Change It Up By Going Outside

Get Out of The Gym And Into Nature

After a while workouts in a gym get a little stale. There are only so many lunges, pull-ups and elliptical sessions you can do before you’re bored. One day recently, people were hogging a lot of the free weights and medicine balls so when my friend Jody arrived for our morning workout at the not-so-great gym I wrote about last week, I suggested an outdoor run. Jody wisely pointed out that the gym is basically bordered by highways so a run might be difficult. But we decided to see what we could find. We ran by a lot of businesses, a CVS, a few banks and some restaurants. Not so beautiful.

But then we found a park nearby with a small lake.  Incredibly, in the middle of the urban sprawl, there was actual wildlife! I was so thrilled that I had to stop and take a picture of each new creature we came upon.

This is a picture of a swan taking flight.

I love how majestic this egret looks taking off.

There were egrets and an otter and birds I don’t know the name of—and a kitten. Until you come across those beautiful creatures, you forget how incredible it is to be in their presence. I’m so used to be cooped up in my temperature-controlled house, gym or office, glued to the TV, computer or smartphone, that just being outside was like a big adventure. I think endorphins must be increased when you workout outside as opposed to the gym—as long as you get away from the highway.

This is a photo of an otter eating.

This guy swam across the lake to find his breakfast. I think it’s an otter.

Because between the animals and the sunrise, the fresh air and the feel of uneven ground under my feet, I felt uplifted and inspired the rest of the day.

This is a photo of a black kitten.

This friendly kitten stopped for a visit.

Even the kitten who appeared in the middle of the jogging path around the lake made me happy. And then there was the pièce de résistance—the sunrise.


Getting outside proved to be just what I needed. It just goes to show you that even in the middle of the city you can find beauty in the outdoors.



Super Secret Squats And Other Gym Injustices

I work out at gym that has some issues. Like the rat poison box beneath my locker and the large rat trap beneath the counter. Like the cockroach that crawled up another woman’s leg in the shower and sent her screaming back to the changing area. Like the pool cleaner that dumps chemicals into the pool while people are swimming in it and, when questioned about the safety of doing so, says, “You’ll be fine.”

This is a photo of a box holding rat bait under a gym locker

Rat bait under my locker!

During the post-workout rush every Monday morning there’s a lady cleaning the showers with a large, high-powered hose-but I haven’t actually seen any soap. You’d think it would be more effective and nicer for the gym’s clients if she cleaned at night or maybe at 5:30 a.m. when no one has finished their workout yet. Then we wouldn’t have to step in the inch or two of water that pools on the floor by the toilets.

This is a photo of standing water on the floor of the gym bathroom.

Sloshing through water in the bathroom.

Then there was the lady who basically hunted me down when I first joined to set up an initial “goals” meeting. When I finally made the time, she berated me for working out with my friend every morning because my friend works out with a trainer there once a week. “We really frown upon that,” she said. “She might be sharing information with you.” Um, really? Super secret squats? Then, when I said that I couldn’t work out with a trainer right now, she turned downright icy. “That’s how I make my money, you know.” Finally, the parting kicker, which she said with a slight sneer while rising from her seat to dismiss me: “You should watch that body fat percentage because you’re bordering on overweight.” I didn’t come away with a single piece of marketing literature for training or group training or anything. Just an extreme dislike for Ashley. One day I might be interested in signing up for some training, but all she cared about was the immediate commission she wasn’t earning. Such a poor sales strategy. Then again, she may have done me a favor. Now, whenever cookies appear in the break room at work, I try to restrain myself by thinking about Ashley and her snide comment. So, yeah. Thank you, Ashley. Then again, sometimes the cookie wins out.

So why do I part with $30 a month to go to a semi-dirty national chain gym with employees who don’t care about their customers and are downright rude? Simple: Location. It’s the only gym near work. I guess that’s why they can be so bad and still stay in business. No competition. My friend Jody tried to write an email to the manager to complain about some of these things but it turns out you can’t send them an email from outside their system. I guess they don’t want to hear from customers. So she wrote an actual letter-on actual paper-to the manager to complain about all these things and delivered it to the front desk. She followed up twice. Guess what she heard back? Nothing.

I’ve made my peace with it. It’s just so unbelievable that a place could be managed so poorly and still stay in business. The best part about the whole gym is the people who work out there. They are so nice and friendly. Much friendlier than the people at the swankier, less cockroach-prone gym I used to go to. We all bond over each new gym problem. Yesterday I was putting my stuff in a locker when I noticed that one of the locker doors had been forced open (with the lock—that had obvious bolt cutter marks—still on it), and with the particle board still attached to the woefully inadequate-looking screws. “Oh, yeah, that’s been like that since last week,” a women getting dressed said, shaking her head and smiling at me. We’re friends now.

This is a photo of a gym locker that has been forced open, with the locker and particle board with screws still attached.

Lockers aren’t too secure – and then they just leave it like this!

Maybe that’s the gym’s secret mission statement: help customers make new friends by being the worst—and only—gym in a 10 mile radius. Oddly enough, being terrible seems to be working as a business strategy. The place is packed. I just can’t stop thinking of how much better they’d be doing by making some very, very simple customer-focused changes. Like not having rat traps out in the locker room.