I was a member of a gym for a period of time when I lived in a busy city and knew that the location wouldn’t inspire me to go out running. I think another reason was that I’d never been a member of a gym. It seemed to be the “done” thing and I didn’t want to miss out.
I was a student at the time which meant that I could choose to attend the gym at almost any time that I wanted and I didn’t have to squeeze my visits in at the same time as everyone else – before work or after work.
My preferred time was around 2pm. In the post lunch slump, when otherwise I would have struggled to concentrate on my studies and the temptation of an afternoon nap (a short power nap, of course) would probably have been too much for me.
I enjoyed going to the gym because it gave me something to do, but I’m not sure it particularly benefited me on a fitness front. I jogged a bit on the treadmill, I paddled a bit on the rowing machine and I used a whole range of weights machines. I dutifully followed my training plan that had been worked out after an introductory session. But I don’t think it ever gave me any joy. I made some progress and got better at adjusting the machines, but I think I struggled to see the point of it all.
It strikes me now, how unnatural it all is. Whenever I see the rows of cardio-machines through a window, I wonder what someone from a far away land would say. Most probably they would ask the question: why?
I’m often struck by the places in the world where it’s hard to live; where you have to work to live: to till the fields, or travel long distances on foot, or herd animals with little creature comforts and feel that the all encompassing, closeness to nature is a good thing. You exercise by default and you eat healthily and locally because that’s what’s there. And that’s what we strive to do in our unnatural lifestyles.
Perhaps that’s why I enjoy running – it feels like it’s useful. If you run better you can get to places better. I’m also trying to incorporate my exercise into my day rather than make it a special event that I need to find time for. Currently this involves cycling between meetings at work rather than taking the bus. Admittedly it’s not always possible and a run/cycle commute would be the best thing, but that’s a tad too far right now.
By all means, go to the gym, but make sure you enjoy it. I’ve been watching the World’s Strongest Man competition and I love the way that they don’t just lift weights – there’s a lot of function involved: they tow trucks, they lift things and move them – it’s not all deadlifts.
So next time you’re in the gym, consider why you’re doing the exercise: will it help you in day to day life? Can you find ways to do it as part of your day, saving time and money as you go?