On the Modern Gym Experience

30 08 2011

With mention of and pleas to various sub-groups of gym members.

For the gladiators working out was not an elective so much as it was “do this or die more quickly”. The Greeks worked out so that they could take home a crown made of deciduous vegetation. (Olympics anyone?) My grandparent’s generation engaged in physical activity if and only if they were in the military or owned a farm.

Something happened in the 1980’s though that changed our cultural perspective. For the last thirty years or so working out has been… well… cool. With a host of fitness and health oriented books, magazines, day-time talk show specials and reality tv shows we are now a culture of gym rats. The fact that 80% of people don’t know what to DO when they are at the gym is irrelevant. There’s always “standing around pretending to be mid-super set” or “getting a drink of water” or “listening to one’s iPod”. As a last ditch effort the confused can find a personal trainer who will guide them through the maze of equipment and activities.

I like to think of myself as part of that elite 20% who a)know what to do to use my gym time well and b) don’t shoot myself in the proverbial foot by eating crap ten minutes after a workout. And, since I’ve been working out and have had access to a personal trainer off and on for the last eight years, I am able to workout while simultaneously observing the idiosyncrasies of fellow gym members. Today during my intervals I composed the following mini letters to different groups of people I see at the gym.

Dear Middle Aged Men,
Way to go! Now is the time to get heart-healthy. Now is the time to learn to love anything from bicycling to kayaking to running. But please, don’t think that your newfound hobbies give you the right to wear spandex. Manly man shorts of appropriate length and volume would greatly enhance your manliness. Trust me.

Dear Overweight Ladies and Men,
Do you know who the most inspirational person in this building is right at this moment? Nope, it’s not that guy over there who was once an Olympic pole vaulter. Nope, not that lady who has been running on the treadmill for an hour without stopping or even breaking a sweat. The most inspirational person here is YOU! You are the one who conquered unknown numbers of insecurities, unhealthy habits, hatred of gym clothes, embarrassments and cruelties. YOU are the one who decided that you wanted to make a change. YOU are the one who SHOWS UP EVERY DAY. Well done! I doff my cap to you and thank you for being so amazing. Keep on keeping on.

Dear Teenage Boys,
Good habits start young. You are off to a good start if you are already making working out a daily part of your life. It will benefit you for years to come. That said, please do your research. Watching you lift improperly day after day after day is painful to me. Not to mention that you’re front-loading your muscles. Your pecs and biceps are admirable but your back is weak and your triceps must feel neglected. Read some books! Get a trainer! LEARN! Also, don’t waste my time. If you aren’t using a piece of equipment GET YOUR ASS OFF OF IT! Some of us have jobs and classes and life to get back to, I don’t have the leisure to watch you watch a football game while sitting on the bench I need. Also, last thing, please do not stare at that girl’s butt so obviously for so long. This is her gym too and she needs to feel safe and comfortable. You leering like she’s the porterhouse steak and you’re the hungry pit bull does not encourage her to spend time here.

Dear Young Women,
First, when you come to the gym make sure that your butt is fully covered and your boobs are contained. I know, I know, the men should not be staring at you in the first place but you are hardly making this easy on them. Feeling cute at the gym is important, I get it. I myself put effort into being both comfortable and cute when I’m going to pump iron. One cannot wear baggy sweats and a sweatshirt at the gym without passing out from heat stroke. But you can work your outfits so that you have maximum comfort with minimum distraction-potential. Oh, and dear dear girl, doing the stair master for an hour six days per week will not make you fit. Cardio alone will not cut it. Do some research and start lifting free weights. It’s the best way to protect your body, build bone density and see results. Just wait until you wake up one day and have triceps! It’s the best feeling ever.

Dear Old People,
I love you. I love your knee-high white socks and black tennis shoes. I love your sweat bands and your treadmill-walks and your awesomeness. Someday I hope to be just as cool as you.

Dear Suburban Moms,
I’m impressed. I thought all your people did was take yoga classes and meet your friends for coffee. Nice to see some bicep curls from your group. Come back soon and often!

Dear Me,
Don’t think you know everything. Remember that every person has a story and you don’t get to judge anyone. Ever. Also, do more push-ups. You were slacking today.

Dear People Who Don’t Go to the Gym,
You should. It’s a fascinating place to people watch. Besides which, “Exercise give you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands!” Thank you Elle Woods and thank you gym. It’s been a good day.


Indiana Jones, Butt-Cracks, and How to Climb a Banyan Tree

18 06 2011

We won’t say who but SOMEONE had the brilliant idea to drive the Hana Highway yesterday. Honestly I was non-plussed about the idea but phrases like “The Garden of Eden” and “Once in a Lifetime” and “Not to be Missed!” were bandied about with such extraordinary enthusiasm that I became convinced. How bad could a road trip in Hawaii be, even if it did take “all day”?

Oh. Oh how unimaginative I was, that younger and more foolish version of myself.

The day started at 5:30 am. I woke up and dragged myself down to the kitchen where I scrambled two eggs and downed an enormous glass of juice. Mostly to offset the intense dizziness that I’d been battling all night. We were on the road by 6:45 and made a quick stop at Starbucks/Safeway for water and snacks.

Now, it was early decided that we would take both Barry’s convertible jeep and my Nissan Sentra. To all fit in the jeep one of us would have had to sit in the way back and my porcelein skin would not have survived all day exposure to the sun.

The sun that, it may be noted, rarely made an appearance.

