuit season and we can hide under cozy layers! But it’s so important to keep moving and find something you not only love to do but also can do all year round.

For instance, during the spring and summer, I love to run, bike, swim, play tennis, chase my little guy all over the playground and hike with him in his baby carrier. But as winter approaches, I can fall back on my yoga practice, Pilates workouts, bundled walks, strength training, and skiing. Though, there are still some mornings when I would much rather snuggle in bed.

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Here are some motivational tricks to help you break a sweat because you’ll definitely feel better after working out—and have the body to show for it winter, spring, summer, and fall.

1. Drink a cup of joe

Coffee is an ergogenic aid and can stimulate you to work out and help you last longer during your workout. Also, if you tell yourself, ‘I’m going to have a cup of coffee then lift weights’ you’ll have something set in your head. Try to keep this trick for you AM or midday workouts not later in the evening, though.

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2. Plan your reward

Promise yourself you can only view the latest episode of “Scandal” or “New Girl” after you log a workout. Or if you’re not a TV watcher, give yourself some sort of reward for working out. I tell myself once I do my yoga practice, then I can surf the web for cute clothes for my baby boy.

3. Make a date

Schedule a weekly class, run, walk, hike, or tennis match with your friend, partner, or family member. I’m part of an Upper West Side Moms stroller walk and talk meet-up group in New York City. I get so much out of meeting other moms and spending an hour working out with them while still being with my son. Find something you can do—even if it’s joining a bowling league—that meets weekly and gets you excited to move.

HEALTH.COM: 20 Ways to Make Exercise a Habit That Lasts

4. Listen to your playlist

It’s like Pavlov’s dog: if you have a great playlist to work out to, once you play it, chances are you’ll get in the mood to break a sweat. Any upbeat music can get you in the mood to move your body. Just turn on Pandora or your favorite artist and dance around your living room or put on your headphones and go outside or to the gym to run.

5. Buy yourself new workout clothes

When I get a new yoga tank or an awesome pair of workout pants, I want to use them! I update my wardrobe each season with clothes that work for the whether. Invest in some fun long sleeve workout tops, get a long pair of running pants that will block the wind, find layers you love, and dress for success. I loved back-to-school shopping as s little girl and couldn’t wait to wear each outfit every day. I channel that same enthusiasm and excitement in to my workout wardrobe and plan some fun, new workout classes to take.

HEALTH.COM: 24 Fat-Burning Ab Exercises (No Crunches!)

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME health

4 Ways Health Tracking Apps Can Change Your Life

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This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

Virtually every kind of digital program or app we use is modeled on an analog predecessor. Spreadsheets are the digital iteration of accountant logs, and word processing software is modeled off the good-ol’ sheet of paper. We’re human after all, and we’ve always used record-keeping to help deal with uncertainty and the unknown. Now, throw clever entrepreneurial activity into the mix, and you’ve got some of the most helpful, beefed-up quantified self tools on the market. Being able to track exact data in the ways that apps have enabled us to is one of the most modern ways of curtailing the worries that come with personal data guestimation. Tracking our lives may not be a new concept, but it’s certainly shinier. Here’s how our quest to conquer our own data has evolved on a variety of fronts.

Fertility

Before: bare bones calendars, pee sticks, or the pull-out method that seventh grade sex-ed rightfully taught us to avoid (personal shout out to my teacher who made us all think that a foreskin looked like the sleeve of her chenille sweater).

Now: Apps like Clue track important signs of fertility cycles like discharge consistency, fertility windows, menstrual regularity, and of course, attempts at fertilization. On a calendar interface, handy color-coordinated graphics display those quantifiable elements in a cohesive, easily digestible visual. In a world divided over the necessity of women’s health initiatives, it feels empowering to be in tune with cycles — a knowledge that provides transparency in regard to the way our reproductive systems function in our daily lives. Tracking the minutiae that apps allow takes this empowerment and the decision-making to a greater level of security and certainty in the things our bodies are doing.

(MORE: 5 Period Tracking Apps)

Exercise

Before: the Casio stopwatch whose memory will live on in the minds of all who consumed electronics in the ’80s and ’90s. If you don’t remember them, we suggest you watch WarGames to see what kind of technology impressed us then.

