Yet another post about exercise. My lack of it seems to be prompting me to think about it. I'm missing it like a far-away lover!
I've been trying desperately to find something that fills the gap left now I can't run. I must admit that I've been filling it a little to often with sorry attempts at running, returning home limping and without a drop of sweat on my brow.
I've been cycling more regularly, packing a map of the city and allowing myself to explore beyond the streets I know. I've been swimming, but I don't like swimming. In short, I'm still looking. So I contemplated joining a gym.
I HATE gyms. I hate most of the things they stand for, I hate what they do to people, I hate the music and the smell and the fake air blown from huge grey fans. I hate the machines. Mostly, I hate the attitude. I was shocked when I found myself browsing the gyms in York, even more shocked when I dialled the number of the biggest gym in my area, and I almost fell off my chair when the lady with the energetic voice promising me health and fitness to suit me told me how much it would cost. I'm not going to go on about the money-making side of gyms, that is boring, but thank goodness there's no way I can afford it!
Now, I am aware that gyms can change people's lives for the better. They turn around unhealthy and unhappy people and make them feel fit, energetic and most importantly, make them feel good about themselves, possibly for the first time in their life. Not too long ago, I was one of these people. I was overweight, hating myself and needing change, and the gym offered a safe environment to make that change. I was terrified when I joined up: I saw myself as the wobbly one, puffing and panting after five minutes on the treadmill. And I was! But no one looked at me that way - after all, everyone was in the same boat, somehow; everyone had a goal, and everyone was there for their own reasons.
To me, the paragraph I have just written describes something really wonderful. And it is, so long as it stops there, but I've seen a little too closely that it doesn't stop there.
I was lucky: the gym I went to was pretty innocent, with out-dated machines that were incredibly simple to use. When I went for a gym taster day with a friend, I was terrified. It was full of wiry people desperately pounding fake bike pedals and sprinting through fake woodland. These people were serious, and the machines were serious too. My friend showed me her favourite machine - she loves it because all you do is stand there, and it works your body for you! I wasn't convinced...I stood on it and she pressed a button, and my whole body started to shake! I could feel my brain oscillating in my skull, my teeth rattling around my mouth, my thighs wobbling and my stomach groaning...STOP STOP STOOOOOOOOOP I shouted. It was like my worst nightmare!
"It will get rid of your cellulite" someone helpful told me.
This is what I hate. The laziness of it all. The torture. Gyms turn something wonderful and positive into a replacement for real life, into some hellish tri-weekly rite that we are expected to go through just so we can have a burger and a beer. Too often I hear 'I've earned this, I did an hour in the gym today'; an hour of being shaken around, an hour of pedalling a fake bike, just for a slice of cake? This isn't healthy living, this is a substitute for healthy living.
I hate to rant (actually, I love to rant), and as I've already said, gyms can be life-changing, too. But I think that exercise in its best form is the exercise we do because we enjoy it - not so we can eat what we like or drink a bottle of wine, not so we can lose our cellulite and flatten our stomachs; this isn't why we're encouraged to do however much it is we're supposed to do however many times a week. Exercise lifts the spirits, boosts the immune system, fights any number of diseases. Walking, cleaning, gardening, yoga, cycling, playing frisbee, even shopping are all great ways to stay healthy in the body and the mind. Gyms might keep your body healthy (though I'll challenge anyone who tells me that shakey thing is good for you) but it won't do any good for your mind.
So, I'll stick to my walking, cleaning, yoga, pub-work, cycling, maybe even swimming! But I won't be joining any gym.
I'd love to hear your opinions on this though; if you disagree then please tell me why as I'm always interested in differing opinions! Or maybe you agree? What's your favorite way to stay healthy?