I was moved to write this post in reaction to an article cited over at Andrew Sullivan’s blog. The original article is called Clean Up Your Fitness Routine: The Case Against Gyms. Here’s the infamous quote:
Gyms are energy-sucking, disease-riddled, crowded, and often expensive. It’s an industry that exists because people pay a lot of money for the privilege of not meeting their personal health goals.
Energy sucking? Meaning, you’ve exercised so you’ve burned some energy? Uh, this is a feature, not a bug.
Disease riddled? Hmm—been to the mall lately? A movie theater? I’m going to play the mom here for a moment and tell you one of the best ways to avoid picking up random cold germs is to never touch your face (eyes, mouth, nose) if you haven’t just washed your hands with soap. I’m serious. Huge difference.
Expensive? I pay $33 and change per month at 24 Hour Fitness, on a month-to-month contract (my advice: don’t sign long-term gym contracts). If you’re paying thousands of dollars a year, as one respondent complained, find a different gym! You don’t need fancy. Come work out with us hoi polloi. We’re really not that bad.
Condescending gym rats: this was another complaint lodged by a respondent, and I have to say, give me a break! I don’t know about your gym, but at our gym we have an amazingly wide spectrum of people that includes polished, silver-haired executives, middle-aged women facing up to years of physical neglect, pods of steroid boys (they rarely seem to work out alone), the elderly, the seriously overweight of all ages, beautiful young men and women, and occasional youngsters. I do not see people getting harassed. I have never been harassed.
I’m out on the floor all the time, where the gender ratios are maybe 80/20 men to women. (Women seem to prefer the classes.) There are no issues. People are extremely polite. Sometimes a guy will be leaning on a machine, watching his buddy take a turn at another device. He’ll move immediately if I ask him. Sometimes someone who doesn’t know the rules will leave too many hundred-pound discs on a leg press. I just ask the nearest strong guy to move them for me. They’re always happy to help.
And every time I’m at the gym door at the same time as a man, he will open the door for me. Young guys, old guys, it doesn’t matter. I never cease to be impressed.
So if your gym is full of snobs or misogynists, find a different gym! And tell management why you’re leaving.
You might be wondering why anyone would bother going to a gym when they live on Maui. Why not just exercise outside? Well I do, part of the time. I jog the road. But I live on the side of a mountain. Everything is either uphill or downhill, so it’s hard. And unless I go outside very early or very late, it’s hot. And there’s traffic. Also there are no weight machines outdoors, and resistance training is a huge boon to fitness, especially as we age and lose muscle mass.
One great thing about a gym is that it has the power of place. When I walk into the gym, I’m there for one reason and one reason only, so it’s much easier to focus on a workout than it would be if I were using a weight machine at home.
The worst thing about the gym for me is that it’s a half-hour drive to get there, and with the price of gas these days, the round trip costs around $10. So I only go once or twice a week, when we’re going to town for other reasons, but I continue to pay my monthly membership fee, because the results are worth it to me.
Physical fitness should be encouraged. If the gym doesn’t work for you, that’s okay, find another way. But for many of us, gyms remain a great place to get, and stay, in shape.