Now: Anything we do with our bodies is better when customized, and exercise is no exception. We may suck at some sports, and be incredible at others. This is why the vast array of exercise apps are so exciting. Are you sedentary, and feeling lost on where to start? Apps like Couch-to-5K teach you techniques from square one, keeping track of progress and goals. Are you a seasoned pro who wants to streamline outings? Other apps like RunKeeper serve as simultaneous timekeepers and route-mappers. Tracking the very personal activity that is exercise provides a level of support that could be equated to that of a coach. Literally — many apps have pre-programmed motivational comments that are set to play at various intervals in a workout.

Food

Before: a dog-eared, Weight Watchers-inspired logbook with only the most basic functions of food tracking in the layout. Oh, and a separate book was needed with a list of foods and their proprietary nutrition information.

Now: The most central function is the same across the board. A list of food and meals are entered into their respective breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack slots, and their calories, fats, and proteins, and other important nutrients are tracked. But, instead of shuffling through pages of small guidebooks, a food item’s nutritional information can be sourced through vast databases of restaurant and grocery store goods, as well as preset listings for favorite meals. There’s even barcode scanners for the elusive few items that aren’t listed. These features are standard in apps like MyPlate and LoseIt — and are great even if you’re not trying to lose weight. Tracking food means that we can keep an eye on some of the details about ingredients or sustainability that both greatly affect our health, yet often manage to slip through the cracks.

(MORE: 10 Fitness Apps That Get Results)

Medical Conditions

Before: regular, often-expensive trips to the doctor’s office or crossing your fingers and hoping that apple a day actually contains immune-boosting properties.

Now: Medical tracking — which has been around since the days Bayer enabled diabetics to measure their own glucose levels — goes beyond the level of personal empowerment seen on other fronts to a place that’s vital to our very existence. Having real-time data about the state of our physical existence is a way to catch health hiccups before they become emergencies; this helps to maintain a top quality of life. With fewer guestimations and more exact data, we know when to act and when to relax. Of course, if something really seems off, seeing a professional is still your best bet. But, having the ability to keep tabs on things like sleep cycle measurements or medicine dosages puts more control in the hands of the patient herself, which means less time spent on some of the more menial medical checkups. Even the original diabetes tracking methods have seen a spiffy new user interface on mobile apps.

(MORE: These Apps Just Might Be the Future of Beauty)

TIME Exercise

4 Exercise Swaps That Burn More Calories

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Isolating muscles is so last year. Unless you’re rehabbing from an injury or working to strengthen a weaker part of your body, the rule of thumb should be to work as many muscles as possible with each exercise (while of course maintaining good form). The more muscles you can incorporate into each set, the more effective and efficient your workout will be.

You don’t need more time to work out; you just need more intensity. By swapping these five simple exercises you can maximize your effort and calorie burn while minimizing your time spent at the gym.

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Squats instead of leg press machine

While a leg press is good for isolating your quads, it leaves something to be desired as a total-body exercise. The truth is you have to add so much more weight on a leg press machine to get the same effect that squatting vertically would have. And whereas the leg press includes little to no stabilizer muscle involvement (because the machine gives you total upper body support), squatting forces you to recruit those stabilizer muscles groups in order to complete each rep. That is, your hip adductors (inner thighs) to keep your knees spaced shoulder width apart, as well as your ab muscles to hold your torso in place as the knees bend. Talk about a full body exercise. Don’t forget to keep the knees right on top of the heels as you squat down—less pressure on the joints and you’ll really feel those hamstrings and glutes fire.

HEALTH.COM: 18 Moves to Tone Your Legs, Butt, and Thighs

Plank on a BOSU ball instead of crunches

In terms of overall total body effectiveness, we all know that the plank is superior to the crunch. By holding your entire body in an isometric contraction you’re strengthening everything from your abs and glutes, to your legs, back, and chest. But we’re cranking it up a little further. Adding some sort of balancing factor to your plank—in this case a BOSU ball—will have your whole body, especially your core, feeling the burn in no time. Simply place your forearms on the rounded side while you do your plank. You can also try them with your arms on the flat side. Once you master holding your BOSU ball plank for at least 30 seconds, start adding in some variations—slow mountain climbers and then adding a twist to the opposite side as you bring the knee into the chest are just a few to get your mind working. Any variation after that is fair game. Get creative!

