Yesterday I had occasion to enter into a local fitness center. Dozens of televisions were flashing and every person in there was plugged in to something. The low roar of treadmills turning combined with the aroma of sweat masked by deodorizers and chlorine from the pool all contributed to a very "industrial" and nauseating experience.
Over the years I have had a gym membership off and on. During my time in Madison, WI I was in a gym on almost a daily basis throughout the winter months. I don't doubt that there are many for whom a fitness center is the best choice to improve muscle health, but I had to wonder why so many healthy looking people were in that building on a beautiful summer afternoon? Why weren't the kids out swimming in our local lakes and streams? Why weren't all those runners out enjoying the award-winning parks in our area or the trails that stretch from our town through thousands of miles of public land?
I think in many ways we've been convinced that the only way to get a proper workout is through membership at our local gym. I fear it is just one more way to trap us into believing consumption is our only way to happiness. Is it possible that you can get a great workout without the enormous air conditioned building and energy sucking fitness equipment? I believe it is.
Perhaps it would be useful to share my daily workout routine. It costs me absolutely nothing, does not require me to hop in a car, allows me a daily relationship with the natural beauty and seasons of the place I live, and most importantly doesn't require any electrical input. It is simple and effective (at least at meeting my goals).
I leave my bedroom first thing in the morning and stretch on my front porch with a glass of water. I then take off on a jog through the neighborhood to the local park. If I stick to the trail along the perimeter of the park and weave a bit in the natural area along the creek, the circle is about 1 mile. After two loops I stop at a playground along a beautiful creek where I use nothing more than my own body weight, a park bench, and a couple of rocks I have cached under a bush to work a range of muscle groups. I jog two more loops, say hello to the doe and her two fawns and finish up at a different playground near my home where I again use my body weight, the steps of the slide, and a pull-up bar to work through the muscle groups again. I walk home where I have a set of weights on my back deck and conclude with stretches during which I simultaneously assess what needs to be harvested in my garden. The whole excursion takes me just over one hour.
I have a friend with severe physical disabilities. He uses a gym and its trained staff every day to stay healthy. My outdoor workout wouldn't work for him, but it might work for you. Do you want a cheap, sustainable, environmentally sensitive, and emotionally rewarding workout? Just look around the area you live, glance around your garage, and tour your neighborhood. I am convinced you'll be able to put together your own at-home or outdoor workout. It is really quite simple. If you get stuck, just let me know. I'm happy to share additional resources!
Vincent M. Smith