So there we were, me driving my “Gray Ducky of Doom” following Captain Speedy in his black jeep. Let it also be noted that all three of the kids opted to ride with me. Turns out they were wiser than they could have known. About fifteen minutes into the drive the rain started so we all pulled over and I sat in the Ducky and watched Barry and Lynn scramble to get the top on the jeep. It’s a sight that we were able to enjoy at least fourteen times throughout the day as Barry took off then replaced the top sporadically.

Somewhere in the middle of Maui we were treated to a double rainbow and somewhere farther along we got to see some Eucalyptus trees. They are WORTH pulling over to enjoy.

And then it started…. three hours of single-lane switchbacks through mountainous, ravine-laced mountains. I’m told that this portion of the drive was the “Garden of Eden” that I’d heard tell of, and it may well have been. You don’t get to enjoy much of Eden when you’re focused on keeping on the road and staying close to the ass-end of the lead vehicle. Never mind the fact that I had a car FULL of nausea-prone young people who were also growing hungry. Hungry Mansours are no joke, let me tell you.  Indiana Jones would have wet himself. (Meghan’s are naturally bold and fearless, though, so I was cranky but undaunted!) Read the rest of this entry »

In Defense of You

21 03 2011

Or “Why You Should Unleash Your Creative Side”

I’ve said it before and not infrequently, but I am a big advocate of the Creative inside each person I meet. We live in a culture where creativity is often looked at askance. Graffiti, street musicians, musical theatre, girls who tap dance around Seattle parks, the guy with the tri-coloured faux-hawk, all are viewed with vague distrust. Moreover, the people who never grow up (like me) and are therefore more inclined to Public Displays of Creativity (PDC) are at best whimsical and at worst strange.  Read the rest of this entry »

How Not to Be Embarrassed

19 03 2011

This post could also be titled “Surviving Life as Meghan”.

Let’s face it, I was set up. God made me a six-foot tall blonde with not the best balance and a good amount of bouncy energy. It’s a given that I am going to do things like walk into open doors, fall while going up the stairs and trip over nothing. Never mind my apparent penchant for passing out in public. Luckily God is very kind because He also gave me a sense of humour. From twenty-three years experience I am going to give you all some tips about preventing and dealing with unpreventable embarrassing situations.  Read the rest of this entry »

On Relationships

16 03 2011

I’ve been mulling over relationships and the way I live my life. Conclusions escape me but I do have some thoughts that are worth putting out there. If I’m wrong someone on the interwebs will tell me and if I make a good enough case maybe I’ll help someone else feel free with the choices that they make.

These days it seems that the “single” world is divided into two categories- those who date casually and those who don’t. (We are leaving nuns, widows/widowers and anyone over the age of 35 out of the discussion. I don’t know anything about those people and wouldn’t presume to comment).  Read the rest of this entry »

SoCal, So What?

2 03 2011

Some of you know (and most of the internet doesn’t) that I spent the last four days in Southern California with my mother and my back-up mom. We went down specifically to tour a small art school called Laguna College of Art and Design. We went early and stayed for a while so I could get the feel of a town that was entirely new to me.

Laguna Beach is a beautiful town. It’s what I imagine Port Townsend would be like if it’s citizens ever saw the sun. There was a good mix of age groups, beautiful flowers and trees and what we can only imagine was some sort of city-wide small dog requirement. Lots of bikers and runners and not a few fancy schmansy cars. It helps the vibe that it’s a super wealthy area. (Laguna is in Orange County if that helps any of you imagine it…). I’d much rather deal with the spirit of greed than the spirit of violence.

Sitting on a bench with the ocean only steps away I had a moment of “I could live here”.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hot Yoga and Why Sometimes it’s Embarrassing to be Me

4 01 2011

Today I had my first encounter with Hot Yoga. (I’m not going to call it “Bikram” in case the real Bikram comes out and kicks my butt with his flexible yogi legs. Look up Bikram if this statement confuses you.) My neighbor is an acquaintance of mine from high school and we struck up a conversation about yoga over Christmas. Turns out she’s a huge fan and also a member of the local elite fitness club. That same fitness club has hot yoga classes pretty much every day.

Last week I accordingly bought a yoga mat, (gray with white leaves- very fetch) and planned my hot yoga outfit. Tonight we piled ourselves, our water bottles and our yoga mats into my car and made our way to The Club.

I paid the perky front desk girl my sixteen dollars and Meghan (did I mention my friend from high school’s name is “Meghan”?) led the way to the class. We got there eight minutes early and it was already crowded but we found a spot center front and chatted. Turns out it was a neighborhood party- the local fitness couple had staked their claim near the window.

I’m not going to lie. The first couple of minutes in that room were INtense. It’s hot and crowded and you are about to attempt bendy feats of bendiness. I was saved by the low light and my frozen bottle of coconut water. I have a really hard time getting physically or mentally upset if the lights are at half or less. There was also the awe-struck-inducing sight of some lady standing on her head against the front wall.

The yoga itself went pretty smoothly. I was careful to take breaks if I needed them. Mostly I needed those breaks to wipe the sweat out of my eyeballs/off my nose/away from my ear canals. It’s a very sweaty endeavor. There weren’t any moves that I couldn’t do, though a few I wasn’t able to do for very long. My “tree” pose is beautiful but my “upward dog” is pretty lame.

My dog is lame. Ha.

The really bad thing about being me in a hot yoga setting is my combination of massive sweat and long hair. Occasionally my hair would flip forward or to the side and stick on some part of my body. I would then have a pause and un-stick myself before I could move my head to do the next move. I see french braids in my future.

The short story is that I survived with only one small wound. My strained glute muscle has decided to hurt in the worst way. It’s really bad. Which is the real reason it’s embarrassing to be me- you have to admit that you come home from yoga and sit on ice.

Yes, it’s not all wine and roses around here people. But we have a good time.