VersaClimber instead of the bike

If you’re one of those people who loves to sit on the bike and occupy your upper body with a book or magazine while your lower body does all the work, listen up. Cardio success is not about the number of calories burned during your 45-minute session. It’s about elevating your heart rate enough for a prolonged period of time (about 20 minutes at 80% or higher) to achieve the “afterburn” effect, boosting your metabolism so you continue to burn additional calories throughout that day and the next. The VersaClimber is a great option because it incorporates upper and lower body movements at the same time, which not only keeps you engaged in the workout but also means you can cut your time spent on the machine in half. So, give it a try. In addition to preventing boredom, switching up your cardio routine will keep your body guessing and you on track to achieving your fitness goals.

HEALTH.COM: 24 Fat-Burning Ab Exercises (No Crunches!)

Dumbbell bench instead of traditional bench press

Contrary to popular belief, the bench press is not the best move for the upper body. While it may do a good job of isolating a few specific muscles, using two dumbbells instead of the traditional bar will increase your range of motion and recruit more muscles in the shoulders and back as well. Not only that, but you can add some core work into the equation by alternating arms one at a time to challenge your balance and force those abs to join the party. If you really want to kick it up a notch, try switching out the bench for a Swiss Ball and get some more stabilizers involved!

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This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME health

How to Get Over Your Fear of the Gym

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This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

Gym + Intimidation = Gymtimidation, and I’ve had a bad case of it for years. As a big girl, gym culture can be intimidating for a variety of reasons. I know I need to lift weights and build strength, but that testosterone-filled section of the gym doesn’t always feel fat-girl friendly, especially when I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing.

But, it’s not just the free-weight room that gives me anxiety. I’m a strong swimmer, but when I head to my gym’s pool, I’ve had lifeguards ask if I’m looking for the slow lane — before I even get in the water. I’ve noticed that the women who look fit are offered free personal-training sessions, while instructors size me up and simply dismiss me because I’m bigger.

I’m on a plus-size fitness journey, though, which means I need to get comfortable at the gym. In order for me to do this right, I need to work out often and try new things. If I only stick to the exercise classes and workouts I’ve always done, my body’s going to get used to those exercises, essentially making them less effective. And, I intend to meet my fitness goals — not shy away from them.

(MORE: Why Body Confidence is Complicated, No Matter Your Size)

Because of my tendency to get nervous at the gym (and practically run out before I start sweating), there have been many times when I’ve had to give myself a pep talk: “CeCe, get over it!” Lately, when I head to the gym, I have to take a quick minute to remind myself that it’s ok to ask for help. That I must get over my fear of the guys in the weight room. I’m also working on getting more comfortable with getting undressed in the main locker-room area, which is a heck of a lot easier than doing it behind the doors of a cramped stall.

Getting over my gymtimidation is an ongoing process. Every time I think I’ve shed my fears and anxieties, there’s something new I have to conquer: a new machine, a new instructor, or even my desire to try new classes, like Spinning.

When I first braved a Spinning class, I didn’t know anyone in it, so I made sure to arrive 30 seconds before class started to stay as anonymous as possible. I jumped on a bike in the back corner of the room and watched the regulars exchange hugs and kisses before the lights dimmed and class began.

(MORE: Why I Dated a Guy Who Hated My Body)

The next 45 minutes were awful. My shoes got stuck in the pedal straps, I kept turning knobs on my bike without knowing what they did, and, perhaps worst of all, my butt really hurt. When the class ended, I ran out of there as fast as I could and didn’t return.

But, the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to attend another Spinning class meant only one thing to me: I was letting gymtimidation rob me of a good workout. So, last week, I got back on that bike. I arrived early this time, chose a bike in the front row, and when the instructor walked in and asked if I was new, I admitted that I was and asked for help. He taught me how the bike worked and how to set up my seat and handles. The class was definitely intense, but every step of the way, the instructor gave me the attention I needed to keep up. He even instructed me to sit back on the seat a bit, because, as he said, my butt was probably hurting. How did he know?

Forty-five minutes later, I walked out of the studio feeling sweaty, motivated, and, above all, proud of myself. I had finally gotten out of my own way and unlocked a new workout option for myself. Who knew what other workouts I’d try next? As I headed to the locker room, the instructor called out after me: “Great job today! I’m glad you mentioned that you were new; most people don’t do that.” I guess I’m not the only one with gymtimidation!

(MORE: Please Stop Calling Yourself a Fat Girl in Front of Me)

On her blog, Plus Size Princess, CeCe Olisa has detailed everything from what it’s like to be the only big black girl in a yoga class (fine, thanks!), to her adventures in plus-size dating in the Big Apple. Now, the New York City transplant is lending her poignant, often-hilarious voice to R29.

TIME health

The Weirdest Stuff We All Do at the Gym

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This post originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

A few years ago the media was obsessed with talking about the weird habits of people who live alone. The uninhibited freedom of not cohabitating gives you a free pass to walk around naked, sing to yourself, and leave the bathroom door open 24/7. And, while I currently live with a roommate, I don’t curb any of my quirkiness — except maybe the bathroom-door thing.

But, since the gym is my second home, it’s only natural that I have a second set of weird quirks specific to the sweat-friendly atmosphere. They may be a bit unconventional, but they’re never annoying or disrespectful — no loud conversations or equipment hogging. I proudly display my eccentric gym habits as any true local would — like a badge of honor. From treadmill racing to yawning while exercising to giving my muscles a mental “pat on the back,” here are some oddities I’m definitely guilty of doing.

(MORE: How to Actually Enjoy Your Workout)

1. I maximize viewings of my gym clothes by saving my favorite apparel for Monday workouts — as that is when the gym is always the most crowded. I realize occupying a treadmill in the front row of Equinox isn’t the same as sitting front row during Fashion Week, I just happen to love my spandex and want to show it off. And, when you’re in the front, there’s no room for slacking, so it helps me push harder, even if no one is actually paying any attention.

2. There is such a thing as a “better” treadmill, StairMaster, or [insert equipment of choice]. Perhaps it’s the one positioned directly under the AC or away from the mirror so I don’t have to stare at myself for the duration of my three-mile run. Whatever the reason, once I find my favorite, I’ll forever try exercise on that same piece of equipment anytime I’m at that gym.

3. During lunges, I rest my hands on my butt (as discreetly as possible). It’s a reminder to push through my heels, so that I engage my glute muscles, instead of relying on my quads, to return to standing. Plus, when you feel your muscles working, it’s definitely a “go me” moment.

4. I won’t seek you out, but if you choose the treadmill next to me (when there are a few open), I will assume you want to race. And, we will — game on.

(MORE: 5 Reasons to Skip Your Workout)

5. Even when I’m totally pumped up and not remotely tired, sometimes I’ll yawn at the gym. There are a lot of different theories why this happens (one is that yawning helps cool the brain), and I used to be embarrassed, thinking that everyone around me would assume I wasn’t working hard enough. But, then I stopped caring what other people thought and used my yawns to see if anyone was staring — because we all know that yawning is contagious.

6. I pee no less than three times before my CrossFit workout. Whenever I know that I have a tough training session ahead, my bladder goes into overdrive. It’s annoying, but I’ve learned to deal with it and plan for multiple bathroom breaks.

7. I don’t put makeup on, specifically for the purpose of going to the gym, but, if I train after work, I don’t necessarily put any effort into taking it off. I do plan my lip color around my workout schedule though as I have one red lip stain that I love. But, I have to avoid wearing it on days that I plan to train since it’s impossible to remove.

8. When I forget to toss my armband in my gym bag, I’ll attempt to store my phone in weird places (including in my sports bra, tucked under the strap of my tank top, and in a legging pocket that wasn’t meant to hold anything larger than a key), so I can listen to my jams uninterrupted while exercising. It almost never works, but I keep trying.

(MORE: How I Balance Drinking and Exercise)

TIME psychology

The 3 Reasons People Are Obsessed With Crossfit

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CrossFit Training Push Ups ferrantraite—Getty Images/Vetta

The cult fitness program has primal appeal

If someone in your life does CrossFit, the high-intensity fitness training favored by Marines and first responders, you’ve ribbed them (out loud or in your mind) about being part of a cult. This is a natural response to their relentless insistence that CrossFit has changed their life, and that it will change your life, too! “The first rule of CrossFit,” the quip goes, “is always talk about CrossFit.”

So why are CrossFitters so wrapped up in this movement that’s grown from one fringe gym in a California industrial park to 10,000 independent “boxes” and the CrossFit Games, an international competition with over 200,000 participants? It’s not a cult of personality, although CrossFit founder Greg Glassman can rattle sabers with the best of them. There’s not much celebrity glitz-and-glamour. The facilities where people do CrossFit are bare bones, often in converted auto body workshops and defunct manufacturing spaces. There are no mirrors, and none of the conventional health-club amenities. And unlike bargain cardio-machine farms with monthly fees of twenty dollars or less, CrossFit isn’t cheap. Those people alternating Olympic weightlifting movements with handstand pushups and rope climbs are paying $150-$200 a month to throw themselves into their chosen ordeal.

They do it for three reasons. The first and most obvious is the physical result. High intensity exercise yields results that differ in kind from moderate-intensity efforts, not just in degree. In a peer-reviewed study in which one group exercised at moderate intensity for 45 minutes on a stationary bike and the other group did high-intensity intervals for 20 minutes and burned the same number of calories, the high-intensity group lost nine times the fat. Human growth hormone (HGH) and other compounds cascade into the blood of people who sprint as though a monster is chasing them and lift heavy objects as if earthquake survivors are trapped underneath. These hormones signal the body to burn fat and build muscle. The grim trudge-to-nowhere on a cardio machine, or miles of brisk walking, does not unlock this chemical cascade.

The second reason for CrossFitters’ passionate adherence is social. These gauntlets are run as a pack of between half a dozen and 20 people. Doing something physically intense and difficult binds a group of people. Military trainers have known this for thousands of years. But CrossFit is the first modern-day phenomenon that allows Jo-Anne from human resources to feel something like the fierce kinship of Marines. The workouts are scaled (weaker athletes modify the movements, or do them with less weight). But everyone gives 100% effort. There is a primal magic in going physically all-out with a dozen people. It’s not just a sense of accomplishment, the modern clock-punching virtue of exercise. It’s victory, the way you feel when your team beats the other team. Wrapped up in that sense of victory, as in any pack victory, is gratitude: that you’re getting stronger, and that you’re part of a pack that can move their own weight quickly and literally carry each other, that together you can leave all that energy out on the floor, three or four times a week.

The ritual sacrifice of human energy, argues classics scholar David Sansone, is the bedrock definition of sport, and the genesis of sport. When paleolithic hunter-gatherers sacrificed animals to their gods, they were also sacrificing the energy it took to hunt those animals. When those hunters became farmers, they continued to sacrifice animals. But because the animals were domesticated, there was no way to sacrifice the energy it would have taken to hunt that animal. This is when athletic rituals – foot races and field games – became part of religious practice. Freed from the constraints of a literal hunt, that ritual sacrifice of human energy could take a thousand forms, from Native American lacrosse to Meso-American ball games, tribal competitions in Africa and the Olympic Games, in honor of the ancient Greek’s pre-eminent god. The winner of the Olympic foot race was given a torch, and carried that torch up the steps to light the burnt offering to Zeus.

Rituals persist, even when we forget why we perform them. Sport, at its root, is sacrifice. This is why it bothers us so much when athletes take performance-enhancing drugs. We don’t feel the same way when singers or actors take performance-enhancing substances. But deep down, we know there’s something qualitatively different about sport that is sullied by steroids or EPO. Sacrifice demands purity – doping destroys the purity of the ritual.

As participation in sports declines, and is displaced by the fitness industry – the infomercial devices, the ellipticals, the gyms that profit because members don’t show up – intensity is leached out of athletics. Ritual becomes habit. Sport becomes exercise. What was meaningful, vivid and shared becomes mindless, boring and socially isolated (Bowling Alone at Bally’s). This is why most people think of physical exertion as a chore.

CrossFit’s ritual intensity reverses these polarities: it’s tribal, it’s intense, it’s never the same workout twice. It replaces cosmetic aspirations (six-pack abs, buns of steel) with an emphasis on function – mastery, progress, work capacity. It replaces the ease and comfort of gym machines with a demand for all-out effort and an archaic stoicism.

In so doing, CrossFit reconstitutes the ritual sacrifice of energy that made sport important to our ancestors – that makes it important to this day, though we’ve forgotten why. In that way, it’s more cultic than even the most pestered co-worker can guess.

J.C. Herz is the author of Learning to Breathe Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness.

TIME Bizarre

Guy Eats Pizza Mid-Workout

Yikes.

#PSA: When you’re hitting the gym, don’t be this guy.

Quoth the cameraman: “That man is eating pizza … and working out. This is why I hate Planet Fitness. This is why. Jesus Christ.”

Oy.

TIME Saving and Spending

Your Gym Membership Is a Waste of Money

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Hero Images—Getty Images

It’s bathing suit season again, and that means gyms are shedding dollars from their membership prices faster than we’re ditching long pants and sleeves. According to Charles Tran, founder of credit card comparison and personal finance site CreditDonkey.com, June is a good month for gym discounts, especially on daily deal sites. “I’ve been seeing discounts of about 35% to 60%,” he says. “In June, you have more negotiating power when everybody else wants to enjoy the outdoors.”

Since most gyms offer memberships to couples at a discounted rate, it might seem like joining with your partner would be the best way to score a good deal.

Weirdly, it isn’t, and you’re probably throwing money away as a result.

A new study finds that when couples sign on to do something together — start a savings account, diet, get fit and so on — their level of commitment defaults to the least-motivated member of the pair. A lot of people probably think the more conscientious partner would set a good example for and inspire their boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse, but it turns out they’re not the one wielding the primary influence in these situations.

“Self-control is essentially a social enterprise,” writes Hristina Dzhogleva, an assistant professor of marketing at Boston College and lead author of the new paper. In a series of experiments with both real couples and lab simulations, the researchers found that the people with higher self-control tend to cave and give into the more indulgent preferences of their partners in order to keep peace in the relationships.

Given that opposites attract, Dzhogleva points out, it’s likely that there are a lot of couples out there with this dynamic of mismatched motivation levels. People with more self-control have that higher level of discipline because they focus on the long-term rather than immediate gratification.

Ironically, this tendency makes them more likely to give in under pressure from their partner. For one thing, they’re thinking about preserving the relationship long-term; they also have the self-control to squelch what would make them happier in order to please their partner.

But the upshot of these good intentions is that otherwise-motivated people wind up blowing off the gym yet again for takeout and a Netflix marathon, Dzhogleva concludes. Unless both people in a couple are both motivated to hit the weights or the treadmill, neither is going to be using that couple’s membership that seemed like such a good deal at the time.

“Higher self-control individuals should be wary of partnering with low self- control individuals,” the paper says. “[It] may negate their innate advantages in pursuing long-term goals.”

Dzhogleva’s findings also hold true for personal finance activities like making a budget or splurging on a vacation, so if your sweetheart is a spendthrift, it could pay to take a close look at how your financial decisions are impacted by that relationship.

 

TIME Television

Late-Night Highlight: Anderson Cooper Thought Seth Meyers Was Gay

But he's not, so maybe it was just wishful thinking

Anderson Cooper appeared as a guest on Late Night on Monday and reminisced with host Seth Meyers about how they met.

Cooper and Meyers went to the same gym, which led to a misunderstanding—specifically, about Meyers’s sexuality.

“It was pretty much the gayest gym on the planet,” Cooper said to Meyers, “And I assumed you were gay, ’cause… there weren’t a lot of other reasons to be there.’”

Meyers is not gay. He married human rights lawyer Alexi Ashe last September.

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